European Prospects

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Alessandro Gentile stars against Göttingen

March 27th, 2011 · No Comments

On last Wednesday, the first game of the Eurocup Quarterfinals has been played in the Lokhalle of Göttingen between BG74 Göttingen and Benetton Treviso. The low-budget hosts matched up with one of the most traditional names in European basketball. But Göttingen, who was a last season Euro-Challenge champion did not want to give up easy as they were the only team representing the German League still in the competition. In front of a sold-out crowd and a fantastic positive atmosphere in the 1917 built (the oldest building used for high-level basketball games in Europe?) Lokhalle, the game ended with a tie as the quarter finals are played in a simple home and away format with the points of both games being added. While the German team is mainly based on US players (the Italian rotation features only 2 Italians as well), Treviso features two of the most interesting young players in Europe with the Lithuanian Donatas Motiejunas and the Italian Alessandro Gentile.

Several NBA teams (Nuggets, Trailblazers with 3 persons, Pacers, Spurs,…) had made to trip to Lower Saxony to follow mainly the Lithuanian Power Forward who will most likely enter the NBA Draft this spring. However it was the 2 years younger Alessandro Gentile who was the man of the match for the Italian team. Having followed Gentile during the NIJT in Roma in 2009 and during the U18 European Championship, the son of the former Italian NT player Nando Gentile had not the best image acting very cocky and ego-centric on the court during previous events. This has totally changed at least during this game as Alessandro appeared totally concentrated on his game and not getting frustrated easily as before. The guard had a big impact on the game and on his team mates whom he gave lots of instructions and good directions during the game.

The main offensive option for Gentile is his shot. He can create his own options out of the dribble or through good positioning off the ball. When Gentile puts the ball on the floor, which he can do with either hand, he uses a good first step to go for the jump shot from mid range after the dribble but he can also use a nice step back to come up with the three point attempt.  His shooting mechanics look perfect and with improved athleticism and better body shape, Gentile had not a problem to do this against the very athletic guards from Göttingen. When going up for the shot, he does it sometimes in a little fall back style but without losing his balance in the air. He is a lot more effective when he can take the shot in catch-and-shoot situations after a kick out pass or out of his own dribble than when he has to run through the screens and go for the immediate shot after the lateral pass.

One of the main points where we could see some progress with Gentile is his athleticism and overall physical fitness. Having been a bit “round” during the last years, the 1m96 tall Italian is currently developing more and more into a well built player. Using his good reads of the defense, he even came up with a very surprising two-handed back door dunk over the German Defense (you can see it in this short TV report of the game). Additionally, Gentile did an immense job on the rebound where he was very present and grabbed even a decisive offensive board in the final seconds of the game to get another offense.

Another point that has to be mentioned is his overall attitude and shot selection; two points that we heavily criticized in some of our previous reports. Gentile did not force one shot and only took those opportunities that the game situation offered him. With his shots falling, his confidence grew so that he created more of his own opportunities without forcing it though. After having made an important three pointer from the corner, he did not take the shot on the next offense when he had the opportunity but shared the ball with one of his more open team mates.

The defensive problems that are known about Gentile were not really an issue for him during this game. He defended a lot on the not very athletic Kulawick who rarely takes a drive. His lateral quickness limits were not really an issue in this match-up but they will most likely be on the next level. He came up with the occasional steal in the passing lane when he was reading what the offense wanted to do. As mentioned above, he had a huge impact on the defensive glass where he did an excellent job using his good body and timing to grab the ball. Gentile has to confirm this during the next weeks and he should be able to be the full team leader of Treviso by next season. On Wednesday, he showed that he has the talent and mentality to do so but remains a very young player with all the related unsteadiness and imperfections. But this game may have been a huge step forward in his development showing that he is ready to compete when it counts the most.

When Gentile used the game in Göttingen and presence of multiple NBA persons to have his best game of the season, Donatas Motiejunas came up with a so-so performance falling a lot into some problems that we knew about him already before. First of all, Motiejunas looks to have worked on his body but looked a bit exhausted by the game speed during moments. We do not know if he was ill during the days before, but the Lithuanian did not look like being in perfect shape. Together with not being really lucky on his shot attempts (2/7 2FGs – 0/3 3FGs – 5/8 FTs), the forward showed a mediocre body language often having his head down or looking frustrated. Additionally, he seemed to be a bit aggressive but not in his playing style but by going really hard against opponents risking too many fouls.

Motiejunas mainly operated out of the low post in the beginning of the game which was probably because of the short size of the German inside players. He did not use his size well though in these situations as he mostly went for his typical jump hooks with the left hand. The Lithuanian seven-footer uses his right hand to put the ball on the floor with his back to the basket and trying to push his defender backwards and then turn quickly over his right shoulder for the left handed jump hook. This jump hook is though not a real “jump” hook but more of a arm extension finger roll move without a very high release point. But he can get the open look on these because of his gret speed when doing the move. Additionally, he came up once with the play the other way around going back wards with his left hand on the dribble and doing the spin on his left shoulder and taking the jump hook with the right hand (You can see it in the above mentioned clip). But he was not very lucky and missed most of these attempts because he got easily put out of balance on these plays but the physical defense of the Göttingen players that went for the little pushes around his hips.

Instead of trying to go against this physical defense with using his strength and power, Motiejunas tried to beat the the defenders by his speed. He put the ball on the floor mainly with his left hand from the top but was not very successful in doing so and even was lucky in one situation not getting called for an offensive and 3rd foul in the middle of the second quarter when he went for a shoulder-down move along the baseline. Because he put himself into foul trouble as well by getting some cheap calls on poor reach-ins or pushes on the offensive post-up, he never found his rhythm in this game offensively. The left handed also tried to take out his defenders to the three-point line but he was not successful with his attempts from behind the arc. He bricked his first shot badly from the 6m75 distance and underlined his overall poor shooting performance with 2 missed free-throws out of a time out.

On the defensive end, Motiejunas showed correct lateral speed against the faster inside players of Göttingen. He tried to keep them in front him which he did well most of the times. He was present on the defensive rebound and came up with 3 block shots. But the overall impression that I got on this game of Motiejunas was more negatives than positives. We do not know how the NBA personnel in attendance analyzed the game but for the teams that saw him on Wednesday, he might have fallen down a bit on their Draft boards.

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