In the last report of the Nike International Junior Tournament 2010 in Paris, I will talk about the big guys.
Nikola Jankovic – 2m03 – Power Forward – 1994 – FMP Belgrade
While being the youngest player of the FMP team and generally the backup of Nemanja Bezbradica and Nikola Siladi, Jankovic really stepped up in this tournament and played major minutes for FMP especially in the second half of the games. It was common in the end that Jankovic was ahead of the two above mentioned in terms of minutes and presence on the court. With his fantastic positioning and presence on the offensive glass, he was so important for the FMP team that struggled over several stretches to score anything in offense. With the second chances that Jankovic gave the team; he averaged 5.3 offensive rebounds per game; he was one of the major factors of the team and the whole tournament despite his young age.
On the offensive end, Jankovic mainly scores in the paint, especially of course after the offensive rebounds but also on post moves. He already features a wide area of polished moves that are mainly based on excellent footwork and good fakes. Once he has established position in or near the paint, he is nearly sure to score the ball. Despite his limited size, he can use his body extremely well to create the necessary space to score with both hands. He reminds me a bit of Enes Kanter in doing so, even if the Turkish player is a lot stronger physically, but their inside scoring at the same age looks similar. However, Jankovic seems to be more a finesse player than a pure force of nature. He has improved though on his athletic abilities and can also come up with some nice dunks.
Jankovic shows also development in other parts of his game. He is improving his ball handling and dribbling and one could see him go for a coast-to-coast out of his own rebound. He finished one of these plays with an emphatic jam to wake up his placid team mates. Additionally, it is hard to put him out of balance as he seems already very strong in his lower body. When being doubled in the low post, he displays also nice court-vision and he can pass the ball to the cutter in a perfect way. With his ball-handling skills shown in Paris and a developing mid-range shot, it is a question of time before Jankovic will move to the Small Forward position in the future. I don’t know if there are plans to see him move into that direction but I think it is not totally out of this world as he will probably get some problems on the professional level with his size playing in the paint.
Stats: 13.5ppg (65.0% 2FG), 8.3rpg (5.3off), 1.8apg, 0.8bpg, 16.8effpg
Filip Najev – 2m04 – Power Forward – 1992 – KK Split
Filip Najev was the major inside force of the Croatian team of KK Split. The fearless fighter gave 100% all the time and scored a lot through simple will in the paint. He is excellent in finding the right position on the court and get the ball close to the basket. However, he is not a great finisher as he loses control in the air at times and likes probably to go for the foul call a bit too often instead of trying to finish more with finesse. He has not the very best hands to finish which is also a problem for him when he steps to the free-throw line. However, his jump shot looks nice with a good high release and he is not afraid to take also the three point shot. But he is mainly present in the paint to work his defenders in the low block.
Najev does a nice job as a picker and can go either for the roll or the pop. He is not the most explosive guy but athletic enough to dunk it easily against the defense with his power. On the defensive end, he has excellent timing for the shot blocking and has a lot of confidence in this ability as he even tries and makes the block shot when having already four personal fouls. But his aggressiveness makes him an easy target for the referees and he needs to understand how to use this part of his game in a better and more effective way. The Croatian forward has no real outside game offensively for putting the ball on the floor even if he tries sometimes to go for some fast-break opening dribbles after the defensive rebound.
Stats: 13.7ppg (45.9% 2FG, 0/8 3FG, 50% FTs), 11.3rpg, 3.0bpg, 14.0effpg
Malick Fall – 2m10 – Center – 1992 – Unicaja Malaga
The Senegalese native but in between Spanish passport holder Malick Fall was the main inside player for Unicaja Malaga. Fall was present for most of the time close to the basket and showed some interesting long term potential. Even if his hands seem not to be among the best ones, he has a fair talent to score the ball out of back to the basket plays. He did so with both hands even by going mostly on his stronger right hand. A surprising fact on his offensive game is that he does not seem to be very confident in what he is doing as lots of times, his team mates had to encourage him verbally to try to score the ball when being in a good position. Additionally, he goes sometimes for the mid-range jump shot that he can nail but his execution on that is not among the fastest.
The main usage of Fall in the Unicaja system was however on the defensive end where he was a real wall in the middle of the paint. Even if he is not an outstanding shot blocker, his extreme length was a major problem for a lot of offenses that had to play against Unicaja. With his arms raised, he changes already a lot of shooting directions and jumping upwards straight just emphasizes this presence. He likes also to come quickly from the weak side to reject the shot attempts. Fall needs to work on his rebounding though as he is not present enough for a player of his athletic abilities and size.
