After discussing the guards of the U18 European Championship, here we go for a roundup of the most interesting prospects at the wing position.
James Birsen – 2m04 – SF – 1995 – Turkey
The expectations are always high for the Turkish forward as he is so smooth and fluid despite his size. In Riga, he showed a nice all around game and was simply the most effective three-point shooter of the event. Really secure from the for 45 degrees spot, Birsen was a great target for catch-and-shoot passers among his guards. He nailed the shots from behind the arc with superbly fluid shooting mechanics and a nice flying curve.
Birsen showed also a good rebounding presence where his good athletic abilities and feel for the game helped him a lot. With his ball handling and good body control, he could push the ball in transition occasionally but did not do this that often. Offensively, he rarely attacked the basket and relied mainly on his shooting touch from outside. Nevertheless, you expect always a bit more of such a gifted player, he never really took the focus on himself as a leader but he made the big shots by letting the game coming to him instead of forcing the destiny. This might be an asset down the road for him.
Stats: 11.6ppg (38.3% 2FGs – 56.0% 3FGs), 7.8rpg, 1.9apg
Okben Ulubay – 2m00 – SF – 1996 – Turkey
Ulubay was a bit the opposite of Birsen as the forward tried to take the game and the decisions into his hands and did not let the game come to him that much. Through this attitude, he often slowed down the Turkish offense by holding the ball too much and sometimes playing a bit too selfish. It has to be added though that his individual qualities give him the reason to do so as the 2m00 forward has a great shooting touch and excellent qualities on the drive. In a talent-loaded team like this Turkish generation, Ulubay had some problems to adapt to the team concept at moments as he did not have to take all the offensive scoring on his shoulders.
Stats: 10.3ppg (40.4% 2FGs – 34.4% 3FGs), 3.2rpg, 2.1apg
Ivars Zvigurs – 1m99 – SF – 1995 – Latvia
Zvigurs was the main option for Team Latvia on the wing where the left handed forward excelled with his superb driving skills. Quite athletic, Zvigurs also has a good first step, especially with his stronger right hand. He can finish hard in the paint with high-flying dunks and he likes to attack the baseline to beat his defender. Despite having a preference for his left hand, Zvigurs also uses his right hand for the drive and the finish. He had a particularly spectacular play when put the ball on the floor to take it around his waist and finish on a nice floater from the top.
A little bit undersized to play the PF, Zvigurs was mainly used on the wing despite a very poor outside shooting. His mechanics are far from being fluid and there is no real follow through at all on his shot. He compensates with good ball handling and control but on the next level, he will struggle as the defenses will consequently sink down on him as he is not capable to score the jumper on a regular basis.
Stats: 6.8ppg (51.1% 2FGs – 7.1% 3FGs), 3.4rpg
Axel Bouteille – 1m98 – SF – 1995 – France
The French forward was a nice surprise for his team with a good all-around game and sure scoring threat from the wing. Bouteille can either go for the jump shot from the threepoint territory or put it on the floor for the drive. Not a great athlete, Bouteille lives a bit more of his smarts and good decision making as he showed through a superb presence on the offensive rebound where he was among the best despite his size. Capable of playing the Small Forward but also the Shooting Guard, Bouteille recognizes well who is defending him and how to use the situation. He posts up smaller defenders easily and can finish in the low post by the jump shot or the simple post move. His great feel for the game and presence in transition should help him to make his first steps on the professional level quite soon and he might develop into a player that has a long career in the French League.
Stats: 12.6ppg (60.5% 2FGs – 46.2% 3FGs), 5.1rpg
Damien Inglis – 2m04 – SF/PF – 1995 – France
Riga confirmed the actual situation of Damien Inglis who is one of the most versatile and talented players of his generation. Gifted with a superb body that however is less and less standing out compared to the other players, Inglis can dominate a game in every aspect. Capable of scoring on the drive and especially in the paint, the French forward was the main offensive threat of his team despite being again streaky from outside. The shooting touch from the three-point territory is the part of the game that Inglis needs to work the most as he is often hard to stop when he puts the ball on the floor and he has that kind of court vision that he can find the open players on the help.
The Belgrade NIJT remains a bit his business card tournament as he showed there what he is capable of when he plays at his best level. Unfortunately, he could not repeat these performances in the NIJT Finals or in Riga. He will make the step to the French Pro A next season and it will be interesting to follow what he is able to do in that kind of environment. Inglis is an NBA prospect because of his overal package but he needs to show that he can develop shooting skills to become a regular threat around the three-point line.
Stats: 11.8ppg (54.1% 2FGs – 19.4% 3FGs), 7.4rpg, 3.9apg
Marc Garcia – 1m96 – SF/SG – 1996 – Spain
The Spanish shooting specialist had not his best shooting days in Latvia as he coud only connect 20% from behind the arc. But he has one of the most fluid shots of his generation and can be a deadly threat especially from the corners. As his shots were not falling, Garcia tried to attack the basket more and he was doing this quite well with either hand. His great size for a SG future helped him to be effective when trying to score in the paint on the drive as his arsenal of fakes and danger from behind the arc gave him a good number of opportunities to beat his man on the dribble. One year younger than the competition, Garcia will be a player to follow over the next years and he should be the main Spanish scoring threat next summer with the U18 team.
Stats: 7.2ppg (45.2% 2FGs – 20.6% 3FGs), 1.9rpg
Domagoj Bosnjak – 1m97 – SF/SG – 1995 – Croatia
Surprisingly voted into the All-Tournament Team, the Croatian forward was doing well because of a variety in his offensive game. Capable of scoring both inside and outside, Bosnjak likes to attack the glass really hard with his good footwork and long strong steps. He can finish in the paint as he is capable of generating the contact with the defender and protect the ball well when trying to lay it in. His shot is fluid and regular and he can create it also out of the dribble, especially from mid-range. Ferocious rebounder for his size, Bosnjak is the perfect team player who will certainly never be a great scorer but he will do whatever it takes to make his team better. Additionally, he likes the clutch moments where he continues to play well and make the shots that he gets.
Stats: 9.6ppg (50.0% 2FGs – 37.0% 3FGs), 5.8rpg, 1.7apg
Lovro Mazalin – 2m03 – SF – 1997 – Croatia
Lovro Mazalin showed his superb skill set in Riga which makes him one of the most talented players overall born in 1997. Quite mature physically, Mazalin could play on this level without any problem and was a major reason why Croatia went to the Final. The left handed wing player is excelling in the mid range territory where he can create his shot but also attack the basket strongly. Gifted with good footwork and a nice wingspan, Mazalin knows how to score from close where he has however a clear preference for his better left hand. However, he can make the drives from the right side as well.
Forcing it a bit too much on occasions, Mazalin is not a bad passer and can push the ball in transition to find his team mates running the lane. He has interesting ball handling for his size and he is capable of creating his own shot by using the step back for example. So far, he is not really effective yet from behind the arc and the long range shot is not a major part of his offensive arsenal. But with his shooting technique, it should only be a question of time until he can be a serious threat from the three-point territory. Physically, Mazalin will probably not grow that much anymore which gives him already now the perfect size for playing Small Forward and being present at the U18 level was a good choice. He needs to work on his decision making in a next step and he can develop into one of the best prospects in Europe overall.
Stats: 10.4ppg (46.8% 2FGs – 25.0% 3FGs), 5.7rpg, 1.3apg