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U18 European Championship 2012: the Guards

August 26th, 2012 · 2 Comments

In our first part of scouting reports about the U18 European Championship, I will talk about the main guard prospects. Please not that I could not scout the teams of Turkey, Slovenia, Greece and Ukraine which explains why no players from these nations will be in the reports. Some of the players I saw already during the Albert-Schweitzer Tournament are not featured either, mainly because they showed no particular progress since the Mannheim event that was scheduled a few months ago.

Alberto Diaz – 1m90 – PG – 1994 – Spain

The Unicaja guard took over the Starting job for the Spanish U18 National Team after being only a back-up of Josep Perez during the Albert Schweitzer Tournament. Diaz is first of all a great defensive presence who can put a lot of pressure on the opposing guards and shows tremendous heart throughout the game. Next to his tight defense, Diaz is also a great rebounder who is not afraid to go hard for the boards and is not shying away from contacts. His lateral speed is good so that he can stay in front of most guards but he is not extremely quick.

Offensively, Diaz is more an organizer than a creator. He controls the game speed and likes to play in Pick and Roll situations where he can nicely accelerate to split the defense. However, he sometimes loses control of his speed and body when attacking the basket hard on the drive. Out of these driving situations, Diaz can come up with a jump shot from mid-range or from behind the arc, but his mechanics are not very fluid. His jump shot looks like a set-shot in the beginning of the move and Diaz does not feel very comfortable in this exercise. He is not afraid though of taking difficult shots despite his limits in the pull-up. His overall activity level makes him an interesting player for the future, even if his lack of creativity might hurt him on the long term as a high-level Point Guard. With some additional experience and an improving shot from outside, Diaz should though be able to find an ACB level in the next years.

Stats: 10.0ppg (46.8% 2FGs – 26.3% 3FGs), 6.0rpg, 3.1apg, 1.1spg

Mikhail Kulagin – 1m88 – SG – 1994 – Russia

The Russian member of the All-Tournament team was probably one of the most explosive scorers of the championship. Kulagin likes the quick scores, at the beginning of the shot clock as he takes any open shot that he gets. His jump shot looks very good, with a nice high release and his feet well above the ground. Additionally, Kulagin has good but not great speed when he puts the ball on the floor and is capable of beating his defender on the drive. Surprisingly athletic, the younger brother of Dmitry can come up with nice dunks but he is not very physical and struggles sometimes when he wants to finish with the contact.

Despite being only 1m88 tall, Kulagin never played the PG position as he is not a great passer. He can find the man on the drive when the defense is coming for the help but he is more effective when playing off the ball. The Russian guard might move to the PG in the future like his brother but right now, he did not show many qualities for this position. He plays under control and does not take many bad choices but he needs to improve his shooting percentages from behind the three-point line to become a more regular scorer and improve his ball handling if he wants to play as a Point Guard.

Stats: 14.1ppg (50.0% 2FGs – 23.5% 3FGs), 8.5rpg, 2.0apg, 1.3spg

Serdar Annaev – 1m85 – PG – 1994 – Russia

The Russian PG was one of the best passers of the whole tournament. Not very impressive physically, Annaev plays with a high energy level and found his team mates in the paint like nobody else. He is very present on both sides of the court with his energy. On the defensive end, he is doing a great job as a help defender, constantly doubling the low-post players and not afraid to sacrify his body to close the door on the baseline. He is present in the passing lanes, especially when coming from the weak side and can initiate the transition offense which is one of his strengths.

On the offensive end, Annaev likes to control the basketball and dribbles a lot in order to find the right positions, angles or players. He rarely attacks the basket  fully and prefers to play the pass or settle for the jump shot from mid-range. He is not very athletic and struggles to finish from close against the defense. His main strength is his passing. He has an excellent court-vision and likes to go for the no-look or the lightning pass to the big guys. The main question mark on Annaev is how he can translate to the senior level. He clearly lacks a physical presence to compete with adults as neither his upper nor lower body are well developed. Additionally, our sources told us that his current situation with Khimki is not very clear and Annaev would not be against a transfer. The Turkmenistan-native is certainly a player to follow for the future in order to see if he can make the transition to next level.

Stats: 6.0ppg (46.7% 2FGs – 40.0% 3FGs), 3.3rpg, 4.6apg, 2.1spg

Kris Minkov – 1m98 – SF/SG – 1994 – Bulgaria

Kris Minkov was an interesting player in the Bulgarian team as the 1m98 tall forward played lots of minutes at the PG spot as well. In both positions, Minkov looked interesting but I chose to put him in the guards group as he might have a better future as a combo-guard than as a forward. Minkov is first of all a scorer. He can come up with the pull-up three point shot or score in catch-and shoot situations. He has nice stability and balance in his shot, even when coming from off the ball to go for the quick shot. The Bulgarian can also put the ball on the floor and drive past his defender, and he is more effective when going left surprisingly.

When attacking the basket, Minkov can use his good footwork to avoid the defense and finish with a euro-step move for example but his above average physical development also helps him to go for the contact. His shot is quickly executed as well and despite having low assist numbers, Minkov is not a bad creator for his team mates on the drive. He helped a lot when the opponents were setting up a full-court press by bringing up the ball with his ball handling. He was present vocally and together with his above mentioned strengths, I think Minkov could be an interesting prospect on the long term to play as a combo-guard.

