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U18 European Championship 2013: the Bigs

August 9th, 2013 · No Comments

We conclude our reports on the U18 European Championship 2013 from Riga with the scouting reports on the Big Men. These include of course the Latvian twin towers Porzingis and Pasecniks but also the highly recruited Domantas Sabonis and the Croatian talents Arapovic and Zganec.

Kristaps Porzingis – 2m12 – PF – 1995 – Latvia

Coming a bit out of nowhere as he has never played any European Championship in his career, Kristaps Porzingis had a coming-out party during the days in Riga. The player who is under contract with the Spanish team Cajasol Sevilla has worked hard over the last two years in order to live up to the potential that he has, displaying a great 2m12 tall frame with good coordination and PF skills. Porzingis is really mobile and will definitely play as PF in the future if he does not even move to the 3 spot as he lacks a bit of toughness in the paint. He is not the hardest guy which is underlined by the very poor amount of free-throws that he shot during the event. More of a player that likes to come from outside, Porzingis can create of the dribble as he has the ability to shoot from the perimeter and therefore attract the defenders to close out on him.

When Porzinigis puts the ball on the floor, he mostly stops though in the mid-range area to finish from there. He rarely attacks the hoop totally and prefers the jump or scoop shot from around the key. He has the necessary footwork to come up with quick spin moves as well but his still rather thin frame does not allow him to finish with the contact down low. When the 2m12 tall forward receives the ball in the low post, he prefers to go for the face-up baseline drive instead of banging his defender backwards to the hoop. His jump shot looks really fluid for a player of his size and he can score from around the key as well as from behind the arc. Out of the dribble, the Latvian forward can create his own shot and likes also to finish on some nice running hook shots. With his changing speeds in the dribble, he can overcome his lacks in explosiveness of his first step.

On the defensive end, Porzingis showed amazing shot blocking potential especially coming from the weak side. He has a great timing and terrific length to reject shots as a help side rotation. It has to be added that he mainly blocks the shots in a way that the defense can rebound the rejection and not going for the show effect and volleyballing the ball out of bounds. Despite averaging about 10 rebounds per game, Porzingis does not look really like a superb rebounder mainly because of his lack of physical presence. Porzingis has made huge steps forward over the last two years. The question is how much can he develop in a next step over the coming years. During the days in Riga, he helped himself a lot to showcase his skills for the first time in a continental event.

Stats: 11.6ppg (49.4% 2FGs – 18.8% 3FGs), 10.0rpg, 4.9bpg

Anzejs Pasecniks – 2m15 – C – 1995 – Latvia

The second Latvian option in the paint developed into the first scoring threat during the tournament. Not as gifted physically and coordinative than Porzingis, Pasecniks looks to use his size a lot better as he plays fully in the paint and rarely steps out to play facing the basket. Used mainly as a low post scorer, Pasecniks tries to score using both hands on the jump hook. However, his touch using the left hand is not good as he misses even from close when going left. Additionally, Pasecniks looks not really comfortable to dunk the ball as he mainly goes for the soft finish of the glass. The fact that he continues to use his left hand even after several misses can though be considered as a positive thing as it shows that he is working to become a player capable of finishing with both hands from close.

Overall, Pasecniks impresses with his calm presence on the court finishing well from close when he can use his very effective right hand. It would be interesting to see a split for his FG% when using his left or his right hand as he is probably close to 75% when going on his strong side. More surprisingly, Pasecniks can also be used as a Pick and Pop player occasionally as he netted a three-pointer here and there using a nicely looking and smooth stroke. Out of the low post, he can also face up his defender and shot over him because of his great size. Defensively, Pasecniks is a below average shot blocker for his height as he is not very explosive nor particularly gifted with great feet to come as a help defender from the weak side. Athletically, he can run the floor correctly but he does not surprise you with great speed or massive leaping abilities.

With his size, Pasecniks will certainly have a future on the professional scene. When he can develop a good left hand, he will be among the best finishers around the basket of his generation. However, he needs to work on his body in order to become physically stronger, especially on his lower body where he loses his balance too easily. His future though looks interesting as this generation does not have that many big men of his talent so that Pasecniks should be able to become a Eurocup/Euroleague level prospect within the next 2-3 years.

Stats: 12.6pp (50.0% 2FGs – 75.9% FTs), 7.7rpg, 0.8bpg

Rolands Smits – 2m07 – PF – 1995 – Latvia

The third string of the Latvian inside options was the 2m07 tall power forward Rolands Smits. Mainly used as an energizer coming from the bench, Smits did a good job in a Pick and Pop shooting forward who also showed some good plays when putting the ball on the floor. He was probably the most versatile player as he could either shoot, play the low post but also drive to the basket and finish in different ways. Smits likes to put the ball on the floor, using either hand, and go hard to the hoop. However, he has a clear preference for finishing on his right hand even when coming from the left side.

