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NIJT 2009: the Guards

May 7th, 2009 · No Comments

To start the review on the Nike International Junior Tournament, I will kick off with the most outstanding guards that you could see during the tournament in Berlin.

Mantas Kadzevicius (1m93 – 1991 – Lietuvos Rytas)

Mantas Kadzevicius had his best game of the tournament during the final against FMP. The left handed Lithuanian guard held his team in the game with long distance shots and drives to score in any imaginable fashion. Additionally, he is  a hard nosed defender that came up with several steals in the different press defense situations that Rytas set up.

Essentially, Kadzevicius game is based on his defensive effort. But during the tournament, he showed that he can be an offensive threat too. His jump shot from long range looks good, without being especially quick or having a high release point. But once he gets up for the shot, he does not get bothered by the defender and finishes his move despite being fouled. He nailed a big one in the final minutes to keep the hope alive and went to the line for the bonus.

Next to his three point shot, he has an excellent drive of his right hand, where he penetrates with good speed and is not afraid to go for the difficult layup with his right hand despite being a lefty. He showed also an interesting spin move. With his limited size and not really being a PG, Kadzevicius may be limited for the highest European level. But a role as shooter or off-bench defensive player should be in his reach in a near future.

Stats (all NIJT and qualifying games): 12.1ppg (65% 2FG 35% 3FG) 3.1rpg

Nunzio Sabbatino (1m88 – 1992 – Montepaschi Siena)

Sabbatino was already one of the top players during the Rome tournament in December, And here in Berlin he showed why he is considered as a top guard prospect in Italy. Being a year young than most of the other players, the SG from Montepaschi excelled especially through his great drives, but showed also some improvement on his long distance shot compared to what he did during the Stella Azzurra event in Italy.

Sabbatino is especially strong when he can drive. His first step is really quick and he can go up to the basket at will. He has no real in between game so far, so he has to take several difficult plays in order to score. He has a variety of spins that he can display when penetrating and recognizes the game already correctly to know when to dish to the cutter or the big man. Defensively, he reads very well what the offense is doing and can come up with interesting passing lane steals.

The big improvement though on what he showed is that he can hit now the three point shot. In Rome, he did not even try to make the long distance ones but here in Berlin, he went for a correct 3/6 during the three games. He is still not a shooter but his release is pretty quick and his game remains based on the drives. What counted for Kadzevicius count even more for Sabbatino, he is too small to play the SG on the highest level and really needs to improve his PG skills if he wants to become a Euroleague level player.

Stats: 16.9ppg (42% 2FG 40% 3FG 55% FT) 1.9spg

Nenad Miljenovic (1m94 – 1993 – FMP Belgrade)

The big surprise of the tournament in my eyes was the great performance and totally deserved All-Tournament team spot for the super young Serbian guard from FMP. Nenad Miljenovic had an incredible showing during the final game of the tournament where he displayed all his talent and lived up to the hype that was coming around him before. His nickname of Serbian Ginobili may be still a bit away but he is certainly one of the most talented players of his generation.

Miljenovic defending on Dovydas Redikas (Lietuvos Rytas)

Miljenovic has a great mix of speed, handles and understanding of the basketball game. He barely gets in trouble being on the court, he made some difficult passes out of the press defense or double teams in the corner. He reads the defense pretty well and most of Dejan Musli final points came of drives initiated by Miljenovic. His future position will be highly likely the PG position, he had to play most of the games on the SG position though. He is also a surprisingly good defensive rebounder where you could see him often grab the defensive board himself to go immediately for full court breaks.

For the moment, Miljenovic lacks of course the necessary body and physical force to play on the next level. He has also a three point shot, but mostly in catch and shoot fashion only. You don’t see him so far go for a jump shot out of the dribble either, there is still a lot of ways how to improve. But the general talent level of the player is outstanding and already now, he is the guy that wants the ball during the decisive moments, and takes the right decisions too despite being sometimes a bit too much into the show or difficult passes.

Stats: 8.4ppg (57.5% 2FG) 3.5rpg 3.4apg 3.6topg

Milan Vulic (1m95 – 1991 – Hemofarm)

If you are looking for a three point shooter, Milan Vulic is probably the guy to follow out of this tournament. The Serbian guard showed one of the nicest shoots during the whole tournament always being perfectly straight up in the air when going for the jump shot. Combined with good athletic abilities and an interesting size, Vulic may probably be present in the pro level right from next season.

Because he is not only an offensive threat, Vulic is also a very aggressive defender that can chase his man over the whole court. Having this is already a nice asset but most of his talent comes on the offensive side where he is the prototype of the shooter. Mid-range, fade aways and long distance threes are all in his repertoire. His shooting mechanics look perfect while being in the air, and he does not get out of his movements when being defended hard.

Still, you don’t see him go to the basket that often. But if he goes, he can finish very well because of his good athletic build and correct jumping abilities. His shot selection is also very good as you can read out of his percentages which are pretty impressive for a Shooting guard. He is definitely one of the players of the tournament that will have the least problems to adapt to the professional level in my eyes.

Stats: 11.0ppg (57% 2FG 50% 3FG)

Oscar Alvarado (1m84 – 1991 – Gran Canaria)

Alvarado is the only real point guard out of the group of guards that I selected for this report. The Spaniard, who is clearly the team leader of the Gran Canaria group, could however not continue on his excellent showings that he had in Rome where he led his team to the title.

Oscar Alvarado against Danilo Andusic (Hemofarm Vrsac)

Alvarado is still more of a scoring PG than a pass first guy at the moment. Physically he reminds me a lot of Juan Carlos Navarro but he has not the quick shot release of the Barcelona guard. And this may probably hurt him to reach the next level as his shot comes mostly of his right shoulder which handicaps him when going for out of dribble jumpers or against bigger defensive players. So he has to limit his long range shooting to catch and shoot plays when he is open.

But he prefers anyhow to play the drive where he can use his good reads of the game situations combined with good speed changes and Euro-steps to score or create for his team mates. He has the necessary court vision and can also go for precise and long distance passes out of his wrist. Defensively, he struggles when playing against more athletic or physical players, that post him up for example. However, he may have a future when improving his shooting mechanics in order to be a threat also when being defended harder.

Stats: 15.0ppg (44% 2FG 27% 3FG) 4.0rpg 3.7apg 2.7spg 5.1topg

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