European Prospects

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FIBA U19 World Championship 2011: the Guards

July 14th, 2011 · No Comments

We start our round-up traditionally with the Guards and take a look at who were the perimeter players that impressed the most during the U19 World Championship. We focused the most on European players but took also a quick look at some of the best non-Europeans in the tournament. Here we go.

Vytenis Cizauskas – 1m89 – PG – Lithuania – 1992

The Lithuanian guard comes once again victorious out of a tournament. Together with Jonas Valanciunas, the thick guard has won the gold Medal at U16 and U18 level and now crowned his youth career with a World Championship. While he is extraordinary successful, there is however not really a massive improvement in his skill set to be seen. Cizauskas still lacks a consistent mid or long range jump shot but has great feel for the game and good athletic skills and passing abilities to be a major player on this level.

He is doing a great job to help out in physical situations in the paint on both ends on the court, can launch the break immediately as he goes hard to the defensive rebound and can read the gaps on offense to create on the drive or by cutting when the ball is in the low post. The main concern though remains his jump shot who technically looks good even if improvable but he is not able to connect it with good percentages. He only scored 4 three pointers in 7 games and also takes more than 4 times more two pointers than three-pointers. He could also be more effective in drawing fouls as he did not go to the free-throw line too often. But overall, Cizauskas was the leader of the team who did an excellent job in playing the Pick and Roll situations with Valanciunas and by attacking the basket when it counted the most.

Stats: 13.0ppg (59.0% 2FGs – 23.5% 3FGs) , 5.7rpg, 5.6apg

Aleksandar Cvetkovic – 1m90 – PG – Serbia – 1993

After having dominated during the NIJT in Belgrade, this tournament was a confirmation for Aleksandar Cvetkovic as the 1993 born guard earned an All-tournament team spot and lead Serbia to a Silver Medal. Cvetkovic controlled the game very well but was also able to score in his typical way from mid-range. He can find the hole in the defense when attacking with his excellent first step and finish with the floater or the jump shot but as well see the open big and play the perfect pass.  His jump shot out of the drive are sometimes a bit out-balanced as he falls forward but he can however connect with good percentages.

Cvetkovic has a good arsenal of fakes and plays already like a veteran despite being a year younger than the competition. When attacking the basket, he knows how to protect the ball with his body in order to avoid the block shots and can score even against the bigger players. He remains in full control even when playing at full speed and has great body control in these situations in order to change direction or go for the fake. Imagining him at the U18 level where he normally would play tells you enough about the potential he has. Cvetkovic will most likely play in the Euroleague in a very short time.

Stats: 14.4ppg (51.4% 2FGs – 45.5% 3FGs), 3.8rpg, 2.7apg

Bogic Vujosevic – 1m89 – PG – Serbia – 1992

The Serbian back-up Point Guard played a great final round in Riga and was one of the main reasons why his team reached the Gold Medal game. Vujosevic is a tough player, making good decisions and is effective on defense. He is one of these players that is not extraordinary in anything but an overall good asset. He did an excellent job getting to the line in the tournament (he was in fact the third best guard in FTA/FGA ratio) from where he is nearly automatic. Playing nearly 20 minutes per game in the Serbian A League helps him certainly in his development. Vujosevic is not an amazingly creative passer but he finds his players when attacking the basket. He can read the gaps very well and split the defense despite being pretty thin and not very physical.

Stats: 8.0ppg (28.9% 2FGs – 41.7% 3FGs – 88.6% FTs), 1.3rpg, 2.6apg

Dovydas Redikas – 1m93 – SG/PG – Lithuania – 1992

The back-court of Lithuania was composed of the two strong guards Cizauskas and Redikas who could not really be matched by anyone except the American players. Redikas was mostly used as a spot-up shooter and extra Point Guard when Cizauskas was injured. His shot looked a bit more fluid and quick than we remember it from the previous events and his drives remained as powerful and strong as we are used to it. Redikas can also be used as a lock-down defender on the perimeter which is probably one of the reasons why he will also play with the U20 National Team this summer. He will develop though more into a scorer than Cizauskas as he has the better shooting skills.

Stats: 12.0ppg (48.7% 2FGs – 35.5% 3FGs), 4.9rpg, 3.1apg

Dmitry Kulagin – 1m95 – SG/PG – Russia – 1992

The Russian guard was one of the most prolific scorers of the tournament and earned a well deserved All-Tournament team spot as Shooting Guard. Despite having not played with Nizhny Novgorod the full season, Kulagin looked in excellent shape and hot-shooting on the court. He looked unstoppable at moments as he can create his three-point shot with ease and go for the pull-up jumper or step-back three against any kind of defense. His shot release is really quick and his good athletic abilities allow him to have a good high release point.

With his excellent footwork and nice speed, he manages to get open in the lane without too many problems and can finish after a nice amount of fakes or spins from mid-range on the floater or the short jump shot. Kulagin is also able to finish close to the rim and showed some very beautiful and tough layups between the defenders. He is able to play both guard positions and can create open positions for his team mates. It would not surprise me if he moves to a full-time PG spot in the future on the next level. We can also recommend you our scouting report on him from last January to get more details on him.

