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U18 European Championship 2010 Division A: the Guards

August 5th, 2010 · 3 Comments

To start our review on the most interesting players of the 2010 European Championship in Vilnius, we attack with the guards of the top 8 teams of the competition. I was not able to follow other team than the Quarter-Final and the relegation teams, the report will only include prospect issued from these 12 nations. I am sorry for the players from Slovenia, Turkey, Spain and Italy but the schedule did not allow me to scout any of your games.

Vytenis Cizauskas – 1m90 – PG – 1992 – Aisciai Kaunas (LIT)

The Starting PG for the Gold Medalist is still the highly versatile Vytenis Cizauskas. The 1m90 tall player looks to have increased a bit his speed and first step on the drive. He still goes a lot for his speed changes on the penetration in order to create gaps or opportunities for the score or the dish. When brining the ball up, he sometimes tends to do this in some kind of “dancing” moves with short spurts and slow-downs. This helps him to get a fair amount of foul calls as he knows already how to act in order to get the referee on his side. Cizauskas is also a surprising athlete for his physical shape which looks always a bit over-weight or at least not in perfect form. These additional kilos help him though to protect his attempts when going hard to the basket.

It seems that he has also some concentration flaws because his poor shooting from the free-throw line is not really explicable. He really needs to work on this as this problem is following him for years and you do not see a real improvement (U16-2008: 52.9%, U18-2009: 53.8%, U19-2009: 25.0%, U18-2010: 56.0%). The same goes for his long distance shot where he is no threat at all for the moment as showed his terrible 1/19 from behind the arc. If he can add a serious shot to his arsenal, Cizauskas can be a very interesting player for the future, a bit in a similar style than Antoine Diot from France. But for the moment, it does not look like the Lithuanian works hard enough on his weaknesses in order to reach this level.

Stats: 9.0ppg (55.2% 2FGs – 1/19 3FGs – 56.0% FTs), 5.3rpg, 5.7apg, 3.9topg

Deividas Pukis – 1m94 – SG – 1992 – Christian Life Center Academy (USA)

The surprise on the Lithuanian team came from Deividas Pukis who spent the last two years in the United States. Erildas Budraitis had a nice interview with him on SLAM Online where you can get more information on his American experience. The 1m94 tall player from Silute became quickly a fan favorite as he integrated the purest of all Lithuanian traditions, the shot. Pukis nearly took every shot he got and he nailed them with great accuracy. With his success, his confidence improved and he was a major factor of the Lithuanian success in this Championship. When coming from the bench, Pukis fired immediately his first touches and nearly always made them.

He has a really nice looking shot, with a high and quick release. He sometimes goes a bit out of balance on his attempts as he takes the shots out of the movement at times. Pukis can also put the ball on the floor, mainly with his right hand but sometimes struggles on the finish as he loses his control when being defended physically. He managed though to score most of those attempts as he is nicely athletic and creative to finish the drive. On defense, the Christian Life Center Academy player gets lost on occasions as his positioning is not always optimal in order to see the ball and his man. This results in some back-door cuts on which he gets beat on. But this is something that the Lithuanian player can work on in the future. Right now, he is considering both Baylor and TCU for his College career but his tournament here may draw some more interest from other schools for the 2011 recruit.

Stats: 15.8ppg (60.0% 2FGs – 46.7% 3FGs), 4.2rpg

Dovydas Redikas – 1m95 – SG – 1992 – Akademija Vilnius (LIT)

The impact of the physically strong Dovydas Redikas is till very important as he had the main scoring responsibilities in the back-court together with Pukis. His three-point shot is currently more a set than a jump shot, but he makes them with nice accuracy and is especially present in the main moments of the game. Redikas uses his strength however very well when he attacks the basket where he has a nice first step that allows him to beat his opponents of the dribble and go hard until the rim. He can come up with the ultra-quick spin move in traffic as well in order to create the necessary space for the score.

Redikas was mainly used as a scorer on the Lithuanian team which is why he was not that present in the other statistical categories. He likes also to challenge his opponents with dangerous looks and is not afraid to add some nice words to his action. The Akademija player has a preference for attacking with his stronger right hand but can read when the defense gives him the left side and go for it. His finishes look however less energetic when going over his weaker hand so that he prefers to finish over the right side. He is also one of the players that sometimes uses his right hand to dribble to the left side in order to initiate a side swing. It will be interesting to see until when Redikas can be such an important player as a major part of his success is his physical presence which from a specific stage on, it will not be superior to the opposition anymore.

