European Prospects

News about Young European Basketball Prospects

U18 European Championship 2014: Croatia

August 23rd, 2014 · 1 Comment

Here are some notes on the 4 teams that played the semi-finals at the U18 European Championship this summer in Turkey. We start with Croatia so that this reports features scouting reports on the top level prospects Dragan Bender, Marko Arapovic, Lovro Mazalin and Ante Zizic.

Dragan Bender is certainly the most talented player of the 1997 born generation in Europe. With his size, mobility, shooting touch and feel for the good pass, the Croatian forward is hard to match and tough find a player of similar talent level. Bender showed what kind of prospect he is already and what kind of potential he still has as there are still lots of details that he can improve in the future. The 2m10 tall Croatian can easily play outside and is a matchup problem for any team that he faces. If he is guarded by a player of his size, he can play him face-to-face from the three-point line and create his shot or a drive against him, even being capable to knock down the three-point shot out of the dribble. He can also ask for the Pick and Roll and be in the ball handler situation and put it hard on the floor to create the help situations and find either the cutter or the roller. His passing is on a very high level with not only a great court-vision but also a good technique and sharpness in the execution. He sometimes overpasses a bit but this will go in the right direction with more experience, knowing that Bender was still only 16 years old when playing in Konya.

Next to his excellent passing, Bender is also capable of scoring the basketball in multiple ways. He can shoot from outside but has also a developing inside game. With his back to the basket, he has a couple of moves and can finish for example on the running hook shot with great touch. When attacking the basket, he is athletic enough to finish on the dunk in traffic but he needs to get stronger physically in order to be able to do that against older opponents. He is quite present on the offensive glass and can also put it back with a nice second jump. On the defensive end, Bender showed improving rebounding as well and had some tremendous outlet passes because of his great court-vision. He can even bring up the ball in transition after grabbing the defensive rebound. With his great length, Bender is also a threat as a shot blocker as he has the good timing and foot speed quickness to come to the right spots for the rejection.

Next to Bender, Marko Arapovic was the second Croatian inside player that shined during this European Championship. After a relatively calm championship last summer, Arapovic played great in Konya showing all his talent and versatility on both ends of the floor. He improved especially in the physical and athletic part of his game as his moves on the court were more fluid and his speed on the drives looked improved as well. On the offensive glass, his second jump was better as well which gave him a large number of second chance scoring options. With his ball handling, Arapovic was another player in the Croatian team that could grab the defensive rebound and put the ball on the floor immediately to run the fast break. However, his passing was not as precise as Bender’s but he is still a good passing big man.

Offensively, Arapovic can play both in the low post or from outside, depending on the matchup. In the low post, he has a variety of moves to get into a good scoring position. He can finish on the running or the jump hook but has also some nice fakes to get into the drop step finish for example. As a screener on the Pick and Roll, he is doing really well as his great hands allow him to catch even tough passes and finish afterwards. From outside, Arapovic has a good 3pt shot even if his arm moves a bit too forward when shooting. Nevertheless, the overall mechanics are very fluid and this is underlined by being a 85% free-throw shooter. The Croatian forward can also attack the basket on the drive where he has the necessary court vision to recognize defensive help situations and find players on the kick out. Overall, Arapovic underlined his potential as a future stretch four for the highest level in Europe.

The tournament has not been great individually for Lovro Mazalin this summer. The Croatian prospect was not an as strong individual leader as he was during the NIJT in spring for example. However, the 17 year old remains an interesting prospect even if you can not really see much progress at the moment for his weaknesses. He still tries to finish mostly on his left hand, even in difficult situations on the right side of the basket. His overall ball handling with the right hand is good though, he goes for example on the behind his back cross over with the weaker hand but his main creativity remains when using the strong left. He can go all the way to the basket for the finish but also to the tough wrap around pass in Pick and Roll situations as long as he can go to his dominant hand. His overall shooting percentages were not great in Konya but Mazalin has another year on this level to work on his game to come back in 2015 and show if he has developed his versatility.

Ante Zizic struggled sometimes in the post as he could not dominate physically like we have seen him do this in previous events. Nevertheless, he is an excellent rebounder (7 boards in just 18 minutes per game), but when he is matched up with a player of similar size, his technical limitations are showing. However, similar to Bender and Mazalin , Zizic has another year on this level and we can see next summer how he improves skill wise but also if his growth has stopped already.

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