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Xmas Tournament Kortrijk 2014: the Guards

January 1st, 2015 · 4 Comments

As usual, we start with the report on the main backcourt players of the Xmas Tournament 2014 in Kortrijk. In the absence of a large number of top-level prospects in the paint, it was a tournament dominated by guard play so that it was not a surprise that the MVP of the event was a guard as well. Check out the report if you want to know more about Thomas Akyazili, Ordane Kanda or Slobodan Jovanovic among others.

Thomas Akyazili – 1m88 – PG/SG – 1997 – Antwerp Giants

The MVP of the tournament and overall winner came from Antwerp, it was the 1997 born guard Thomas Akyazili. The Belgian guard impressed with leadership, scoring skills and good decision making in the crucial moments during the three days in Kortrijk. Akyazili likes to attack the basket, especially with his left hand. He has the speed to get to the rim where he can finish against taller players by creating the contact first and protecting the ball well. He struggles though sometimes to score when coming from the left side as he tries to go for his stronger right hand when being pressured. However, when there is a gap, he uses his left hand to finish from that side, also out of a difficult euro-step or spin move. As he is not the most athletic around, Akyazili can outsmart his opponents and likes to go for a jump stop when attacking the basket and finish after a fake or a turnaround.

Not much of a shot creator from out side, Akyazili is more effective when getting the kick out passes for the catch-and-shoot action. His overall shooting mechanics are not 100% fluid and he shoots probably a bit too much by stretching his arm forward instead of going vertical. This explains probably his remaining streakiness on his long distance attempts but he can knock down shots in series in key moments which he showed during the different games. He needs to work on this to get a more stable shot which will help him also in the pull up jump shot from behind the arc which is not one of his strengths for the moment.

Akyazili is more of a scorer than a creator for his team mates. He can come up with the occasional drive and dish play but has a clear preference for being the scorer. During the tournament, he often even played the SF position because of the very small lineup of his team. When he plays with the pro team of Antwerp, he has a Point Guard role which is also his future position and he has to organize the game more than being reduced to a scoring role. Anyhow, it was mostly him that handled the ball and made the decisions in the crucial moments of the games, even if he gave away the ball for the win in the closing seconds of the semi-final to one of his team mates.

The Belgian guard, who wants to play College basketball and is a High School senior, is certainly on the level to have immediate impact on a Mid-to-High Major level. He proved against the NMH that he can compete with  high-major recruits despite his athletic limitations. It will be interesting to see which College Program will get him this year as he should be able to have an important role right from the start with his scoring instincts and presence on the court.

Ordane Kanda-Kanyinda – 1m84 – SG/PG – 1996 – Antwerp Giants

The second scoring option of the Antwerp backcourt was the physical Ordane Kanda. A little shorter than Akyazili but a lot more developed physically, the 1996 born excelled when he attacked the rim with his great first step. During moments, he looked unstoppable on this level as he could beat anyone in 1-1 situations. He has the handle to attack on either hand, also after a quick cross-over dribble, and he finishes at the rim with either hand. With his footwork, he found always good angles to get to the layup, but struggled sometimes to score against tall inside players. His lack op jumping ability hurts him to finish against top-level athletes.

Kanda has a correct shot from outside the three-point area with good and quick execution. It is though not his main option as he likes to push the ball to the hoop. Out of his drives, he has quite a good court-vision and he can find open team mates on the drive-and-kick or dish situations as he draws a ton of help as he regularly goes by his first defender. He can also go for a jump stop out of which he can finish with different moves. Kanda draws a lot of fouls which makes him very valuable for his team but he should work on his free-throw shooting as he is not very regular from the charity stripe. With the number of fouls he draws, he could become a lot more effective if he could convert about 80% of his free-throw attempts.

Next to his offense presence, Kanda can be a stopper on the defensive end. Built like a pro already and gifted with a interesting wingspan, the Antwerp youngster is very present in the passing lanes and can put a lot of pressure on the ball handler. This helps him to be very effective in transition as well as he gets a lot of easy baskets because of his defense around the three-point line. His defensive effort should help him to get some regular playing time on the highest Belgian quickly as he is physically strong enough to compete. If Kanda can improve his shot over the next years, he will become a very interesting player down the road.

Marius Mwendanga – 1m79 – PG – 1998 – Antwerp Giants

The youngest part of the Belgian backcourt was the tiny PG Marius Mwendanga. Constantly pressing the ball handler, Mwendanga was very active on the defensive end but gained confidence in his offensive game as the tournament went on. Undersized but physically developed, Mwendanga knocked down some shots from the three-point area but also in the mid-range territory. He lacks the size to finish at the rim and he mainly scores in the open court where he excels. The 16 year old is quite a good free-throw shooter which is a positive sign for his future development and he would certainly have had a more important role on the offensive end without the two top scorers of his team. Anyhow, Mwendanga is a player to watch for the future as it will be interesting to see if he can grow a few more centimeters on one hand and also to what kind of level he can raise his offensive game.

Ondrej Sehnal – 1m90 – PG – 1997 – USK Prague

Sehnal played quite a correct tournament as PG for the USK Future Stars. The former NIJT participant in Kaunas showed a good jump shot that helped him to be a scoring threat either form the three-point area or the mid-range. He also liked to post up his defender in order to finish on a turn-around jump shot. He is good at creating space for his shot but he can also go all the way to the basket and finish with either hand at the rim. On his drives, he sees the good passes and finds his team mates regularly but he can get a bit mad towards his big guys if they do not convert. On the defensive end, Sehnal is doing a good job with quick hands in the passing lanes and he was certainly among the better defenders of the tournament.