Stats: 9.7ppg (44.8% 2FG, 47.4% FTs), 7.3rpg, 1.3bpg, 12.0effpg
Bojan Radulovic – 2m10 – Center – 1992 – Union Olimpija
The Serbian native playing for the Slovenian Union Olimpija Ljubljana played a really nice tournament after his apparently not so good presentation in London. Radulovic has good size for the Center position and plays mainly close to the basket. You can see him take an occasional jump shot but he mainly operates in a back-to-the-basket-mode. However, despite having a fantastic opening game where he scored 8 out of 12 attempts, Radulovic does not seem to have a great feel for the ball as you could see him lose the ball on multiple occasions when he tried to catch it. Additionally, he missed some jump hooks from close with an air-ball.
His body is also not very developed at the current stage and he loses his balance in the air quite often once he gets pushed a bit in the lower body area. He has however nice quick feet and several times he could beat his defender with a quick turn around move in the low post. But his limited capacities as a finisher close to the rim prevented him from scoring more baskets through these moves. It is pretty difficult to have a feeling on him for the future as I only saw him play limited minutes.
Stats: 14.0ppg (58.6% 2FG, 72.7% FTs), 6.3rpg, 14.7effpg
Yannis Morin – 2m06 – Power Forward – 1993 – INSEP
The French PF/C had a nice tournament where he confirmed his progress into a more aggressive player than the one we remember from last summer during the U16 European Championship. Morin tries to finish most of his plays with two-handed dunks while he preferred the lay-up version a year ago. He has nice athletic abilities and is rather explosive when he jumps of both feet. His positioning is excellent and he is a very good presence in the rebound, especially on the offensive end.
He can attack the basket from the post with a left-handed move that seems to be his favorite one as we could see that already in Lithuania in 2009. However, he has not added any serious back to the basket moves and he is not a major threat once he gets the ball in the low post. He mainly scores on put backs and on the fast break as he runs the floor very well. Having grown about 2 centimeters over the last months, he may end up around 2m08 which is quite a good height for playing the PF/C role in the future. With his verticality, he is quite an asset on the defensive end where he is present with good shot blocking. However, Morrin absolutely needs to become more regular on the offensive end and add some versatility to his offensive game.
Stats: 8.5ppg (46.6% 2FG, 60.0% FTs), 7.0rpg, 2.5bpg, 11.0effpg
Rolandas Jakstas – 1m98 – Power Forward – 1992 – Zalgiris Kaunas
The Lithuanian power forward started well into the tournament but in the decisive game to reach the Final against INSEP, he was not in his best day. Dominating with his power and athletic abilities, he was outmatched by the French defense that could exactly answer him with the same characteristics. Jakstas is a fighter for the rebound first of all. He jumps and jumps until he has the ball in his hands, even if he has to take it from one of his team mates. He runs the floor as good as he jumps and finished a lot breaks either himself or by a put back on a miss. His offensive game was limited to this in Rome but with the stronger competition in the Paris NIJT, Jakstas had to show different stuff in offense if he wanted to score.
He came up with several three point shots that he took in catch and shoot fashion or even out of the dribble situation. All of these shots looked good with a good and quick release. When he got the ball in the low post, he also tried to face his defender and attack from the front with his speed in stead of trying overpower him. He nailed also the occasional mid-range jump shot. However, he did not show any real penetration plays when he got the ball out at the three-point line. His game right now appears to be more something of a Power Forward that steps out for the occasional three point shot. For the future, he needs to develop this in order to have a chance on the professional level as his limited size and already rather developed body do not foresee a major progress margin for him for playing in the paint only.
Stats: 13.0ppg (52.3% 2FG, 50.0% 3FG, 80.0% FTs), 8.0rpg, 16.0effpg
Gabriel Darin – 2m08 – Power Forward – 1992 – Cajasol Sevilla
The Brazilian Power Forward was an interesting player as he combined excellent basketball skills with a good size. Mainly operating from outside, Darin showed that he can put the ball on the floor as well as taking the long distance shot and being present in the rebound situations. His future is certainly in the Wing section as he feels a lot more comfortable when he can play outside than banging in the low post. His size does not hinder him from doing so as he looks to have excellent fundamentals and additionally also an interesting creative feel for a player tall like him. He went for a behind the back pass for example out of one of his drives to the basket. The pass was well executed.
When he is playing in the low post, he is mainly using an arsenal of fakes and plays really on the floor instead of above the rim. He uses those in order to get free on a regular basis as he seems to use the naivety of his opponents by going for easy head or pass fakes. His three point shot looks very good and he was hot throughout the tournament as he made 6 out of his 11 attempts in the three games. In the qualification phase, he also nailed 5 out of 9 shots from behind the arc.
Stats: 14.3ppg (38.4% 2FG, 54.5% 3FG, 83.3% FTs), 8.7rpg, 15.7effpg