The third event of this season’s Nike International Junior Tournament Qualification phase is done. In Lithuania, eight teams fought for the win but it was the home team of Zalgiris Kaunas which easily dominated the competition. No team was close to have a chance against them which underlined the overall mediocre level of the tournament. But let’s check first the major guard potentials that excelled during the three days in Kaunas.
Shane Hammink – 1m98 – SG/PG – 1994 – CBA Academy
After playing mainly off the ball in the beginning of the tournament, the Dutch Shane Hammink started to handle the ball a lot more after the back injury of Oskars Reinfelds. Hammink played multiple minutes on the PG position but the main offenses run at that moment were only spread one-on-one situations. He could use in these situations his good speed and driving skills but did not really create a lot of opportunities for his team mates. He turned the ball over at a very high rate as he struggled with his ball handling against aggressive defense and often threw difficult passes out of pressure situations.
Rather long for playing the guard positions, the left handed son of Geert Hammink scored mainly when he attacked the basket and from the free-throw line. His three-point shot does not look very confident and will probably be a more streaky thing on the long term. He needs to improve his right hand on the drive as he mainly focused on going left when attacking the basket. With his good athletic abilities and long arms, Hammink was a leader on the defensive end where he put a lot of pressure in the aggressive CBA setup. He earned the “best defender” award in Kaunas which underlines his potential on that side of the court.
Right now, the Dutch player has several offers from NCAA but we also heard that he might decide for a professional contract next season in Spain. It will be interesting to see where he will head in the future as he has the potential to become a contributor on the professional level in the future but he needs to work on his shooting, decision making and ball handling in order to develop into a serious offensive threat as well.
Stats: 15.0ppg (41.7% 2FGs – 21.4% 3FGs) 5.0rpg, 2.0apg, 5.0topg
Oskars Reinfelds – 1m90 – PG – 1994 – CBA Academy
The Latvian guard only played one real game in the tournament but showed what he is capable of doing. Despite horrible 8 turnovers, he controlled the tempo of his team by running the point during over 35 minutes. He attacks the basket well with either hand and has already a good physical strength to finish close to the rim. His three-point shot was not falling during the game he played but his overall mechanics look. He is not particularly creative concerning passing but mostly going for the secure way. Reinfelds should not have any problem to find a good spot in a mid- or high-major College team next season which seems to be his goal.
Stats: 8.5ppg (35.7% 2FGs – 16.7% 3FGs) 2.0rpg, 1.5apg, 4.5topg
Stijn Stevens – 1m81 – PG – 1994 – TopSportSchool
The surprising Belgian team of TopSportSchool was lead by the toughness of their physical but short PG Stijn Stevens. The right handed guard showed very regular scoring at excellent percentages throughout the tournament by constantly attacking the basket and drawing fouls. When Stevens drives to the basket, he is absolutely not afraid to go for the contact and finish against the much taller players. He has also a multitude of head and shoulder fakes that he can use when driving in order to create opportunities. His three-point shot looks consistent for this level and he can make it even with a defender on him.
One of the problems was that he did not really create anything except for himself. He played more or less a pure scoring role while running the point during long stretches. With his limited size, he needs to focus on the PG position though in the future which he should be able to do as he did not have any problems in controlling the ball and being a vocal leader for his team. Defensively, Stevens can put a lot of pressure as he has good lateral speed and refuses to let his opponent pass him. He showed a certain presence in the defensive rebound as well but surprisingly was not very active in the passing lanes. His on ball defense is for the moment better than his defensive reads in order to intercept the ball. This makes him a very valuable player at the head of a full-court press defense. He remembers me a bit the typical Australian guards that you could see pop out over the last years and this was not only because of his look.
Stats: 16.8ppg (54.5% 2FGs – 42.9% 3FGs) 2.3rpg, 1.0apg, 1.0spg, 3.0topg
Naim el Khounchar – 1m88 – SG/PG – 1994 – TopSportSchool
The second scoring option in the Belgian back court was the 1m88 tall combo Naim el Khounchar. He started very well against USK Future Stars where he had his best game of the tournament showing a great scoring feel in the gaps and an effective but slowly executed three-point shot. The 1994 born can create his shot on his own and is also able to score from mid-range but mainly in catch-and-shoot situations. He likes to go for some floaters when attacking the basket but only with his right hand. In fact, he tried to avoid using his left hand for the finishes as much as possible which is a major weakness point in his game right now. His production went down after the first day but el Khounchar is certainly an interesting player for the Belgian League in the future.