Stats: 15.9ppg (56.0% 2FGs – 35.0% 3FGs), 4.8rpg, 2.2apg

Juan José Giaveno – 1m75 – PG – Argentina – 1992

The Argentinean point guard was certainly one of the toughest players in the tournament. Being fairly undersized, Giaveno showed no fear at all when attacking the basket and was the best guard of the whole tournament in going to the free-throw line (FTA/FGA 78.3%). He controlled the game speed extremely well, motivated and advised his team mates constantly and took the big shots. He was very effective in this domain but made some discussable choices in the final seconds of the semi-final. As he played already minutes in the Argentinean pro League, he has gained a good amount of experience and should be a future member of the Senior National Team as he does not really look handicapped by his size.

Stats: 7.0ppg (52.9% 2FGs – 24.1% 3FGs), 2.7rpg, 3.4apg

Luciano Massarelli – 1m83 – PG – Argentina – 1993

The second member of the Argentinean backcourt was the slightly taller but even faster Luciano Massarelli. He scored the highly important three-point shot in the game versus Brazil that went to overtime and only gave them a chance to reach the quarter finals. Being a year younger than the competition, he was the best scorer of the team and was mainly used as a Shooting guard despite his limited size. He has amazing speed and dribbles very close to the floor which makes him very low in turnovers (only 1.1tos per 28 minutes adjusted). He can score on the floater from mid-range and goes hard on the drive which puts him relatively often on the free-throw line. His three-point shot is quite streaky but he can create it by himself.

Stats: 11.2ppg (42.3% 2FGs – 20.0% 3FGs – 90.9% FTs), 2.4rpg, 1.8apg

Hugh Greenwood – 1m90 – SG – Australia – 1992

The Australian guard was among the best scorers of the whole tournament and showed tremendous progress he has made over the last two years. Greenwood showed great scoring skills with the ability to create his own three-point shot out of the dribble with ease. He looked very confident and seemed to have all freedom on the team to create situations for himself on the set plays. The future New Mexico player is very energetic and a good athlete for European standards and goes really hard at all times. He can also be used as a part-time PG as he showed good feeling for the passes in Pick and Roll situations. He rarely attacks the basket though as his team featured many strong penetration players which might be an explication for his poor FTA/FGA ratio. However, Greenwood was certainly one of the best players of the whole tournament and should have immediate impact on Division 1 level next season.

Stats: 17.1ppg (50.0% 2FGs – 37.7% 3FGs), 4.0rpg, 2.6apg

Grzegorz Grochowski – 1m80 – PG – Poland – 1993

Probably one of the most under-rated players of the Polish 93 born generation is their Point Guard Grochowski. He is never at the top in terms of scoring but he leads his talented team with ease and control. This is particularly seen when he is on the bench and the more erratic back-ups come in. Grochowski is physically strong and present in all parts of the game. He helps out in defensive rebounding situation, is the defensive leader and creates a lot of good opportunities for his inside players. He can score the basketball from long or mid-range but he is not taking that many shots as he has more talented scorers around him.

Grochowski can also create his own shot out of the dribble but he needs to take them often in some kind of fall away fade away style because of his limited athletic abilities and size. If there would have been a +/- calculation for this Championship, Grochowski would certainly be among the top performers as his impact to the game is a lot bigger than his (good) numbers suggest. The question remains around his future as he does not have high-level athletic abilities. He possesses the necessary lateral speed to hold his defenders in front of him but it might not be enough to become a real top-level PG in the future. For the next youth events though, Poland should have no problem to play major roles with Grochowski running the point.

Stats: 8.9ppg (48.1% 2FGs – 45.0% 3FGs), 5.1rpg, 5.6apg

Michal Michalak – 1m97 – SG – Poland – 1993

What a great tournament this was for Michal Michalak from an individual point of view. The Polish SG lead his team in scoring and underlined his status as a really interesting prospect for the highest European level. After having shown his scoring skills already in the second Polish division last season (16.0ppg), Michalak made the step to play in the highest Polish League next season. In Riga, he was doing the most of his damage in Catch-and-Shoot situations from behind the arc but also when attacking the basket. His shot selection is pretty balanced between the long range attempts and the two point plays and he is fairly athletic enough to attack the basket and finish close against the bigger players.

With his professional experience, Michalak recognizes defensive situations pretty well and can take the right decisions on the drive like going out or making the pass. He is certainly a player that we might see in the future on Euroleague level playing for a Polish team as he has the natural feel to score the basketball and seems to be able coming of the bench to go immediately for the score. With the injury problems of Mateusz Ponitka, he had to step up in terms of leadership which he had some problems with though. He does not look to be the toughest guy on the court either. But this might only be an impression and is sometimes hard to judge if you do not know the background situation. The next goal is of course the U18 European Championship at home where  Michalak wants to help his team to win the Gold Medal.

Stats: 17.4ppg (42.6% 2FGs – 43.4% 3FGs), 6.1rpg, 2.0apg

Mateusz Ponitka – 1m95 – SG – Poland – 1993

It was not really a great tournament for Ponitka and the final phase that we could only follow was marked by injuries. That’s why we can’t report much about the Polish guard who was supposed to be a leader of his team which he certainly was during the first phase of the tournament. However we could not see these games and are looking forward to see him in action during the U18 European Championship later in July.

Stats: 15.3ppg (41.7% 2FGs – 33.3% 3FGs), 4.4rpg, 0.6apg

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