Approximately one year ago, EuropeanProspects.com made an introduction to several Finnish prospects together with our friend Hippo from Finland. Today, we will check who are the players that emerge in the season 2009/2010 up North.
The level of Finnish Korisliiga at the moment might be a lot better than many people think. The recession has been bombing sports clubs in Finland just as much as the other countries, but so far no club has collapsed within last year and a half because of lack of money and sponsors. Stand-out American players such as Corey Belser, Carl Elliot, Obie Trotter, Tyray Pearson and Ajene Moye have quite surprisingly found their way into Finland and the league also sports a record number of professional coaches and domestic professional players. National team cornerstones like Hanno Möttölä, Tuukka Kotti, Jukka Matinen, Ville Kaunisto, Samuel Haanpää, Petri Virtanen and Sami Lehtoranta are currently leading their teams in playoff hunt. (Side note: there are seven Finnish national team players playing professional basketball in European pro leagues and three young Finns starting in the NCAA.)
But since this is a youth basketball website, this might be the perfect chance to take a look at the young guns (born 1988 or later) making noise in Korisliiga. We begin from league-leading Pyrintö and stroll all the way to the bottom of the standings.
1. TAMPEREEN PYRINTÖ (14-1)
Pekka Setälä (1m85 – Guard – 1990)
A natural scoring guard. Not too versatile or defensively oriented, but isn’t afraid to take the big shots when the team needs him. Despite pedestrian scoring numbers, has been very effective in some games (17 points with 5-7 3pt shooting @ Lappeenranta, 15 pts with 4-6 3pt shooting @ KTP.)
Stats: 7,4mpg 4,8ppg 47,1% 3FG
Jesse Niemi (1m93 – Forward – 1990)
Won Korisliiga Rookie of the Year awards after 2007/08 season, but didn’t really get off the bench last season. Niemi has gotten rid of his baby fat and become a strong intimidator who can power his way to the hole with ease and perform well on 1-on-1 defense. Reads the game well, which leads to steals and transition points. Bit of a tweener.
Stats: 21,3mpg 6,3ppg 3,7rpg 1,6spg 62,9% 2FG
2. KOUVOLAN KOUVOT (11-4)
Antto Nikkarinen (1m85 – Point Guard – 1991)
Starting point guard of Finnish U18 national team has become a profile player in Korisliiga quicker than anybody expected. Has even broke into coach Toijala’s starting rotation in experienced Kouvot team. A strong, smart and quick floor general who has gained a lot of confidence from last season. Occasionally freezes the game with over-dribbling, but getting better all the time.
Stats: 23,2mpg 6,4ppg 1,1rpg 2,0apg 1,3spg 51,5% 2FG 41,4% 3FG 92,9% FT
Antti Kanervo (1m92 – Shooting Guard – 1989)
To put it simple: smart and reliable. Compensates his lack of athleticism and speed with timing, ball smarts and extremely good shooting. Won the Korisliiga Rookie of the Year award in 2008/09 and has been able to eliminate his ups and downs. Less than two years ago scored whopping 64 points in Division 1 game with 14-18 3pt shooting and punished Azerbaijan with 43 points in 2008 U20 game.
Stats: 25,0mpg 9,2ppg 1,5rpg 1,1apg 51,6% 2FG 41,4% 3FG 92,6% FT
3. TOPO, HELSINKI (11-4)
Michael Pounds (1m88 – Guard – 1988)
A pure energy guy. Has developed from a hustler and on-ball defender into a surprisingly good scorer, who combines self-confidence, toughness and fundamentals. Isn’t too much of a threat from outside and doesn’t perform well as point guard under on-ball pressure, but has also developed into a very good substitute player. Is currently averaging 11,0 points a game in November.
Stats: 16,1mpg 7,4ppg 1,4rpg 60,4% 2FG 79,3% FT
4. LAPPEENRANNAN NMKY (10-5)
Aleksi Koskinen (1m83 – Point Guard – 1992)
Young and skinny Koskinen hasn’t seen big minutes this season, but was surprisingly ready when coach Laitinen entered him into Lappeenranta’s line-up in the middle of last season because of injuries. Koskinen was able to net double digits a couple of times, minimize the number of turnovers and roll the offense smoothly. He was eaten alive by American guards in the defensive end, but I guess that’s what happens to most 17-year olds.
