The last part of our prospect review on the Kaunas Nike International Junior Tournament concerns the big guys. This was the position where some potential NBA prospect have been present with especially the Danish Power Forward Rasmus Larsen as key target. Check below to get more information and updates on the most interesting players.
Rasmus Larsen – 2m11 – PF – 1994 – Vaerlöse BBK
The Danish big guy was by far the most interesting prospect of the whole tournament despite playing only some minutes here and there because of a leg injury. We did not really understand what was the idea behind his playing time as he got on court only 3 minutes versus Zalgiris while he played 12 minutes against TopSportSchool respectively VEF Riga. During his minutes on the court, you did not see any physical problems but the great talent level of the Vaerlöse product. No player in the tournament had such a great mix of size, physical presence, technical skills and basketball talent.
The first thing that you could recognize if you have seen Larsen already before was that he grew a lot stronger physically by adding muscle to his upper body. As he is still only 17 and Danish kids are in general late bloomers, Rasmus Larsen is now in the phase where his body starts to transform from being a boy to become a man. He currently is playing in the Danish senior league where he is not getting very regular minutes (he played only 4 minutes this week) because of his injury probably. Larsen has not had any real break now for several months which might be a reason of this lasting problems. But despite all this, he made a huge step forward in the estimate of some observers that have not seen him so often over the last years.
His influence on the game on this level was huge. Defensively, his length and understanding helped him to change multiple shooting trajectories and be a major threat in shot blocking. His defensive positioning has clearly improved and he looked to be always at the right place at the right moment. His rebounding looked good and strong and rarely any offensive player could put him in a difficult position down low. During the few minutes we saw him on court, you could imagine how big his impact would be if he was in full shape. We hope to get a better understanding of this this spring at the Albert-Schweitzer Tournament where Denmark will participate.
On the offensive end, Larsen’s presence opened everything for his team mates. His talent and size attracted all defensive awareness of the opponents which gave openings to his team mates for shots and cuts. Larsen is seeing those and likes to share the ball for the good pass. When he gets the ball, he does not forget though that he is an incredible offensive talent. He can shot the ball with perfect mechanics in catch and shoot situations and especially out of the dribble. He likes to put the ball on the floor to attack the basket or to stop in mid-range territory to knock down the jump shot. The 2m11 tall kid can also hit the three-point shot and has a variety of moves in the low post where he goes when being defended by a smaller player. He is not afraid to bang down low even if he has a little preference to play face to the basket from outside.
On the long term, Larsen will most likely develop into a clear-cut NBA prospect. He has all the characteristics basketball-wise of a future top level player on the PF position. The main part is now to see how he develops over the next years. The Danish League is certainly among the weakest in Europe and a move abroad looks like the next step for him in order to face stronger competition. But first of all, there are two major events ahead for him and his team mates: the above mentioned Albert Schweitzer Tournament in April and the U18 European Championship this summer. After these events, his name will certainly be among the main prospects in Europe for anyone following Youth Basketball.
Stats: 6.7ppg (54.5% 2FGs) 2.3rpg, 9.1mpg
Rostislav Karenin – 2m01 – PF/C – 1994 – Khimki Mosow
The Russian inside player was an excellent rotation for Khimki Moscow on this level. However, with his limited size and average athletic abilities, you can not see a major progress margin for him on the inside positions. The left handed player showed though anything from outside the paint and his ball handling did not look very developed. He showed good finishing around the basket where he has of course a preference for using his stronger left hand. With his positioning and moving off the ball, he finds a lot of good scoring possibilities but this will be shut down once reaching the professional level. He has the physical strength to build upon but he needs to work on a more consistent jump shot around the key and improve his ball handling in order to be able to play also from outside.
Stats: 11.3ppg (53.1% 2FGs) 7.8rpg
Jito Kok – 2m06 – C – 1994 – CBA Academy
Probably one of the most athletic players in the whole tournament was the Dutch inside player Jito Kok from the CBA Academy. Kok has terrific verticality in his game which made him the best shot blocker of the days in Lithuania. However, his overall talent is very raw at the moment. He mostly plays with instincts without having much of basketball understanding in what he does. Kok has the ability to score mainly on put back and dunks but did not show any kind of polished back-to-the-basket moves at all. This makes him a very interesting potential on the long term as he has all the physical tools to become a professional player. But he needs to work a lot on his technique, ball handling, understanding, positioning and shot in the next years. If that happens and if it develops well, Kok can become a very interesting player down the line.
Stats: 5.8ppg (42.1% 2FGs) 2.5rpg, 3.3bpg
Prokop Slanina – 2m05 – PF/C – 1995 – USK Future Stars
Another interesting long term prospect is the Czech inside player Prokop Slanina. The 2m05 tall and 1995 born showed some good mobility and the ability to run the floor well. With his size, he will probably not develop into a post player but he showed that he is able to play from outside once he has improved his ball handling and driving skills. Slanina has some basic back to the basket moves that he can finish with the jump hook but he has also the awareness to change his ideas on what the defense gives him. We remember one play in particular where he caught the ball in full speed coming from the wing and he saw the defense waiting for the charge, he put the ball immediately on the floor, made a power dribble around the defense and finished with a layup. On defense, Slanina has also good shot blocking abilities due to his length and athleticism. We will keep an eye on him over the next two years to see in which direction he will develop.
Stats: 6.0ppg (47.4% 2FGs) 4.8rpg, 1.3bpg
Clint Capela – 2m05 – PF – 1994 – Elan Chalon
Certainly the most interesting athlete in the tournament was the Swiss prospect Clint Capela from Elan Chalon. However, a limited skill set and a questionable attitude were what you could see the most when observing him first. But Capela is one of these players where you can only imagine what he is able to do in the future. He is a great athlete with an excellent wingspan and plays currently mostly on the Center position for Chalon. But with his speed and ability to run the court, he should be able to develop into a wing player down the road. To reach this, he needs to improve his ball handling a lot as he showed some problems when putting the ball on the floor.
Currently, he tries to use either hand for both attacking the basket and the finishes in the paint. This is already a good sign as it underlines that there is a work in progress going on in this area. Capela showed an excellent spin move once when he penetrated which he executed after having already had a couple of dribbles. With his great athleticism, he is able to play really above the rim but he did not use this as much as expected. Overall, he did look not in perfect shape and had to get subbed at multiple occasions.
For the moment, Capela’s basketball IQ and understanding is below average. He lacks high level competition as he plays with the Swiss National Teams on B Division during summers and Chalon showed in Kaunas that they are currently not playing on a really high level. But the French team is known for their good youth program so there should not be any problem for the future development of Capela if he wants to work. When he can improve his penetration skills as well as his currently very poor outside shot, he has the potential to develop into something great. But we have to follow this closely in order to see which progress he makes over the next years.
Stats: 10.0ppg (43.6% 2FGs) 8.5rpg, 3.3spg, 3.3topg, 0.8bpg
Benjamin Meri – 2m07 – C – 1994 – Elan Chalon
Meri is a left-handed workhorse in the paint. Not the biggest talent for sure, but he is doing an excellent job going for the offensive rebounds and doing the dirty job like setting screens and boxing out. He has nice size and is quite athletic but needs to work on his finishing in order to be a serious offensive threat as well. Meri mainly finishes in the paint while his occasional jump shots did not look very well. He is certainly not a major prospect for the future but he might develop into a correct rotation guy on the national level if he continues to improve his shooting touch and basketball understanding.
Stats: 4.8ppg (38.9% 2FGs) 3.8rpg