In the final part of the reports on the U18 European Championship of Division A, we will talk today about the big guys that stood out.
Guillermo Hernangomez – PF/C – 2m09 – 1994 – Spain
The Spanish inside player is clearly developing into the future of the Iberic country on the Power Forward position. Becoming more and more physical with the years, Hernangomez is on the way to be a massive presence in the paint with good scoring and rebounding instincts. Limited athletically, Hernangomez is working on his positioning and footwork as his main strengths. He likes to battle in the low post and score from close where he knows how to use his body and create the necessary space for the score. Additionally, the 2m09 tall player is more and more playing facing the basket.
Out of the low post, he has a variety of moves that are not only based on his physical force. He can finish with the running hook shot with the right hand but also do the typical fake and power step finish. When he opens up after the catch, he likes to put the ball on the floor to the middle to spin or turn quickly in the direction of the baseline for the finish. Hernangomez can also attack the basket from the high post despite not having the best speed. In fact, his running style is not very fluid but with his improving foot work, he is capable of beating his man on the dribble and score even after difficult spin moves. Hernangomez looks currently like he will be the successor of Felipe Reyes in the Spanish National team in the future. If he continues his development as it is currently going on, there are not many alternatives to him for the Spanish basketball in the next years.
Stats: 14.0ppg (56.4% 2FGs), 6.0rpg, 0.7bpg
Igor Kanygin – 2m07 – C – 1994 – Russia
It was some kind of strange tournament for Igor Kanygin from Russia. He still impresses with his great athletic potential as he dunks nearly everything from close even against defense. In a particularly impressive play, he had a big dunk even over the huge wingspan of Ilimane Diop. On the other hand, his technical skills remain raw and his footwork is quite inexistent. He still struggles to connect jump shots from around the key and defensively relies way too much on his jumping ability. His boxing out is improvable and his decision making is not great. He needs to become a better rebounder by using positioning in a more effective way. Because of his great vertical abilities, he is a good shot blocker but his potential to become a defensive force is far from being tapped. The question is how good a learner he is. This will be interesting to see next summer how he has developed in one year.
Stats: 8.1ppg (52.5% 2FGs – 52.4% FTs), 3.6rpg, 1.4bpg
Denislav Vutev – 2m06 – C – 1994 – Bulgaria
The Bulgarian big guy was some kind of a surprise in this tournament as he showed interesting offensive skills for his team. Displaying a good size for a future on the PF position, Vutev showed good shooting touch and even excellent feel from behind the three-point line in however limited attempts. Athletically, he is average but runs the floor well and he can finish with the dunk. Around the key, he prefers the jump or hook shot and is not really banging in the low post. Defensively, he struggles a lot as he seems not to like contacts. Tessitori dominated him easily for example with positioning and using his body. He needs to become a better rebounder as he has no real feel for grabbing the missed shots on defense. Nevertheless, he is a player to follow who can develop into a nice stretch-four if his three-point shooting confirms over longer periods.
Stats: 8.1ppg (53.5% 2FGs – 66.7% 3FGs), 2.4rpg
Nikola Jankovic – 2m05 – PF – 1994 – Serbia
Nikola Jankovic is the kind of player where you do not see much progress but he is still capable of doing the same things on any kind of youth basketball level that he plays. Fantastic offensive rebounder and tremendous fighter, Jankovic has fully recovered and was a dominating inside presence in Lithuania. With his sense of positioning and recognizing the curves of the basketball, Jankovic earned an All-Tournament Team spot that was highly deserved. He creates so many second chances for himself or his team with his quick jumps and physical presence. Unfortunately, his shooting touch seems to stagnate as he still comes up with poor shots or even air-balls on a regular basis when taking his chance around the key. However, he feels quite well when he is missing and can grab his own misses effectively to go for the close score.
The major question is what is his potential future. Currently, he is clearly not capable of playing Small Forward as his shot is not reliable enough and his ball handling skills remain limited. Several years ago, you could imagine him developing into that direction but in this U18 European Championship, he looked like being stacked as a PF. Jankovic moved to Charleroi which might be an interesting choice if he can find an environment that gives him the necessary time to work on his shot and technique. In that case, and if he develops well, Jankovic could be a future wing man with great rebounding skills. However, if that does not work out, he might end up as a great rebounder but too short to play this role on the highest level.
Stats: 14.0ppg ( 61.0% 2FGs), 8.2rpg, 0.8bpg
Djoko Salic – 2m09 – C – 1995 – Serbia
The Serbian inside rotation next to Jankovic was built on two 1995 born players in Djoko Salic and Dusan Ristic. While the second one saw more minutes in the beginning of the competition, Salic clearly became the first choice for the coach in the Finals round. The Bosnia born big guy, who grew 3cms since last summer showed a good shooting touch in and around the key but struggled when he had to play with contact as he is still pretty immature physically. Additionally, on Pick and Roll situations or offensive rebounds, he holds the ball too low or not strong enough which ends up in multiple turnovers or brings him into difficult situations to finish. Nevertheless, and especially because he is still a year younger, Salic is a player to follow who certainly has not finished his growing potential. With his good shot and when he becomes stronger, he can develop into a good option for Serbia in the next years.
