The U16 European Championship 2013 is history. I was not able to cover the event from the Ukraine and despite the great coverage by the Ukrainian media, I could not even follow many games through live streams. So here are a few notes on the players that I managed to see at least a little. This report can not be considered as complete as I did not see all the teams nor did I see many teams over long stretches.
Andrea la Torre was one of the most impressive players I have seen during the tournament. The Italian swingman finished with as statistical leader for his team in every category except block shots. The left handed wing player displayed very interesting athletic abilities and a strong drive to the basket. He has of course a clear preference for his left hand and likes to finish on extension steps to get open looks for underhand scoop shots for example. His jump shot is not very fluid though and needs some correction over the next years which is also underlined by his mediocre accuracy from outside the three point line. However, with his great rebounding and passing skills, la Torre should become one of the better prospects of the 1997 generation in Europe as he has the feel for the game and the body to work with in the future.
Another highly interesting player was the Ukrainian shooting guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk. The 1m99 tall athlete showed great explosiveness of both feet when attacking the rim and he was able to go for some high flying dunks for a player of his age. Despite a quite poor shooting percentage from behind the arc, his overall shooting mechanics look very fluid both in catch and shoot and pull up situations. He can create the necessary space for the shot with his ball handling and dribble fakes. As his overall execution is quite fast, Mykhailiuk is also capable of shooting over taller defenders, also in post up situations. With his athletic abilities, the SG can finish above the rim and is not afraid to go hard on defenders and dunk over them.
The Croatian team featured some of the most promising talent of the event. Next to Lovro Mazalin, who we covered already during the U18 European Championship in Riga, the brightest prospect might be Dragan Bender. He is a 2m10 tall and quite mobile power forward who is extremely versatile and present in every aspect of the game. Capable of running the floor like a wing despite his height, Bender can play the passing lanes on defense as well as come up with the great passes from the high post. Additionally, he is quite athletic and also capable to shot from outside while being present as a constant shot blocking threat. His final stats underline this potential of multi-use forward as he averaged 9.8ppg, 10.8rpg, 4.1apg and 1.7bpg. On the long term, he might be the most talented player of this generation in Europe as physically, he has still a lot of room to improve over the next years.
Ante Zizic was a real force inside as the 2m10 tall Center finished as best rebounder and 2nd best shot blocker of the tournament. His great wingspan and timing helped him in this area a lot. Offensively, Zizic focuses mainly on the work inside the paint and rarely shots from outside. Not yet gifted with great center moves, he collects a lot of point from offensive rebounding and the passes from his team mates on the drive or from Bender in the high low situations. He knows how to use his length on this level and his good free-throw percentage was another asset worth to be mentioned.
The second scoring option for Croatia was their 2m01 tall swingman Nik Slavica who was shooting a lot from outside despite poor percentages. Athletically, he is good enough for this level at the moment and his cocky playing style worked more in his favor than against over long stretches. He needs to stabilize his outside shooting for the next level as his drives will not be enough when he plays against physically stronger players on the U18 level. He is not an extraordinary passer and probably the most limited at the moment of the four Croatian top talents.
Santiago Yusta was the top scorer of the Spanish Gold Medal team. The lanky forward was a bit of a do-it-all player who was not really great in anything but did everything well. Capable of shooting from outside, good rebounder and passer, Yusta also attacked the basket nicely and was present on the defensive end with a good amount of steals. Gifted with a good wingspan, Yusta is capable to put the ball on the floor with either hand and can finish these drives also with both hands and long extensions to go around the defender. Often used as a stretch-four, Yusta’s natural position should be the small forward in the future.
Xabier Lopez-Arostegui has been elected to the All-Tournament team because of his versatility and as he was more or less the spiritual leader of the Spanish team. Capable of doing everything quite well, similar to Yusta, Lopez-Arostegui was more of an outside shooter than Yusta. However, his shooting percentages were poor in the beginning but improved throughout the tournament to culminate in the most important game of the event when he scored 6/11 3FGs against Croatia in the Quarter Finals. Good passer and rebounder, Lopez-Arostegui will excel as a Small Forward in the future even if he lacks the athletic abilities to be a top-level prospect.
Stefan Peno was the surprising MVP of the tournament in Kiev. The Serbian PG averaged 9.3ppg, 7.1rpg and 4.6apg but also shot only 31.3% and turned it over nearly four times per game. I was not a big fan of his decision making in the games I have seen, especially in terms of passing and shot selection. Often going for his own shot in situations where there is no need to rush, the 1m95 tall guard looked a bit too turned to himself instead of controlling the game speed and making his team mates better. Nevertheless, Peno is a great talent with superb rebounding skills for his size, nice shooting mechanics and a well developed body for his age. If he can improve his feel for the game into a more controlled direction, Peno can become a very interesting guard prospect over the next years.
Niklas Kiel underlined his interesting potential during the days in Kiev as the German forward was among the best rebounders of the event but also showed that he can play from outside. Rarely used as a low post thread on offense, Kiel mainly attacked from outside in a stretch-four role that he seems to like really well. Capable of putting the ball on the floor or even bringing it up, Kiel is a tremendous presence in the defensive rebound area where he averaged 8.6 boards per game in only 27 minutes on the court. The Paderborn player will see a growing amount of responsibilities in the second highest German League next season which will certainly help the 1997 born prospect to develop into the promising talent that he can become.
Leon Kratzer was among the best offensive rebounders of the tournament as the 2m05 tall German averaged 4 offensive boards in just 21 minutes on the floor. Explosive off two feet, Kratzer did an excellent job in going for put backs and tip ins as he has quite a good second jump in these situations. Rarely shooting from outside the paint and not a great free-throw shooter, the athletic German needs to work on his overall mechanics in order to develop more of an outside game because of his limited size to play the Center position in the future.
Unfortunately, I could not really follow any game of Furkan Korkmaz, Martynas Varnas or Georgios Papagiannis so they are not featured in this report even if they would probably deserve to be mentioned.
In the group of the 1998 born players, the first name to mention is of course Milos Glisic from Serbia. The 15 year old forward was not only the best Serbian scorer but showed also tremendous decision making and great rebounding for a player of his age. Rarely out of control, he turned the ball over less than 1 time per game despite playing more than 28 minutes per game which is a superb number for a top scorer of a team. Another 98 born who did a good job in Kiev was the German forward Richard Freudenberg. He was the third best scorer for the German team and was mainly used as a shooter from outside. Freudenberg has developed well since we saw him during the JBBL Top 4 in 2012 and looks to become one of main prospects in his country in this generation.