Stats: 12.9ppg (50.0% 2FGs – 46.2% 3FGs), 3.8rpg, 1.6apg, 1.3spg

Stefan Pot – 1m95 – SG/PG – 1994 – Serbia

After a slow start into the tournament, Stefan Pot took over the Serbian backcourt from the Quarter-Finals on. Often used together with Nikola Radicevic before the PG’s injury, Pot was playing as SG during these games where he was used mainly as a scoring option. With Radicevic sidelined, Pot also showed that he can run the team. Mainly using his right hand to attack the basket where he has great speed, Pot can either finish from close against the defense with a well created contact or play the kick out pass to the wings. Not a major creator for his team mates, Pot is mainly a scoring guard who can use both the drive and the shot.

He has a preference for going on his stronger right hand but he can also finish when attacking over the left side, even if his movements are slower when going in that direction. His three-point shot was a major threat during the tournament and he went for a 6/8 3FG shooting exhibition in the Quarter Final where he was mainly used as a corner catch-and-shoot player. Sometimes, he plays a bit too easy going for sloppy passes on the drive or taking a bad shot but overall, Pot looks like a very interesting back-court talent for Serbia. Defensively, he reads the passing lanes nicely and comes up with a good amount of steals in theses situations. In 1-1 situations, he is not a closer on defense but is able to hold his man in front of him but it is certainly a domain where there is a progress margin left for the future.

Stats: 9.8ppg (41.5% 2FGs – 50.0% 3FGs), 3.2rpg, 2.4apg, 1.2spg

Nikola Radicevic – 1m94 – PG – 1994 – Serbia

Nikola Radicevic got elected to the All-Tournament team in Lithuania but could not really show his real level in the Final round that we followed because of a leg injury. During the quarter-final against Bulgaria, he showed his well-known strengths on the drive drawing fouls and scoring from close to the basket but also his weakness from behind the three-point line. In the semi-final, he could barely play while in the Bronze Medal match, he did not enter the game. For a more detailed scouting report on him, please check what I wrote about him after the Albert-Schweitzer Tournament where he was in full shape.

Stats: 12.4ppg (34.3% 2FGs – 23.9% 3FGs), 2.9rpg, 5.1apg, 1.1spg

Lukas Lekavicius – 1m80 – PG – 1994 – Lithuania

The short Lithuanian PG played a nice tournament but he can not really be considered as a high-level prospect. He rarely turns the ball over (1.1 in 24 minutes) but is not overly creative either. He finds his team mates on kick-outs but often goes for difficult mid-range jumpers or floaters by himself. His jump shot is not really in balance, he often falls forward and struggles to shot against defense. However, he splits the defense nicely with his low and quick dribbles and he is therefore able to create the necessary space for his own attempts. He rarely takes a three-point shot as his mechanics are not great and his overall shooting touch seems limited. Nevertheless, Lekavicius showed some positive things, controlled the game speed nicely during some moments and was an excellent defender and ball stealer. His limited size though might be the major handicap for the highest level.

Stats: 6.4ppg (48.8% 2FGs – 30.0% 3FGs), 2.7rpg, 2.9apg, 1.1topg

Matteo Imbro – 1m92 – PG – 1994 – Italy

Imbro started well into the tournament during the group phase but he had stepped down during the Final phase. In the decisive games against Croatia and Spain, he had a really bad shooting percentage (5/24 FGs) and he could not really help to make his team mates better. When he stepped up last summer in the U18 Euro when the decisive games were coming, this time it was not the case. However, this does not mean that Imbro has become a bad player. His qualities are still well known, he was just not able to play at his best level this year. More on him can be found in our Scouting report on the Albert-Schweitzer Tournament where he was playing a lot better.

Stats: 11.3ppg (40.9% 2FGs – 40.0% 3FGs), 4.4rpg, 3.6apg, 2.1spg

Dominik Mavra – 1m95 – PG – 1994 – Croatia

It was not really a great tournament for Mavra from an individual point of view. His numbers, especially the shooting percentages, were bad but Mavra showed some improvement as Point Guard. Often used as SG in the past, Mavra played PG most of the time for the Croatian team in Lithuania. He controls the game speed as good as it is possible when you have a ball-dominant player like Dario Saric in your team. His ball handling has improved and he got better in court vision as well. However, his main force which was the shot was far away from being good in Vilnius. The mechanics are the same but he was not very successful in making his shots. He shied away from open positions even at moments and shared the ball a bit too much. But with his low percentages, this can be understood as he did not feel very confident. It will be interesting to see how he develops his PG skills over the next years. When he finds back his shooting touch and improves his ball handling and decision making on offense, he can become a very interesting player.

Stats: 8.3ppg (16.7% 2FGs – 33.3% 3FGs), 4.6rpg, 3.2apg, 1.6spg

Jakov Mustapic – 1m93 – SG – 1994 – Croatia

Often used as an energizer from the bench, Mustapic was an important player for the Croatian team. He was not only present in scoring where he was particularly effective when driving to the basket but also in nearly every other category. Extremely present in the passing lanes, Mustapic was the best stealer of the tournament with 2.6 interceptions per game. He has a natural feel to see where the ball is going and with his explosiveness, he can flash in the pass and initiate a fast break. Next to this, he also goes hard for the defensive rebounds and likes to play in transition. On offense, he is good when putting the ball on the floor to attack the basket but sometimes loses control of the situation. His three-point is not very regular but he is not afraid to take the shot in decisive situations. Some kind of a late bloomer, Mustapic has never played before in an international competition for Croatia. His future looks interesting though as he seems to have passed the usual starter Karlo Lebo in his development.

Stats: 11.0ppg (53.2% 2FGs – 27.3% 3FGs), 4.0rpg, 2.9apg, 2.6spg

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