Stats: 6,6mpg 1,1ppg 1,0rpg 0,4apg
5. UU-KORIHAIT, UUSIKAUPUNKI (10-5)
Bojan Sarcevic (1m90 – Point Guard – 1988)
Strong Bosnian floor leader gets a lot of playing time and responsibility by coach Lehtonen, a former pro guard himself. Sarcevic’s ability to score from inside and outside are well known and his footwork and strength have made him a good defender as well. Took quantum leaps in 2008/09, but hasn’t shown that much of a progress this season.
Stats: 31,4mpg 12,0ppg 3,3rpg 3,2apg 1,4spg
6. KTP BASKET, KOTKA (8-7)
Sami Ikävalko (1m87 – Point Guard – 1989)
Ikävalko surprisingly developed into a reliable back-up guard last season with his fundamentals and ability to read the game. That encouraged coach Ray Ailus to insert Ikävalko into KTP’s line-up as the starting point guard. So far, Ikävalko hasn’t been flourishing under pressure, but he’s been very effective when he has had another guard (Eric Washington, Mikael Holme) sharing the point guard duties with him in the line-up.
Stats: 21,1mpg 5,6ppg 2,2rpg 1,3apg 0,6spg
7. ESPOON HONKA PLAYBOYS (7-8)
Sasu Salin (1m90 – Shooting Guard – 1991)
Fearless Salin is a natural scorer who has shown glimpses of greatness in his first two seasons in Finland, like netting 35 points in league game against Lappeenranta last season. Even though Salin was out from national team games last season because of injury, he has come back as hungry as ever and flourishing as the starting shooting guard of Honka Playboys. Has reached double figures ten times this season and also developed into a rather good defender. Still a little reckless and can disappear totally on bad nights.
Stats: 25,3mpg 10,1ppg 3,1rpg 0,7apg 0,9spg 41,3% 3FG
Carl Lindbom (2m04 – Forward – 1991)
Lindbom pretty much came out of nowhere and became a U18 starter last summer. Not too flashy or fundamental, but a very reliable shooter from behind the 3pt line and long distance 2′s. Lacks physicality and the will to rough it up inside and is in trouble with both quicker and stronger opponents on defense, but if he keeps evolving, he has the tools to become a pro.
Stats: 12,2mpg 5,2ppg 1,5rpg 54,2% 2FG 60,0% 3FG 85,7% FT
Lauri Toivonen (2m00 – Forward – 1991)
Toivonen never does anything fancy, but all the old school fans always appreciate his hard work, defense and wits. Reads the game very well for a big guy, excels as a post defender and seems to be in right place all the time. Has a couple of good post moves, but while they work on the U18 national team level, they are pretty easily taken away by Korisliiga defenders. Plays like a veteran and understands the value of hard work, a true college coaches dream.
Stats: 14,1mpg 2,2ppg 1,8rpg
8. NAMIKA LAHTI (5-9)
9. FORSSAN KORIPOJAT (5-10)
10. VILPAS VIKINGS, SALO (5-9)
Roope Ahonen (1m87 – Guard – 1990)
Spent 1,5 seasons in ToPo before returning to his home town Salo and dragging the team Vilpas Vikings into Korisliiga. Ahonen has a green light to shoot and execute as a starting guard in Vilpas roster and so far he has responded well. While Ahonen is still a subpar defender and can become a hothead when his shot isn’t falling, he’s capable of draining big numbers (18, 22, 28 in the league so far this season) because of his exceptional offensive capabilities. Ahonen can become a national team rotation player and a professional if he wants to.
Stats: 30,3mpg 10,9ppg 2,0rpg 2,1apg 0,6spg 37,1% 3FG 100% FT
11. JOENSUUN KATAJA (3-12)
12. KAUHAJOEN KARHU (1-14)
Sad Niskanen (1m96 – Forward – 1988)
The cellar-dwelling Karhu really has no other option but to give playing time to youngsters. The way the kids have been playing is by far the brightest spot in Karhu this season. Niskanen has been underachieving a little in his first seasons in Division 1 and Korisliiga, but he already showed glimpses of improvement last season with Korihait and has been able to perform well in over 20 minutes a game with Karhu. Willing to fight for rebounds and dive for loose balls.
Stats: 21,3mpg 6,9ppg 3,7rpg 0,8apg 50,0% 2FG 70,0% FT
written by Hippo