Stats: 10.9ppg (58.5% 2FGs – 34.3% 3FGs), 2.9rpg, 1.7apg, 2.7topg

Dimitry Kulagin – 1m95 – PG/SG – 1992 – Nizhny Novogorod (RUS)

The Russian PG who had already played an interesting U18 European Championship last summer earned an All-Tournament spot in Lithuania for his excellent tournament. Kulagin can play both the PG and the SG spot and the Russian back-court formed together with Alexander Varnakov was built around the versatility and complementarities of both guards. Kulagin did a nice job when attacking the basket with either hand as his good athletic abilities helped him to score the ball close to the rim. He showed several nice plays with good hangtime in order to avoid the block shot. Out of his penetration plays, he can kick the ball out but he mostly looks for the score first. He likes to play the one-on-one situations starting with several cross-over dribbles where he sometimes gets called for palming. But he reduced these turnovers and improved his ball-handling in general.

Kulagin got stronger in his lower body and his legs as well as he showed some interesting moves where he remained athletic despite long or direction-changing steps. One of his main offensive weapons remains though his shot which he is able to create for himself out of dribble situations. He nailed some difficult step back plays in crucial moments from long distance but is more accurate when he can go for catch-and-shoot plays or running through the screens. It will be interesting to see how he develops over the next years as he seems to have some really nice upside as a combo guard for the future.

Stats: 12.4ppg (44.4% 2FGs – 32.6% 3FGs), 4.1rpg, 4.2apg, 2.2topg, 2.6spg

Alexander Varnakov – 1m85 – PG – 1992 – Triumph Lyubertsy (RUS)

Alexander Varnakov was the more bulky and “nasty” part of the Russian back-court. Less fluid but more gritty in his offensive plays, Varnakov took over the real leader role in the group with his vocal presence and defensive effort. Running over the court in a somehow cocky style, the left-handed guard knocked down some crucial three-point shots for his team and is a surprising passer. He finished as second-best assist man of the tournament but excelled in the passing lanes as well in order to play the steal and go for the easy fast-break.

Stats: 9.3ppg (36.2% 2FGs – 27.3% 3FGs), 3.9rpg, 5.3apg, 3.1topg, 2.1spg

Andris Misters – 1m92 – SG – 1992 – St. Benedicts High School (USA)

The Latvian guard, who currently plays in the United States and is a 2011 recruit, had several ups and downs throughout the tournament. Nowhere to be seen in the quarter- and semi-finals, he came up nicely in the Bronze Medal game where he showed some interesting drive skills and good court-vision to dish the ball to his teammates. He had his best games in the beginning of the event where we were not present so it is difficult to say more about him in this report.

Stats: 8.6ppg (53.5% 2FGs – 19.4% 3FGs), 3.2rpg, 2.6apg

Kaspars Vecvagars – 1m88 – PG – 1993 – BA Turiba (LAT)

The Latvian starting PG, born in 1993, played a nice tournament but had disastrous shooting percentages. He finished with only 25% from behind the arc but this did not stop him from trying his chances. His shot is a bit slow when taken out of the dribble as he has some kind of chest shot. This explains probably why he struggled in the tournament as the bigger opponents did not give him the necessary room for firing and he had to go further away to get the open look.

He is doing a good job when attacking the basket as he as quite a nice first step and he is not afraid to go hard for the rim with his surprising athletic abilities. Physically, he suffered sometimes as he is very thin and probably not done with growing. Vecvagars, who played the NIJT tournament in Rome with Zalgiris Kaunas sees the cutters nicely out of the plays and goes also for the creative no-look passes in traffic. Maybe, he is a bit too much putting his own scoring in front of the team effort at moments but being a year younger than the competition, there is a lot more to come from him in this category by next summer.

Stats: 6.8ppg (21.6% 2FGs – 25.0% 3FGs), 4.4rpg, 4.0apg, 4.2topg

Vukasin Petkovic – 1m98 – SG – 1992 – KK Novi Sad (SRB)

The Serbian guard was one of their major outside threats being able to hit the shots in series. Displaying a nice size for the SG spot, Petkovic was not in his best shooting form throughout the tournament and could only connect for 55% of his free-throws as well. His shot release is a bit slow in catch and shoot situations but with his ability to score lots of point in short stretches, he was a constant danger for the opponents. As most of the Serbian players, his fundamentals are good and he is able to score difficult plays without being overly athletic though.

