After a very long break, europeanprospects.com is back with the coverage of the U18 European Championship of Division A from Poland. As usual, we start the coverage with the guards.
Jaime Fernandez – 1m84 – PG/SG – 1993 – Spain
The short Spanish guard was one of the main factor for the team winning the Gold Medal again after this generation won the tournament already on the U16 level two years ago. Fernandez lives mainly from his excellent drive to the basket where he is not afraid of finishing from close despite his limited size. Having played already some minutes on the ACB level, he was one of the most experienced players on this level which you could easily see on the court. Being a some times high risk decisions player, Fernandez does not turn the ball over too much but can create some excellent situations for his team mates through his drives.
Fernandez though is not really a Point Guard in the pure sense of the term. He plays both guard positions but feels a bit more in his rhythm when being on the SG. However, you can call him a Play-Maker as he wants to have the ball in his hands and make decisions. As mentioned above, he prefers the drive over the long distance shot but he is dangerous as well from behind the arc. He is able to create his shot and can score the three-pointer with nearly 40%. One of his favorite moves is the drive initiated with the right hand where he changes direction and finishing on the left-handed lay-back protected by the basket. His first step on the right side is excellent and there were not many players who could stop him on these situations.
The problem with Fernandez is his limited size which prevents him from becoming a top-level star in the future probably. Defensively, he can not play against taller guards and is living mainly from his quickness and instincts on the passing lanes on U18 level. However, his team Estudiantes builds on him for the future and he will certainly see a good amount of minutes in the ACB next season. When he can stabilize his three-point shot above 40%, he has the complete offensive package for the guard positions but he will most likely not develop into a offense-managing Point Guard but be a scoring backcourt threat with good decision making skills and a great feel for the game.
Stats: 12.8ppg (36.1% 2FGs – 36.8% 3FGs), 2.6rpg, 4.4apg, 1.2spg, 2.7topg
Kenan Sipahi – 1m92 – PG – 1995 – Turkey
One of the most fun players to watch was the Turkish guard Kenan Sipahi. This was not only because of his very strong vocal and gestural presence but also because he is one of the most talented guards of his generation. Sipahi was two years younger than the competition but sometimes looked like being the clear leader and decision maker for the Turkish team. Always having a smile for the referee or the motivational clap for his team mates, Sipahi looks to be a natural leader on and off the court.
Next to his obvious charisma, Sipahi is also a great talent in terms of pure basketball. The Turkish guard can both score and create for his team mates. He has some excellent court-vision and excels in Pick-and-Roll situations where he finds his big guys very well. He needs to adapt his passes a bit more to the player he wants to give the ball as you could see him sometimes go for lightning quick dishes to players unable to react that fast. Sipahi has developed a good looking shot with a high release point and quick execution. He can fire it up from behind the three-point line in either catch and shoot situations or by creating himself the necessary space in a Pick and Roll situation.
On the drive, he likes to attack the basket hard and also score against the taller players. The Turkish guard finds often good situations and openings for his team mates and likes to go for the no-look option at times. He can also stop his penetration and take the mid-range jump shot out of the dribble or score on the running hook or tear drop from mid-range. With his good height, he is able to post up smaller guards and create scoring options out of these situations. For Sipahi, who was still two years younger than his opponents, the next step is to improve his decision making as he has the obvious talent to develop into a great player. He needs to reduce the turnovers and improve his shooting percentages and he can become a dominant player on this level next summer. Getting more experience on the senior level as he is supposed to get during the season will of course be a big help for him as well.
Stats: 9.2ppg (32.3% 2FGs – 36.4% 3FGs), 2.6rpg, 2.7apg, 0.9spg, 2.4topg
Tayfun Erülkü – 1m88 – SG – 1994 – Turkey
Erülkü was probably the most consistent scorer for the Turkish team in the back court. The combo-guard showed massive drives where he pushed the ball hard to the basket to score from close against the bigger players. The 1994 born guard finishes well in traffic because of good anticipation of what the defense gives him and correct athletic abilities. Mainly scoring on the drive, Erülkü has a also a three-point shot but it remains pretty streaky and not his first option.With his ball handling and cross over dribbles, the guard can also create the necessary space to score on the jump shot from mid-range. Good speed and a high energy level are some other characteristics that have to be mentioned when talking about Erülkü.