David Pekarek – 1m99 – SG – 1996 – GBA Academy Prague

David Pekarek played an excellent tournament and any mid-major still looking for some firepower in their back court should get in touch with this player. Pekarek can either score from behind the arc, with a very quick shot and great mechanics, or attack the rim and finish in the paint where his good size and correct athletic abilities help him. This helps him as well to grab a good amount of rebounds out of which he likes to push the ball immediately full court and go all the way for the score. His ball handling is quite good for a player of his size and he can change directions easily and finish accordingly when attacking the basket. The 1996 born has a good court-vision that allows him to find open team mates on a regular basis and you could even imagine him playing PG during moments if needed.

Pekarek’s main strength though is his three-point shot as he can score in series from behind the arc, especially from the corner. He remains though a bit streaky but the intensive training at the GBA Academy will certainly help him to stabilize his jump shot over the rest of the season. The Class of 2015 guard should be able to become an immediate contributor on the mid-major level.

Milos Jovic – 1m93 – PG – 1997 – GBA Academy Prague

A bit in retreat behind Pekarek, Milos Jovic was an important part of the GBA rotation in Kortrijk. The Class of 2016 guard is a good driver to the basket where his go-to-move is clearly the euro-step as he finished multiple times like this in order to avoid the help-defense. In catch-and-shoot situation, his three-point shot looks very regular with a good and quick execution. More of a scoring than a creative Point Guard, Jovic has though good control of the ball and the game speed and with another year in Prague, he should become an interesting option for mid-major programs down the road.

Sigfredo Casero – 1m85 – SG – 1997 – Belgium U18

The Cuba born guard was a good scoring option for the quite short Belgian U18 National Team. With his explosive playing style, Casero passed his defenders on a regular basis and liked to go for the mid-range jump shot out of the dribble. He had a couple of very difficult shots of which he made quite a few. Casero can score from behind the arc but he remains mainly a drive player. With his long arms, he can finish at the rim despite being a bit undersized for the SG position. He is a real scorer that has the mentality to put points on the board, even if he plays only short minutes. It will be interesting to see how he develops over the next years.

Darnell Snyers – 1m81 – SG – 1998 – Belgium U18

Even a year younger and also shorter, Darnell Snyers is an interesting player as he combines excellent speed and plays already important minutes in the 2nd highest Belgian league at Houthalen. With the necessary practice, Snyers should be able to be a PG in the future as he can showed some interesting passes as a Pick and Roll ball handler in the limited minutes he was on the court. His athletic abilities are good and he even tried to dunk on a baseline drive during one of the games I followed. If Snyers can develop a regular shot from outside, he will become very dangerous and I would not be surprised to see him at a higher level relatively soon.

Slobodan Jovanovic – 1m93 – SG – 1997 – Belgrade Selection

Slobodan Jovanovic was the heart and soul of the Belgrade selection. Capable of scoring at any given moment with his picture perfect jump shot, Jovanovic was a threat from everywhere on the court. He can attack the basket with a great drive and has a wide arsenal of moves in order to create the necessary space for the score. The 1997 born is capable of hitting the jump shot out of the dribble in perfect execution and balance but is even more effective in catch and shoot situations where he looks automatic. His good acceleration is a definitive plus that helps him to beat defenders in 1-1 situations and he can finish at the rim with the foul or even interesting “hangtime” if needed.

On his drives, Jovanovic can also find the open team mates and his overall great basketball technique allows him to find also team mates in difficult angles to reach. Mainly a scorer, Jovanovic is though a great example of the versatile SG that will certainly make a living out of basketball over a long period as an important contributor for high-level teams. He might lack the athletic abilities to produce on the top-level in Europe but his understanding of the game looks great which will help him to outsmart a large number of his opponents in the coming years.

Jovan Andjelkovic – 1m90 – PG – 1996 – Belgrade Selection

Jovan Andjelkovic was the main ball handler and PG for the Belgrade selection. He excelled in Pick and Roll situations where he read pretty well the errors of the defense by either splitting the hedge or finding the open player on the roll. He has good ball handling and he can finish at the rim with the foul after his hard drives to the basket. His court vision is good and he likes to play the drive and kick game to find the open shooters in the corners. He can even play the fancy pass here and there if the situations is given.

4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Dan Murray // Jan 2, 2015 at 1:24 am

    I really enjoy when you provide recruiting stories on young players regarding NCAA teams.

  • 2 Christophe // Jan 3, 2015 at 4:24 pm

    @Dan

    great to hear you like the articles

  • 3 Spike Spiegel // Jan 3, 2015 at 10:15 pm

    Belgrade Selection was without Slodes’ combo guard Matija Novković (6’3″, 187 lbs, ’96), who stayed home because of flu-like symptoms. In my eyes, at worst a primary back-up option to Jovanović and Andjelković. Novković, a scoring-minded guard who can shoot the basketball (nice jumper, high release) or get to the basket (decent first step, both sides drive) and draw fouls, averages 19.6 points and 2.9 assists so far in this year’s Junior League of Serbia. His biggest weakness is his lack of verticality which prevent him to finish with ease and regularity at the rim against taller or more athletic post players). There are highlight videos of him on YouTube.

  • 4 Christophe // Jan 4, 2015 at 1:23 am

    Thanks for these additional info Spike

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