Stats: 7.9ppg (15/33 2FGs – 10/41 3FGs), 2.8rpg, 1.9apg

Bogic Vujosevic – 1m90 – PG – 1992 – KK Novi Sad (SRB)

The main PG for the Serbian team was the Novi Sad player Bogic Vujosevic. The 1m90 tall guard was not a real threat from outside but he controlled the game speed very well and remained calm in the hot moments going mostly for the right decisions. His scoring came mainly on the drive where he finished on the floater or going to the rim by using his body very well to protect the ball. He can also go for the full-stop out of the penetration play in order to see what is going on and finish either on the mid-range jump shot or the nice pass. Vujosevic did a good job running the fast break always spreading the court well and creating the positions for his team mates.

Stats: 6.6ppg (17/43 2FGs – 1/13 3FGs – 22/29 FTs), 3.0rpg, 2.7apg, 1.7topg, 1.9spg

Olexandr Prokopenko – 1m88 – SG/PG – 1992 – Khimik (UKR)

The Ukrainian scorer had a nice game in the relegation final against Sweden. This was the only game I saw of Ukraine so that the scouting on him is a bit limited. Prokopenko is using mainly his jump shot in order to score, either from mid-range out of the dribble or from behind the arc. He can put the ball on the floor with both hands to attack the basket but normally stops around 4 meters to take the shot. His catch-and-shoot three point shot looks nice but he can also go for the dribble shot or after the fake. He reads the passes well on defense and is an excellent rebounder for his size. Prokopenko needs to improve his ball handling and drive though and take better care of the ball on offense.

Stats: 12.2ppg (41.5% 2FGs – 23.9% 3FGs), 4.3rpg, 2.9apg, 4.1topg

Jonathan Person – 1m89 – PG – 1993 – Virtus Bologna (ITA)

The Swedish guard who plays for Virtus Bologna in Italy had an interesting tournament but he was not enough to help his team stay in Division A. In the decisive game against Ukraine, where I could follow him, he showed his nice scoring potential but also his improvable shot selection and decision making in the decisive moments. Person scored an important three-point shot in the last minutes but then forced his own long distance shot from behind the arc twice afterwards in stead of seeing and passing to the open and better positioned shooters. However, Person was one of the most complete PGs of the tournament as he not only ranked in the Top5 of the assists but was as present as a Top20 rebounder in the tournament despite being only 1m89 tall.

With his athletic abilities, he is able to get easily to the basket and finish against the big guys. He likes also to score with the floaters from mid range but can also stop to take the jump shot, often however out of balance. When he attacks the basket, he can do it with both hands having no real preference for one hand. He improved his passing decisions as he is not forcing the cross-court throws but goes more for the short dish in the paint. 

Stats: 12.4ppg (31/80 2FGs – 7/20 3FGs), 6.1rpg, 4.3apg, 2.4topg

Marcus Eriksson – 1m96 – SG – 1993 – Suzuki Manresa (ESP)

There is not much to add anymore on the game of Marcus Eriksson. The Swedish shooter has one of the nicest shots in the whole tournament but he is still a bit underdeveloped physically in order to match with the one year older competition. Eriksson can come up with series, especially when left alone around the arc and getting the perfect kick outs from the drives or the skip passes from the wing. His mid-range jump shot out of the drive is still improvable and he should be able to become a more consistent passer in order to improve his game.

Stats: 13.2ppg (12/33 2FGs – 30/74 3FGs), 3.3rpg, 1.2apg 0.8topg

Charles Barton – 1m88 – PG/SG – 1992 – Sanda Basket (SWE)

Compared to the Nordic Games, where the son of coach Charles Barton had not a major role, the scoring guard from the Sanda Basketball school played some interesting games in Lithuania. Still a lot of ups and downs in his performances, the 1m88 tall player showed a good scoring talent from behind the arc and on the drive. He goes mostly for floaters as he probably struggles to take the mid-range jumper out of the penetration play. Barton wants to make the big plays and is not afraid to go for the jump shoots in crucial moments. He likes to attack the basket on cross-over moves but got whistled several times for palming the ball too much.

Stats: 7.7ppg (28.0% 2FGs – 35.3% 3FGs), 1.7rpg, 2.6apg, 2.6topg

Mathis Keita – 1m92 – SG/PG – 1992 – Gonzaga (USA)

Mathis Keita was used with the French team more in a SG role this summer but still helped out on the PG during moments. He was however the vocal leader on the court in the absence of the natural leader Leo Westermann. Keita did a nice job when attacking the basket but his long-distance shot is still far from being consistent. He air-balled an open three pointer from the corner at a crucial moment of a game. On the other hand, he is doing a really nice job pushing the ball on the fast break and attacking the basket with both hands.