Stats: 8.9ppg (56.7% 2FGs), 4.1rpg
Augustinas Jankaitis – 2m02 – PF/C – 1994 – Lithuania
The Lithuanian big guy was a bit the opposite of Salic as he is quite short and physically developed. Jankaitis with his 2m02 looks more like a PF or even SF in the future but his ball handling and overall technique will limit his potential for the highest level unless he gets a late growth spurt.With his left hand, he can finish nicely from close to the basket but he is rarely using his right hand, even when open or when it is more natural. Most of his points came from offensive rebounds or hustle plays. He is doing a correct job in playing the Pick and Roll situations but is only dangerous when the passer can find him close to the basket; he is not an option to go for the pop or if he gets the ball farer than 3 meters from the basket.
Stats: 10.4ppg (56.3% 2FGs), 6.3rpg
Ilja Gromovs – 2m07 – C – 1994 – Latvia
One of the more surprising players of the U18 European Championship was the Latvian big guy Ilja Gromovs. In a team dominated by guard and wing play with a lot of drives, Gromovs rarely saw the ball on offense. The really long Latvian scored nearly only on dunks or put backs as he has no real low post game. He sometimes came up with a nice pass out of the back-to-the-basket situation or tried a jump hook. Defensively, Gromovs had some major impact though. Even if his low post defense was quite weak and his lateral speed is limited, Gromovs is a superb shot blocker. He has great timing and jumping ability to raise from nowhere to reject shots, especially when coming from the weak side. Additionally, he controls his rejections nicely so that they result in a steal and not an out of bounds for the offense. Gromovs needs to work on his offensive game in order to become a high-level prospect for the future. This tournament was his first ever international experience and he joined the Latvian U18 team that competes in the highest national league only recently. He is a long term project that can be highly rewarded if he works and develops well.
Stats: 6.9ppg (60.0% 2FGs), 6.8rpg, 2.2bpg
Amedeo Tessitori – 2m04 – PF – 1994 – Italy
The Italian big guy was once again a man among boys more or less. Nobody posted up as strong as him and used his body that well. Once he got the ball in the low post, there was not much to keep him away from scoring. He sees nicely where is the gap to breach in for the score, using either his left or right hand depending on the situation. Additionally, he looks to be in better shape and even improved his athleticism and explosiveness. His arsenal of fakes is impressive in the low post where he gets so many open looks by using his vista. Next to his low post game, Tessitori becomes more and more used to play Pick and Roll situations or even the Pick and Pop.
He rolls so well to the basket and can finish with the dunk immediately he caught the ball. He has also added a quite interesting three point shot that is still not extremely regular but you can see that he is working on his game and trying to develop more options than just the low post power play. He has too as his size is limited and he needs to have more variety in his offensive game in order to become a major factor on the offensive end. Defensively, he can hold his own against anyone on this level with his physical force. He has improved his shot blocking where he is a real force right now but he should be able to become an even better rebounder with his physical and athletic abilities. Next season, Tessitori should be a able to get his first serious minutes on the highest Italian level and it will be interesting to see what he is capable of doing there. This will be a good indication how far he can go in his development and how he adapts to the professional level.
Stats: 15.3ppg (54.7% 2FGs – 26.3% 3FGs), 5.4rpg, 2.3bpg
Rasmus Larsen – 2m12 – PF – 1994 – Denmark
The Danish prodigy could not avoid that his team got relegated to the Division B again. We could only watch one game of the big guy and he showed his usual strengths and weaknesses. Used as a Center in the beginning of that game, he had some problems on both sides of the floor as he struggled to dominate the defensive rebound and his offensive low post moves got stopped by the defense. When he moved to the PF position, he immediately felt a lot better and could use his shot and driving skills to score. His versatility, ball handling, shooting skills and speed for a player of his size are still really impressive but he needs to become more physical and involved in the game. He rarely asks for the ball and barely shows any emotions or leadership qualities on the court. With his move to Spain, this should be developed and it will be important for him to play on a higher level where he does not need to be such an important factor in the defensive rebound. This will certainly help him develop his strengths and become the player that he has the potential to be.
Stats: 15.7ppg (42.1% 2FGs – 32.3% 3FGs), 8.2rpg, 1.0bpg
Mikolaj Witlinski – 2m07 – PF/C – 1995 – Poland
The Polish big guy has made clearly a step forward since last summer where we could see him play in the U16 European championship. Not only, he grew a few centimeters to reach 2m07 now, Witlinski showed a good shooting touch around the key or even from behind the three-point line despite a still quite mechanical release. He even scored a nice jump shot out of the dribble when attacking the basket from the three-point line. He prefers to play face to the basket, even against smaller defenders. When he posts up, he likes to square up instead of battling in the paint. His athletic abilities remain correct but he needs to improve his rebounding and especially his boxing out. But he was one year younger than the competition and has plenty of room to improve over the next years. He will not be the next Karnowski or Gortat but Witlinski should develop into an interesting piece for the Polish Senior National Team in the next years.
Stats: 9.9ppg (58.3% 2FGs – 30.4% 3FGs), 5.8rpg, 1.3spg
Mam Jaiteh – 2m07 – C – 1994 – France
What to say about Mam Jaiteh? The French big guy has improved his efficiency in the paint and is ready to play in the 2nd French League and dominate right from the start. His finishes in the paint are getting better and better and he has really improved his footwork and ball handling. You can see him now not only battle in the low post but use the face-up game from the high post as a serious option. Jaiteh can put the ball on the floor and score after a spin move or different fakes. I saw only one game so it is difficult to go deeper into his development but it looks on the right way right now.
Stats: 16.6ppg (65.3% 2FGs – 73.5% FTs), 11.6rpg, 3.8topg, 0.7bpg