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NIJT l´Hospitalet 2011: the Guards

January 10th, 2011 · No Comments

We start our review of the 2011 edition of the Nike International Junior Tournament in l’Hospitalet traditionally with the guards. But before going into the details of the scouting, it has to be mentioned that the overall level of the tournament was not particularly high. The absence of some major Spanish teams like Unicaja Malaga or Caja Laboral Vitoria were certainly one of the factors. And on the other hand the number of potential future top stars with the participating teams was rather low (and some of them did not even play all the games). Additionally, some players that were on the rosters finally did not play because of injuries or non-qualification.

Josip Perez – 1m82 – PG – 1994 – FC Barcelona

The Spanish guard, who is already a regular contributor for the 2nd team of FC Barcelona in the 3rd league LEB Silver, was probably one of the most interesting players of the tournament. He looked already quite experienced for a player that will turn only 17 in May and he was clearly the difference maker for the final tournament winner. He even scored a highlight buzzer beater in the semi-finals that brought FC Barcelona to the final by beating Manresa.

Josep Perez winning it for FC Barcelona at the NIJT 2011

Josep Perez has an excellent vision of the court. He knows what is going on and can create very well for himself or for his team mates. The guard is very creative in his decision making and can come up with some very nice passes. He recognizes the gaps on defense very well and know how to attack the basket by using speed and direction changes. Additionally, he has a good mid range game, a ability that is a bit lost these days among the young players. Perez can stop out of the drive for the Navarro-esque tear drops but also come up with the regular mid-range jumper.

His three-point shot remains streaky as he was at a poor 2 out of 16 attempts before the final where he erupted with 6/9 threes. His shot though looks very well, the mechanics are good and with the experience, he will probably adjust as he showed to be very regular from the free-throw line. One of the main concerns is his size and the ability to defend on the highest level. Perez is not overly athletic by any standards and lives a lot from his basketball understanding at the moment. He overplays sometimes by trying to be too much on the highlight-reel but overall this does not seem to be a major problem at the moment. It has to be seen if he can grow a few centimeters still in the next years in order to be able to not be posted-up in the future. For the rest, Perez has everything to become a future interesting player as he looks to have the necessary charisma and leadership abilities that you need on the PG position.

Stats: 16.0ppg (50.0% 2FGs – 32.0% 3FGs – 84.6% FTs), 3.0rpg, 3.0apg, 2.6spg, 3.0topg, 16.4rkgpg

Lluis Costa – 1m86 – PG – 1993 – FC Barcelona

Lluis Costa was another major part of the guard-based game of the tournament winners. Costa, who played with the Spanish 3-on-3 team at the Youth Olympic Games in Singapore in 2010, is not afraid to attack the basket hard against the big guys. He has a preference for going over his stronger right hand and has the ball always close to the floor to avoid the steal. Nevertheless, he was very turnover-prone during the days in Hospitalet (5 per game) which was more the result of some questionable decision making when passing the ball.

But Costa knows how to share the ball, he was one of the best in the tournament in the assists/game as he draws a lot of help defense when attacking the basket. He has good speed for European standards without being particularly explosive. He also had one play to remember when he caught a pass of one of his team mates to put the ball around his back in order to avoid the steal and knocking down the three-point shot out of this catch. Costa sees currently less minutes than Perez with the Reserve team of FC Barcelona despite being a year older which underlines that he probably has less potential on a long term basis. He is most likely one of this typical Spanish guards that have some impact on the Junior level and later on will probably play a back-up role in the ACB League.

Stats: 12.0ppg (43.5% 2FGs – 25.8% 3FGs – 84.2% FTs), 2.2rpg, 5.0apg, 1.8spg, 5.0topg, 10.4rkgpg

Albert Homs – 1m94 – SG/PG – 1994 – DKV Joventut Badalona

Albert Homs was probably one of the players that were the most looked at during the tournament. The DKV Joventut Badalona guard had already seen minutes in the ACB and is considered as one of the most talented players of the 1994 generation in Europe. Being listed at 1m94 but looking closer to the 1m99 announced on his profile, Homs plays some kind of all-around guard/forward position as nearly all of the Joventut offenses run through him; at least in the two games that he played. Being responsible for nearly 40% of the team’s shot attempts in these two games, it underlines his important role with the team. What is intriguing though is that he only turned the ball over 3 times in 65 minutes on the court which is very impressive for being that much at the heart of the offense.

Homs first of all shows excellent size for playing either guard position, he can shoot the ball, attack the basket and control the game tempo. He is able to score difficult baskets out of the drive and his game is mainly based on the penetration plays where he likes to finish from mid-range though with some floaters or tough running jumpers. Homs likes to go on his left when putting the ball on the floor and uses the right one though for the score, even when being close to the basket. He is not a particularly creative passer when playing the PG position, he was mainly looking for his own scoring options than trying to integrate his team mates. The question is if this was mainly because of the limited level of his team mates or because of an overly strong self-confidence.