His jump shot looks good from a mechanical point of view but its execution could be a little bit faster in order to be more effective and be able to beat more players on the dribble. He can knock the shots down from anywhere on the court, either the long two point or the three-point shot from the corner were the main options for him with the National Team this summer. His overall good control of his body and his hustle attitude make him a good prospect that however lacks the little thing that makes him special. Nevertheless, Smits should not have any problem to develop into a serious ACB player down the road.

Stats: 8.4ppg (57.1% 2FGs – 38.5% FTs), 4.2rpg

Kerem Kanter – 2m04 – C – 1995 – Turkey

The younger brother of Enes Kanter was a key factor for the Turkish run to the Finals because of his massive presence on the offensive glass. Pretty undersized for playing the Center spot, Kanter was often used as a PF as well despite not being a major threat from outside. He makes the most damage in the paint where he can use his massive body to generate second chances for his team and create some space underneath. Overall, his hands are not great for catches or finishes but Kanter gets the job done if he has a certain role to play. He lacks the speed on the drive to play from outside even though he can make a shot occasionally. Playing in the USA, Kanter should be able to find an interesting program on the College level where he can be very useful as a rebounding presence in the paint with the potential to become a serious role player.

Stats: 8.0ppg (52.7% 2FGs – 47.1% FTs), 5.3rpg

Emircan Kosut – 2m12 – C – 1995 – Turkey

The starting center of the Turkish team is more of a project in the making, especially on the offensive side. Very long and mobile, Kosut lacks still the necessary physical strength to be a power in the paint. Currently, he excels with his speed and good execution of the Pick and Roll where his good feet help him the be an excellent diver on the roll for the catch and finish. Not that dangerous from outside, Kosut looks to have still a big room for improvement on the offensive end as he looks very coordinated and should be able to develop a serious shot over the next years. On the defensive end, Kosut was really present with his length and shot blocking presence. Not yet a real goal keeper in the paint, Kosut did a great job coming from the help side to reject shots of the weak side.

Stats: 6.3ppg (52.4% 2FG), 3.8rpg, 3.0bpg

Vasilije Vucetic – 2m05 – C –1996 – Serbia

The Serbian big guy played a good tournament knowing that he is a year younger than the competition. Already quite strong physically, Vucetic is not the fastest or most athletic player though. Mainly using a good footwork, positioning and a nice shooting touch, Vucetic was the first inside option for the Serbian team despite his limited size for playing the center spot. Not only used in the low post, where he showed different moves with a preference of the face up, Vucetic can also play from outside and put the ball on the floor. His first step though is not very explosive but he can create his shot from there against slower or bigger defenders. He also can go the whole way to the hoop from the top of the key with a drive where he positions his body well between the defender and the ball so that he avoids being stripped the ball away.

Stats: 7.8ppg (43.8% 2FGs – 73.7% FTs), 3.9rpg, 0.6bpg

Domantas Sabonis – 2m05 – PF/C – 1996 – Lithuania

The young Lithuanian big guy was one of the most versatile players of the whole tournament. Averaging a double-double on this level when you are younger than the competition underlines what kind of prospect we are talking about. Being 2m05 tall, Sabonis had to play Center for the undersized Lithuanian team but his future position is most likely on the PF position. He has great hands and his strong left hand is really a beauty to watch when he receives the ball in the low post where he can create the necessary space to finish well of the glass. He has earned a bit of his father’s passing ability as he likes to go for the wrap-around dish for the cutters or the high-low plays from the top of the key. With his great arsenal of head and body fakes, Sabonis overcomes his lack of great athletic abilities nicely as he can put his defender out of positions on multiple occasions.

This gives him the possibility to put the ball on the floor easily and he likes to attack the defense on the dribble, mainly though over the left side. His shooting touch around the key looks promising and he should be able to develop an outside shot in the next years despite a poor percentage from the free-throw line during the event. With his choice to play College Basketball, Sabonis is certainly going into the right direction as he will work on his athletic abilities for sure. This will give him an additional dimension to his game that he is lacking a bit at the moment. But he has all the tools to become a tremendous force over the next years and should be a great complement to Joans Valanciunas and Donatas Motiejunas in the future.

Stats: 14.0ppg (56.2% 2FGs – 54.8% FTs), 11.4rpg

Petr Cornelie – 2m09 – C – 1995 – France

It was not really a great tournament for the French Petr Cornelie who was quite unlucky in most of the plays that we followed in Riga. Last summer, when he played with the French U17 National Team, Cornelie showed interesting skills with good hands but this was not the case anymore this summer. He looks like having lost his touch and even struggled to catch some of the passes coming to him. Nevertheless, he remains an interesting prospect from a body point of view and he is still in a developing phase of his game. When he can stabilize his shooting form; he even took shots from 5-6 meters during the tournament; Cornelie can have an interesting future as he has the athletic abilities to play on the highest level.

