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Nordic Championships 2009 review (U18)

June 22nd, 2009 · No Comments

Hippo has sent us a great report on the Nordic Championships that have been played nearly a month ago in Solna, Sweden. Enjoy the read and get the info on the most talented players coming from Scandinavia.

Hundreds of three points shots, speedy guards, rail-thin centers, lack of physical play and some undeniable talent was the recipe for the 2009 Nordic Games in Solna, Sweden. Best young players of Sweden, Finland, Iceland, Denmark and Norway gathered to the home arena of Swedish league runner-up, Solna Vikings, to battle for Nordic championship. Even though Nordic Countries rarely develop world-class talent, guys such as Jon Stefansson, Petteri Koponen, Rudy Mbemba, Jonas Jerebko and Christian Drejer have shown that some talent comes out of North occasionally. Here’s a brief recap of Nordic Games, including standings, key stats and some brief scouting. Yours truly didn’t have the chance to focus purely on scouting, but these notes should give you a glimpse.

U18 Boys (1991-1992)

1. Iceland
2. Finland
3. Norway
4. Sweden
5. Denmark

Even though Finland and Sweden played the tournament without their most potential future pros (Sasu Salin, FIN and Andreas Person, SWE), it can be stated without hesitation that Iceland was indeed the ultimately best TEAM in the Nordic Games. Iceland played mature team basketball. Iceland ran a good array of set plays arranged by their pint-sized, but good-headed point guard Aegir Thor Steinarsson (176 cm, 1991, Fjölni). Iceland sank their three point shots with unbelievable percentages at times and while their opponents had to concentrate on covering jump shooters like Haukur Oskarsson (193 cm, 1991, Haukar) and Tomas Tomasson (188 cm, 1991, Haukar), center Sigurdur Thorarinsson (200 cm, 1991) and slasher Haukur Helgi Palsson (198 cm, 1992, Fjölnir) were able to get to the basket. Iceland’s style of play warmed the heart of an old basketball purist.

By far the most promising player in this tournament was afore-mentioned Haukur Helgi Palsson, a 1992 born, athletic point guard, who played small forward in the national team rotation. He was a nightmare for the opponents in both ends of the court, with enough explosiveness to get past his defenders, very good ball handling skills for someone his size and age and some good timing to go with physical strength to finish in the paint and snatch rebounds. Even though Palsson can still become a better defender and shooter, he averaged tournament-best 18,5 points and 11 rebounds in five tournament games to go with around 3 steals and 3 assists a game. Palsson has "potential" written all over him. Another interesting player in Iceland U18 rotation was Ragnar Natanelsson (1991, Hamar). Even though Natanelsson played only around four minutes a game, he has 218 reasons (centimeters) to be a basketball player. He finished the tournament with only a handful of rebounds and several personal fouls, but when you’re 18 years old and 218 cm tall, there always is a coach interested in you somewhere.

While Sasu Salin (187 cm, 1991, Honka Playboys) was out, Finland backcourt was lead by point guard Antto Nikkarinen (185 cm, 1991, Kouvot) and January’s Baltic Sea Cup MVP, Villematti Kopio (180 cm, 1992, Honka Playboys). Nikkarinen is a basic point guard who excels in creating opportunities for others and Kopio is a cold-blooded scorer. Their lack of size might become a major obstacle for them, but it is certain that both guys will have a bright future in Finnish basketball scene. Talent-wise, versatile forward Samuli Vanttaja (206 cm, 1991, Honka Playboys) has the goods to become a useful player for elite European ballclubs – he can play three, maybe four positions and he can handle the ball very well for someone his size, but he has yet to find a steady performance level. Out of all big guys of Finland (five players over 200cm), Lauri Toivonen (200 cm, 1991, Honka Playboys) has grown into his body very well and even though he’s unselfish to death, his body control, defense and rebounding make him stand out.

While point guard Andreas Person was missing, it seemed like team Sweden never really had the opportunity to play in full effect. Forward Daniel Persson (195 cm, 1991, Solna Vikings) showed nice court vision and steady defence, but the most interesting names in Swedish roster were shooting guard Christopher Czerapowicz (197 cm, 1991, Sanda BG) and another tall guard, Alexander Lindqvist (202 cm, 1991, Solna Vikings). While Person is out, Lindqvist is probably the most heralded player in team Sweden. Lindqvist’s basketball IQ, size and speed have made him an interesting prospect, and now it seems that as he is maturing and adding some bulk, he’s becoming a constant double-double threat (18/11 vs. Iceland, 13/14 vs. Norway), reminiscent of NBA Draft hopeful Jonas Jerebko. I had never heard of Czerapowicz before, but I have to admit I was awestruck when he came back after two poor performances to punish Iceland with 24 points, 13 rebounds and 5 assists in Iceland’s only loss in the Nordic Games. Pretty much alike Lindqvist, Czerapowicz’ versatility and size make him an interesting prospect, even though he doesn’t seem to have the killer instinct Lindqvist seems to possess.

Norway surprised pretty much everyone defeating Sweden in the beginning of the games. Stian Emil Berg (186 cm, 1991, 3B) was undeniably the backbone of his team with his patience and ability to create situations. Lanky forward Karamo Jawara (198 cm, 1991, Froya) had a field day against Denmark (18 points, 10 rebounds), but since his game was pretty much built around beating 1-on-1 situations, he struggled against teams against better help defense. Henry McCarthy (203 cm, 1991, Honefoss) also had his moments in the low post, but his lack of speed and offensive tools doesn’t make him an A class talent.

Team Denmark‘s lone stars were forwards Jonas Zohore Bergstedt (205 cm, 1991, Horsholm) and Jonathan Gilling (201 cm, 1991, Horsholm). Even though both guys shined in a game or two, it’s pretty difficult to evaluate their talent since Denmark didn’t really play as a team, but a bunch of individuals. Point guard Alexander Bak (190 cm, 1991, Horsholm) handled and shot the ball pretty well and his future in domestic level could be bright.

written by Hippo

Official All-Tournament Team
Stian Emil Berg (Norway)
Thor Steinarson (Iceland)
Karama Jawaro (Norway)
Haukur Palson (Iceland)
Jonas Zohore Bergstedt (Denmark)

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