Stats: 8.9ppg (53.2% 2FGs – 31.6% 3FGs), 3.4rpg, 2.4apg 2.3topg, 1.3spg

Thomas Ceci – 1m97 – SG/SF – 1992 – Le Mans (FRA)

Thomas Ceci was the main option from outside for the French team. He attempted more than the double number of shots from behind the arc than in the two point area, and this despite somehow strange shooting mechanics. But he can hit the long distance shots in series and therefore turn around a game by himself. He does not go very often for the drive or the mid-range jump-shot but he can make it from there, even with the foul. Ceci is rather physical and athletic and he should be able to develop into an interesting ProA prospect in the future.

Stats: 8.0ppg (15/50 3FGs), 4.1rpg

Toni Katic – 1m80 – PG – 1992 – KK Split (CRO)

The Croatian guard saw a lot of minutes during the tournament but he had not the necessary impact on his team to reach the semi-finals. Katic is a bit of a scoring PG who likes to create out of the dribble for himself but also goes for the kick-outs passes, often out of the jump though. He can score from mid-range jump shots or go through until the rim for the layup. His three point shot was not falling during the European Championship as he finished with a poor 1/9. His shooting is though his major asset and he was the best free-throw shooter of the event. Often going to the left hand, he has a multitude of fakes on the drive as hesitation steps or passing fakes in order to create the space he needs to score the ball.

Stats: 11.8ppg (1/9 3FGs), 4.6rpg, 4.1apg, 2.8topg, 1.3spg

Roko Rogic – 1m85 – PG – 1992 – Mladost Zagreb (CRO)

With Katic more active on the drive, Roko Rogic was the main threat from outside for the Croatian team. The 1m85 tall guard scored with his very quick from behind the arc, even when the defense was on or running out on him. He was very dangerous and he can get on fire from there and be a serious game changer. Rogic, who had to play PG in the Albert-Schweitzer Tournament this spring showed that he is mainly a SG despite his short size for this position. He needs to develop his passing and tempo-control skills in order to settle down to the PG in the future.

Stats: 10.6ppg (45.2% 3FG), 3.6rpg, 1.3apg, 3.0topg

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Darknemo2000 // Aug 7, 2010 at 4:18 pm

    I have to applaud your insight on our Lithuanian guards (sorry I mostly comment them as it is the field that I am most accustomed to).

    You are right on top on Cizauskas, specially I liked your insight on his bodyweight and how it helps with his penetration.

    However, I have a few other points that you did not mention. One thing is that this weight also helps him to be a pretty good rebounder for a PG. It is pretty important considering how much his rebounds helped Lith’s in tight games or in building the game lead.

    His defense is also pretty solid, he still makes mistakes but less than Simanavicius who tends to make too many unnecessarily movements and sometimes falls ‘asleep’ on the opponents first step.

    Cizauskas doesn’t have that but he has one bad feature that makes me concerned. Basically the problem with his personality. I don’t know if you noticed but he really likes to scream on his teammates whenever defensive mistake was made. This is nothing bad as such, but what concerns me is that it is when he himself clearly makes a defensive error he still instantly turns around to search for Skucas, Ulanovas or Sabonis to scream at instead of raising his hand and admitting his own fault (he rarely scream at Valanciunas, Pukis or Redikas because of their status on the team).

    You can improve only when you realize your mistakes and work on them, not when instead of admitting them you point your finger towards others and put all your blame on them.

    He needs to improve his shooting touch and also to control his team better. His passing is not very good, most of his assists come from his attempt of penetration and then a balloon-pass to the corner for Pukis or someone else.

    This balloon-pass of his is dangerous because it is slow and opponents can steal it and he also send it too high which means that the pass receiver has to jump to get it and usually goes off balance and if opponent press him he may step over the line, or if he shoots his shot can be off balanced because of that as well.

    Everything is right regarding Pukis though I myself like his defense and consider one of the better defenders against penetrations on Lith team. He struggled against Russia but because he was playing with knee-injury.

    All is right with Redikas but he has one big problem – his behavior off the court. If not that he would be one opf Perlas (Lietuvos Rytas youth team) leaders by now, but he was getting in conflicts with Linartas (who ironically was an assistant coach of this Lith team) due to his working ethics (he likes to drink alcohol bit too much and can be rather mean to his teammates). Hopefully he will put his off-court issues behind him as he does have a talent. The biggest obstacle for him is he himself.

  • 2 pep // Aug 7, 2010 at 10:49 pm

    Cizauskas looks like he can become an improved version of Spanish guard Carlos Cabezas

  • 3 Christophe // Aug 8, 2010 at 3:09 pm

    @Darknemo
    thanks a lot for those additional Infos. I have no idea on the player’s private life. Concerning Cizauskas, the rebounding you mentioned is of course an important factor that I did not mention. Thanks for adding

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