Stats: 11.0ppg (33.3% 2FGs – 44.4% 3FGs) 3.8rpg, 1.8apg
Peter Moeller – 1m86 – PG/SG – 1994 – Vaerlöse BBK
The Danish guard played an excellent tournament after a difficult start against Zalgiris Kaunas where he got closed by the taller and more athletic Tomas Dimsa guarding him. But he was the only one who could stop the Vaerlöse player in this tournament as he scored 23.3 points at 56% from 2 point area in the three other games. Moeller is currently making the step from SG to become a PG and this transformation looks like being in a good way. But when you see him play, you recognize some old SG situations in which he excels and that make him a very dangerous offensive threat.
Moeller can run very well off the ball and use the screens in order to get the open shot. He has excellent positioning of his feet when coming from the screens and can nail the three-pointer or mid-range shot with high percentages in these situations. The 1m86 tall player also likes to attack the basket with either hand and has good direction changes to pass through the defense. Close to the basket, he lacks a bit of athletic abilities to finish against the really big guys but he knows how to use his body to get the opening or how to finish with the floater. Sometimes, he tries a bit too much the crossover fakes in order to only create a difficult mid-range jump shot for himself. But he is currently in a learning process to improve his decision making when to go for the score or when to go for the pass.
You could see that he sometimes hesitated to take the shot while in other situations, he took the difficult one instead of sharing the ball. On the defensive end, Moeller lacks a bit of physical presence to be a major factor against stronger or faster guards. However, he is doing an excellent job on the defensive glass where he was very present reading the trajectories of the ball. Not really present in the passing lanes, Moeller certainly knows that he has to work on the defensive end in order to develop into a player that can have an impact on the international level. This tournament was therefore a confirmation that Peter Moeller is among the better European guards of his generation.
Stats: 20.5ppg (47.3% 2FGs – 37.5% 3FGs) 6.8rpg, 3.0apg, 3.3topg
Davis Geks – 1m83 – SG/PG – 1995 – VEF Riga
The Latvian guard had a terrific tournament where he earned a deserved All-Tournament team spot as he was shooting the ball from behind the arc with fantastic precision. His shot is extremely quick which gives him a lot of potential openings despite his limited size. Being a year younger than the competition (like nearly all of his team mates), Geks has still some upside potential for the next years.
His main strength is his shot and excellent speed both in the execution and running the floor. Geks played in a scoring first role for his team but it was the right way considering his shooting form. When attacking the basket, his size limited his potential a lot as he was unable to score consistently in the paint when driving to the hoop. However, he was a big factor on the defensive rebound where he grabbed a lot of boards using the good boxing out of his team mates. It will be interesting to see if Geks might grow a few more centimeters in the next months. If not, he might remain a limited prospect as his size will probably hinder him from becoming a serious factor on the international level as he did not really show that many PG skills in Kaunas.
Stats: 19.3ppg (34.5% 2FGs – 59.3% 3FGs) 5.0rpg, 1.3apg, 2.0spg, 1.3topg
Justas Tamulis – 1m94 – SG – 1994 – Zalgiris Kaunas
Next to the two main options (Grigonis, Dimsa) of the Lithuanian winners, it was difficult to pick out other players as they clearly were below the other twos level but remain good prospect though. Justas Tamulis was mainly used as a shooter as he was very prolific in this exercise and had his highlight day during the final where he went for 6 out of 8 scores from behind the arc. Tamulis has an excellent and quickly executed shot from behind the arc and he was of course a perfect target in the high-speed offense of the Lithuanian team. He did not have to show much more in order to put his points on the deck. The 94 born did a good job running the break as well getting several easy points but overall, we did not really see something special in his game. He will most likely develop into an excellent shooter for the Senior level but it will probably not be enough for playing internationally.
Stats: 14.8ppg (57.9% 2FGs – 39.3% 3FGs), 2.5rpg