Albert Homs dunking it versus Italy in the U16 EC 2010

The least that you could say is that Homs does not believe in his qualities. He wants to have the ball and make the decision for his team, mainly on offense. With his athletic and physical abilities, we would have liked to see him more implicated in his team’s rebounding. Being one of the taller players of his team, he only grabbed 6 rebounds in the whole tournament, which is less than one per quarter. Another point that I would like to add on the negative side is the absence of usage of his size to score the basketball. You could barely see him going on the low post to use the match-up situations or defense. But the overall note on Albert Homs is a positive one. He was certainly one of the best prospects of the whole tournament and his impact on the ACB level should become regular in a very short time. At 16 years of age, his progress margin remains very interesting and his scoring talent will certainly move him to the SG spot in the future.

Stats: 24.5ppg (42.1% 2FGs – 25.0% 3FGs), 3.0rpg, 2.5spg, 17.5rkgpg, played only the two first games

Guillem Vives – 1m91 – PG – 1993 – DKV Joventut Badalona

When Homs has left the team after two games (for practicing with the Senior Team), it was Guillem Vives who tried to take over the responsibilities in the backcourt. After an interesting tournament with the Spanish U18 team in December, Vives showed that he is an interesting slasher, knowing how to attack the basket with good acceleration and nice direction changes in traffic. He can finish his drives against the defense and draws a good amount of fouls. However, he struggled badly from the free-throw line during the days in Hospitalet. In general, Vives needs to improve his shot in order to become a regular threat also from outside. He showed in Onil that he can be regular from behind the three-point arc but also from the FT line.

Stats: 13.5ppg (45.2% 2FGs – 58.3% FTs), 3.5rpg, 1.5apg, 2.3spg, 3.3topg, 11.8rkgpg

Agusti Sans – 1m92 – PG – 1995 – DKV Joventut Badalona

Despite playing only 13 minutes per game, it is worth to speak a little bit about Agusti Sans who represents the next generation of the Badalona team (together with 1996 born forward Marc Bauza). Sans displays very good ballhandling and good looks for his team mates. The left handed guard can attack the basket but was not very successful from behind the arc in the tournament. He should be one of the leader of the Spanish U16 National Team this summer.

Stats: 4.7ppg 13.2mpg

Kaspars Vecvagars – 1m90 – PG – 1993 – Zalgiris Kaunas

There is not much new to report about the Latvian PG playing for Zalgiris Kaunas. Vecvagars is still the nicely athletic PG with correct shooting abilities and a preference for the drive to the basket. His three-point shot does not look really improved, his mechanics remain perfectible. On the other hand, Vecvagars has a good leaping ability, can change his directions when attacking the basket with ease and score the basket anywhere from mid to close range. For a PG, he is not an overly creative passer and lives from his drive that gives him opportunities to dish the ball when the help defense comes.

Stats: 8.3ppg (50.0% 2FGs – 27.8% 3FGs), 1.5rpg, 1.3apg, 1.0spg, 3.3topg, 5.3rkgpg

Karlo Lebo – 1m95 – SG – 1994 – Cedevita Zagreb

Karlo Lebo is probably the player with the worst stats ever featured in this blog. But the Croatian guard presents a very interesting profile with his above average athletic abilities, defensive potential and a nice left-handed slashing game style. His shot looks more like a work in progress than being anywhere from regular (he shot though 15/36 this summer at the U16 European Championship) and his decision making is desirable at least. But Lebo has this little something that makes me consider him as an interesting player for the future. He can attack the basket at will but the finishing is not at its best for the moment. Being born in 1994 and having played a very important role with the Croatian U16 National Team, Lebo certainly just had a bad week in Spain and will most likely show up at the next tournament with his full potential.

Stats: 4.8ppg (0/10 3FGs), 2.5rpg, 1.8spg, 0.5rkgpg

Dorijan Jelenek – 1m98 – SG – 1995 – Cedevita Zagreb

One of the youngest contributors in the tournament, Dorijan Jelenek showed some interesting potential for both the SG and SF position. Nicely athletic, Jelenek is first of all an excellent shooter with a very quick release. The left handed 95 born can also attack the basket and score against some bigger guys but his main role was being a scorer coming of the bench for Cedevita. He will certainly have a big role for Croatia this summer and together with the raising star Mario Hezonja, the Croats look already packed with talent for the European Championship in the Czech Republic.

Stats: 5.8ppg, 2.3rpg, 6.0rkgpg

Martin Junakovic – 1m85 – PG – 1994 – Cedevita Zagreb

Martin Junakovic was another member of the highly talented 1994 generation of Cedevita Zagreb. Junakovic run the show for the Croats as he was the main PG of the team and looking more for his team mates than his own finish. He has correct speed and a certain attitude on the court that makes him stand out. Without being particularly good in something special, Junakovic can also score the basketball from behind the arc but overall, his percentages remained quite low in Hospitalet.

Stats: 9.0ppg (35.7% 2FGs – 31.8% 3FGs), 3.8rpg, 4.0apg, 4.5topg, 7.5rkgpg

All pictures are the courtesy of FIBA Europe

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