Stats: 5.9ppg (36.5% 2FGs), 6.9rpg, 0.9bpg

Ilimane Diop – 2m10 – C – 1995 – Spain

If you just look at the numbers, the European Championship of Ilimane Diop might look like a slight disappointment. But I think that he is on the right way to become a very intriguing player down the road. Diop showed some improvement in the Pick and Roll situations where he has now better angles to move the basket. He can still finish easily above the rim with his tremendous wingspan and overall good athletic abilities. He runs the court really well for a player of his size and remains really mobile as he has not the largest or bulkiest frame. The main asset of Diop’s game though is on the defensive end where he is a real rim protector. Despite only averaging 1.1 blocks per game, it would be interesting to see a similar statistical overview for him to the “Dwight Effect” presented during the Sloan Sports Conference this spring. Diop is extremely present and changes a lot of directions of the ball, be it in passing or in shooting with his really long arms. And with the growing experience, he knows better and better how to use his hands to become a defensive force.

Stats: 8.9ppg (55.9% 2FGs), 6.9rpg, 1.1bpg

Juan Hernangomez – 2m04 – PF – 1995 – Spain

Juan Hernangomez had his magic moment of the tournament when he scored a super important three-point shot in the Bronze Medal game in the decisive moments. This was the kind of play that is either luck or shows the real potential of a player. For Hernangomez, it did not look like it was luck when he faked the three-point shot, took one dribble for nailing then the step back three pointer. It looked so fluid and full of confidence that you can imagine the 2m04 tall forward make this kind of play on a regular basis. The younger brother of Willy Hernangomez is a more outside oriented Power Forward who is quite mobile and very effective from behind the arc. He can also put it on the floor even if he was not the most prolific driver on his team. It will be really interesting to see how he develops over the next years as he has the potential to become a high level PF with his abilities and potential.

Stats: 6.3ppg (48.4% 2FGs – 62.5% 3FGs), 3.6rpg

Marko Arapovic – 2m08 – PF – 1996 – Croatia

It was not really a great tournament for Marko Arapovic but nevertheless, the 2m08 tall Croatian finished with a Silver Medal being one year younger than the competition. Mainly used as a PF because of his game face to the basket, Arapovic showed some very good stuff when he put the ball on the floor or as a catch and shoot player. In Pick and Pop situations, he excelled from behind the arc but also as a floor stretcher with his shot, fakes and drives. Out of the defensive rebound, Arapovic likes to put the ball on the floor to initiate the fast break which he does quite well and where he can sprint up the court for the easy finish.

Despite his quite slow feet, Arapovic manages to get to the rim well using either hand when playing from outside. However, he struggles to finish with his left and prefers to score with the right hand even when attacking over the left side. He does not really play above the rim as he lacks explosiveness even for European standards but his fundamentally sound game overcomes this weakness to a certain extent. With another year of development, Arapovic should have grown into his body and worked on his feet and athletic abilities to develop into a highly promising Power Forward for the next level. His overall face up game is rarely seen in his generation for a player of his size.

Stats: 9.3ppg (44.1% 2FGs – 53.6% FTs), 7.2rpg

Karlo Zganec – 2m06 – PF/C – 1995 – Croatia

Karlo Zganes showed one of the most versatile offensive games of all the inside players in this tournament. Extremely aggressive with the ball, Zganec was among the players that drew the most fouls of the Championship as he attacks the rim relentlessly and without any fear. A bit undersized to play Center, Zganec has the potential to become a full time power forward over the next years as he can score from around the key without any problem and he showed very interesting passing skills either out of the high post or on the drive. His first step is also good for this level so that he more than once beat his man on the dribble, and this with both hands.

Used either in Pick and Roll or Pop situations, Zganec can use both as his range goes to the three-point line. His shooting mechanics are quite fluid and regular which is underlined by his great numbers from the FT line for a big man. His hustle attitude gives him also multiple second chances on the offensive glass and helps him also to be quite a good passing lane defender on the other side of the court. Additionally, he is a correct shot blocking presence which rounds up his great versatility on the court. Somehow though, he misses that kind of extra that makes him a really high-level prospect. But this might only be because you see so many gifted players year in year out that you miss on the hard working terriers like Zganec. I would not be surprised if he will earn many more medals over the next years, be it with the Croatian National Team or in the Euroleague.

Stats: 13.3ppg (48.7% 2FGs – 80.0% FTs), 9.1rpg, 2.9apg, 1.2bpg

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