Stats: 9.3ppg (44.2% 2FGs – 32.0% 3FGs), 2.2rpg, 1.2apg, 1.8spg
Matteo Imbro – 1m90 – PG – 1994 – Italy
After Amedeo della Valle had to sit out because of his injury, it was Matteo Imbro who imposed himself as a the leader of the surprising Italian team. Imbro showed good scoring and team leading potential through the medal round and looks like a very promising player for the future. His main offensive asset is his shot which looks very quick and fluid. The three-point shot is especially quick in catch and shoot situation when Imbro receives the ball in kick-out situations. The execution speed remembered me a bit the one of Juan Carlos Navarro in similar situation. The 1994 born guard can also create his own shot in Pick and Roll situations where he has a good height on the release. He mainly goes left when he wants to take his shot and prefers the drive when going on the right hand.
Out of these drives, he can create opportunities for himself from midrange or find his big guys under basket or the cutters. His jump shot from midrange is looking well and he can do it with either the normal pull-up jumper or go for the floater. He can not only score from the top but is also effective from the baseline. Imbro controls the game tempo pretty well and looks very experienced for his young age. He moves well without the ball and helps therefore his team to get a good spacing on offense.
Despite looking fragile physically, Imbro is not a pass-through on defense. He is very active with his hands on the passing lanes and is also very present in rebounding situations. Imbro, who played last season on loan in the third Italian League should be a clear leader for the talented 94 generation of Italy in the future. See below for some action of Imbro during the decisive games of the U18 European Championship in Poland.
Stats: 11.4ppg (38.1% 2FGs – 37.0% 3FGs), 3.9rpg, 3.4apg, 1.1spg, 1.9topg
Vasilije Micic – 1m91 – PG – 1994 – Serbia
The Serbian back-court was built around Nenad Miljenovic and Vasilije Micic. The younger guard looked like the leader as he started the games for Serbia while Miljenovic came from the bench in most cases. Since we saw Micic for the last time, he looks a lot stronger physically now and seems to have grown a few additional centimeters as well. This gives him a lot more options on offense as he can go and post up his defender. The player from Mega Vizura did a good job attacking the basket where he has great speed on his drives, spin moves or direction changes. He can also score on the typical long Euro-Step to avoid the defenders in the paint but his moves look sometimes a bit hectic.
Micic is more a scorer than a creator for his team mates as he is not particularly creative. He can find his team mates on the drive or in difficult situations but often looks for his own scoring possibility at first. Out of the drive, he prefers to go hard to the rim but is also able to score from mid-range, also with the back board from the wing. His three-point shooting percentage during the tournament was not great and you could see that the ball is not really turning backwards as it should be when shooting from long range. As Micic is only born in 1994, he has another year in order to play on this level. He played already a lot of minutes in the Serbian League and this experience has of course helped him a lot. He should be the clear leader throughout the tournament next summer as he shared these responsibilities with Miljenovic this year. We had the impression during moments that the collaboration between the two guards was not perfect. With him being the sole leader on the team, he will probably play better in the future even if that does not mean that he had a bad tournament.
Stats: 10.1ppg (53.8% 2FGs – 29.4% 3FGs), 4.2rpg, 4.3apg, 2.1spg, 4.0topg
Nenad Miljenovic – 1m94 – PG – 1993 – Serbia
It has been a so-so season for Nenad Miljenovic as he could not lead his FMP Belgrade team to the triumph at the home NIJT in February and then decided to leave his club to play for Partizan and get some experience in the Euroleague. With the U18 National Team, he played the role of a joker coming from the bench and be present in the closing minutes of the game where he can use his “clutchness”. Next to Micic, you see a clear difference in the charisma and vocal presence of both guards as Miljenovic has some natural presence on the court through his smiles, talks and all around body language.
Miljenovic’s qualities have been described a lot over the last years. He has a great capacity to create his own shot but also find his team mates consistently. He is running the Pick and Roll so well and can find the open players very well. In the final minutes, he wants the ball in his hands in order to be decisive. With the Serbian team constellation, Miljenovic had often to play off the ball, a situation in which he clearly had some problems to have an impact. He decided to take the next step in his career and signed with Partizan this summer. It will be interesting to see how he can adapt to the professional level as physically he looks still underdeveloped and he will probably struggle in this domain, especially on defense.
Stats: 11.2ppg (39.3% 2FGs – 31.3% 3FGs), 3.9rpg, 4.0apg, 1.3spg, 2.0topg
Amedeo della Valle – 1m92 – PG/SG – 1993 – Italy
We could not scout della Valle during the tournament but he was one of the best guards. So here is a short Video Playlist from his games in Poland and the preparation phase.
Stats: 15.1ppg (55.4% 2FGs – 50.0% 3FGs), 3.0rpg, 2.1apg, 1.4spg, 2.1topg