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Nordic Championships 2009 review (U16)

June 23rd, 2009 · No Comments

Here we go for the second part of Hippo’s review on the Nordic Championships 2009 with the report on the U16 tournament.

Absolutely the best team in Nordic U16 championship tournament was the host, Sweden. Swedes manhandled their opponents with an average margin of +24,8 points. The only close game for Sweden in the whole tournament was their 66-61 escape over Finland.

It seems that Swedish age group of 1993 has the potential to produce some quality players in the future. Sweden plays disciplined team basketball to go with several tricky trap defenses, and they both have the role players and the potential stars to take this age group very far away in the youth championship games to follow. Tobias Borg (179 cm, 1993, Södertälje Kings) does steady job at the point guard position, not doing anything flashy but getting the ball right where he wants it to be and organizing the team offence vocally pretty well. Center William Asplund (203 cm, 1993, Södertälje Kings) had pretty much of a roller coaster tournament, but nobody failed to notice he moves well for a big man and he had a nice touch from the inside. Marcus Eriksson (191 cm, 1993, Uppsala) played the role of the pure shooter and he seemed to sink a dozen long range bombs in a row when he got it going, including his 6-of-11 3pt shooting against Finland. Big man Nicholas Spires (205 cm, 1994, Södertälje Kings) looked raw but everybody could tell he has serious upside; even though his stat lines weren’t anything special, he had some moments of brilliance.

By far the best and most promising player in the tournament was Sweden’s Jonathan Person (189 cm, 1993, Uppsala). Person was able to play both guard positions as well as small forward, and if he keeps growing, we might have a Scottie Pippen case here. Person seems to have it all; scoring, good timing, basketball IQ, strength and even defense when it was most needed (although in blowout victories against Norway, Denmark and Iceland it seemed that Person didn’t really care about D). Person managed to fill stat sheets in nearly every game, like his 21-point, 10-rebound, 8-assist night against Iceland, 28-point, 6-rebound, 5-assist, 3-block performance against Denmark and whopping 20 points, 8 rebounds and 15 (!!!) assists in the tournament final. The best thing about Person is that he seems to be a fellow with good head on his shoulders, always willing to learn more and learn from his mistakes. I wouldn’t wonder if some colleges would already be after him.

Denmark lost to Sweden twice in the tournament and the final wasn’t even close, but silver medals were a good reward for this hard-working team. It’s hard to name dominant individuals from the Danish team, but point guard Christian Benzon (187 cm, 1993, SISU) has the most ready game at this level. Benzon is a prototype scoring guard, willing to drive the lane and take the contact. At his best, Benzon seemed unstoppable, but with good defenses surrounding him, he tended to get frustrated after just two or three misses. Most important names in the supporting cast for Danes were forwards Frederik Rungby (196 cm, 1993, Horsens) and Kevin R. Larsen (201 cm, 1993, Stevnsgade). These guys weren’t exactly oozing with potential, but they played fairly good fundamental basketball and finished from inside with good percentages. Rungby is very developed for a big guy his age and he had a field day, 22 points and 13 rebounds, against Finnish interior defense and he seemed to snatch a rebound whenever he wanted. Larsen was more of an old-school pivot who scored his baskets after Benzon forced Larsen’s defenders to help or after offensive rebounds.

Bronze medals went to team Iceland. It’s pretty early to say anything about this group of Iceland players, since at times it seemed that the court was filled with 185 cm tall guys who play fundamental team defense and shoot as many three pointers as possible. Team offence was orchestrated by tiny point guard Valur Orri Valsson (178 cm, 1994, Njardvik), who was excellent handling the ball and finding open shooters, even though he was also a bit too willing to take his own shot. The most impressive player in team Iceland was Kristofer Acox (194 cm, 1993, KR), son of an American basketball player, who dropped some jaws with his athleticism. Acox ran the floor very well, set some vicious picks and slammed down some thunderous dunks from fast breaks. Acox also showed his rebounding potential by dragging down nine rebounds in the first quarter against Finland. Acox has a lot of room to improve, though; his offensive arsenal was very limited, his strength and physicality forced him to foul trouble and for some periods he just seemed to wait for a fast break to happen instead of focusing on defense. Despite that, Acox could become a good professional player some day.

Team Finland finished fourth, although the team is much better than their positioning shows. Finns were pretty much one minute away from beating Sweden and their bronze game against Iceland was their third game in 24 hours. There were no clear stars in Team Finland in this age group. Slick floor general Mikko Jämsä (180 cm, 1993, JKS) was the heart and soul of his team, point forward Ilari Seppälä (188 cm, 1993, Kouvot) impressed with his all around game, Kalle Naapi (187 cm, 1993, Honka) filled the scorer’s role and old school pivot man Daniel Dolenc (202 cm, 1993, EBT) played well whenever not in foul trouble. The two most interesting names in Finnish roster were big men Joonas Caven (203 cm, 1993, Pyrintö) and Mikael Herbert (200 cm, 1993, Korihait), the son of pro coach Gordon Herbert. Caven is physically extremely raw and he struggled mightily trying to defend more developed big men in other teams, but his array of spin moves, pump fakes and drives make him one of the most talented offensive big men from Finland in ages. Herbert, on the other hand, has played organized basketball for less than six months, but everybody could see that his timing and the way he reads the game were special.

Dead last in the five-team competition was Norway. Norwegians didn’t have much of a chance against any team and naming any pro prospects in this team is difficult. Stat-wise, Adrian Schonning (188 cm, 1993, Froya) was the most effective player in his team and Chris-Ebou Ndow (191 cm, 1993, Gimle) rebounded well and blocked some shots, but this team does have a long way to go.

And just to remind you, the first Scandinavian to ever play in the NBA was indeed Norwegian – 206 cm Torgeir Bryn played three games with the LA Clippers in 1989/1990. Bryn retired after playing for Aris Thessaloniki in 1999/2000. Bryn played some games in the Norwegian league for Ammerud Basket in 2007/2008.

written by Hippo

Official All-Tournament team
Christian Benzon (Denmark)
Mikko Jämsä (Finland)
Jonathan Persson (Sweden)
Kristofer Acox (Iceland)
William Asplund (Sweden)

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