European Prospects

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U16 European Championship 2011: Day 1

August 2nd, 2011 · No Comments

After a nice drive through the Polish backcountry from Wroclaw to the Czech Republic, we arrived in Pardubice to cover the U16 European Championship of Division A for two days. As all teams except one played at least one game in the small Hala Dukla of the Czech town, we could get a bit of an idea of the talent level of nearly every player in the tournament. The reports though will be very basic as most of the prospects are still very young and the possibility to scout them over one game is limited.

The game between Bulgaria and Poland was marked by the presence of Aleksandar Vezenkov.The Cyprus born forward has great size (2m04) and was nearly unstoppable by the Polish defense. The left-handed scored from mid-range or from the three-point area with a good quick release. He mostly concentrated on his shooting and did not attack the basket that much. The negative point though was a particular poor attitude on the court with complaining and discussing a lot, and this with a negative overall body language. Talent-wise, he had no opposition in this game but he could not make his team winning this one because of the lack of talent of the rest of the Bulgarian roster. He shared the ball very well with his team mates and did not turn it over too much by taking bad decisions for example.

On the Polish side, Damian Jeszke showed some good things as the 2m00 tall power forward scored both from mid-range and in the paint. He handled the ball a bit but was not particularly impressive on his drives though. Jeszke used his body well to be a factor in rebounding where he is the team leader for Poland. He got some support in the paint from Mikolaj Witlinski who showed a bit better ball handling skills and quick jumps as he is less massive than Jeszke. Additionally, 2m01 tall forward had a very nice pass from the high post to find his team mate under the basket. He played overall a more face-up game by also attacking the basket from outside and stopping for the mid-range jump shot.

The game between Spain and Russia ended with a blowout victory for the Spanish team that was excellently driven by the short (1m74) point guard Alberto Martin. He understands the game very well and makes good decisions in order to find his team mates and is very active on defense. Sometimes, he overplays a bit but in general, he is a great player for this stage. Probably limited by his size on a long term run, he was one of the best guards though that we could see on our first day in Pardubice. The second player that caught the attention in the Spanish team is the enormous Ilimane Diop. Announced at 2m10 and a 2m30 wingspan, his impact on this game was somehow limited at least from a statistical point of view. Diop has not really a good feel for the game but with his sheer length and good speed, he is a major factor in the paint to deflect balls, change shooting directions and put drivers in trouble. He has a surprisingly good looking shot from the FT line for this kind of player and he is of course a project on the long-term, even if his instincts and reactions are not great.

Javier de la Blanca had his best game of the tournament versus Russia as the strong forward showed some great fighting spirit in rebounding situations and the ability to score with a good shooting touch. On the Russian side, not much can be said about the players as the team looked not good and nobody really stood out. Their top scorer, Viacheslav Fedorchenko, had a day off while the highly-regarded Vasily Martynov was overmatched by the aggressiveness of the Spanish defense.

In the best game of the day, Serbia managed to beat the hosts from Czech Republic by cutting of their spearhead Radovan Kouril on defense. The Czech guard is in fact extremely important for a short Czech team both in size and rotation that absolutely needs their top players being at their best level in order to win. Kouril struggled against the taller Serbian defenders and could only rarely create shots for himself successfully. Even if he finished as a top scorer for his team, it can not be considered as a good game by him as he shot only 28% from the field. His game maitrîse was though good and he had 8 assists without any turnover. A bit short for the highest level and not the quickest shooter, Kouril will probably have some trouble in the next years in order to develop into a top prospect but he was clearly the best player on the Czech team together with Martin Peterka. The Pardubice native is a short power forward who is doing a great job in rebounding through good positioning and timing. Not the most athletic player, Peterka reads the trajectories very well and showed some good work on the floor for being at the right place. Offensively, he is mostly playing from outside in a stretch-four role. He can attack the basket from there but is not really fast on his drives. His range goes out to the three-point line and Peterka can also come up with the eventual pull-up jumper out of the dribble. He will most likely develop into a Small Forward in the future but needs to become a bit quicker on defense to be able to stay in front of real wings.

On the Serbian side, Nikola Rebic had a great game as the FMP Point Guard converted 9 of his 13 shot attempts including 3 three-pointers. He scored often at the most crucial moments by either going hard to the rim or creating himself a position to take the long-distance shot. He reads the gaps nicely and is able to score against bigger players but sometimes his decision making is improvable which is quite normal for a sixteen-year old. Overall, he played under good control and managed that his team won this important game by insisting on finding the inside players where Serbia had a massive size advantage. This advantage was translated by the interesting game of Dusan Ristic who showed his scoring feel in the paint. Once he has received the ball, he can immediately convert it because of good positioning and quick movements. He makes nearly everything from about 2 meters and showed also some correct passing skills out of the low post. He got some help in the post by Doko Salic who scored some nice baskets out of the low post by using his size against the smaller Czech inside players. The 2m06 tall player might struggle though against taller players as you can imagine when seeing that he went for 1/8 FGs against the big Germans. Brano Djukanovic is the main Serbian option from behind the arc as the athletic wing takes nearly 3/4 of all his shots from outside. His overall nice mechanics and long arms together with the ability to find the Roller in Pick and Roll situations make him a player to follow over the next years.

Germany had to play against a tough Greek team in order to remain unbeaten in this tournament and the guys around David Taylor managed to do so. The combo-guard scored highly important 5 points in the money time with the only three-point shot made by the German team and a good drive from the left side. For the rest, it was difficult to see a lot of positive things from the German back-court as Taylor and Ismet Akpinar had some trouble against the physical Greek defense. Akpinar tried to attack the gaps several times to finish from close but he struggled and turned the ball over way too often. Still you could recognize an undeniable talent and potential for the next level but he has to get used to play as well when the opposition in tougher than himself. Germany had excellent size in the paint with the long 2m12 tall Daniel Mayr who received several foul calls in his favor and could net the free-throws with a good looking shot. While both Mayr and the second Center Niklas Ney did not have a big impact in rebounding, it were the forwards Maximilian Ugrai and especially the only 1996 born Jan-Niklas Wimberg who were impressive in this area. Wimberg played extremely well in my opinion by being always at the right place, knowing exactly what is going on and doing barely any mistakes. His jump shot looks very good with a quick release and he shares the ball very well. He could develop into a sort of Point-Forward in the future as the 15 years old is already listed at 2m02 and showed some good passing skills as well. With him, and the athletic but short PG Constantin Ebert, Germany has already a good combo for even next year’s U16 tournament but they should be able to do something good this year first. A qualification for the U17 World Championship 2012 is possible.

On the Greek side, Michail Liapis showed some interesting scoring talent, especially on the fast break situations where he could use his nice speed. His shot looks overall quick and he can also score from mid-range with the floater or after the good first step. Being listed at 1m88 and playing mostly the SG position, it is difficult to say how far he can go in the future. The only major Greek big guy was the slow Georgios Diamantakos. The 2m10 tall player had some trouble against the German frontcourt on defense but he showed some correct hands on offense where he scored several jump hooks. He needs to move a bit quicker and be more agile on defense in the future but as seven-footers are always a rare thing to find, he will certainly be a Youth National player for the next couple of years.

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