U19 World Championship
Valentin Leclezio will help us to approach to the last U19 World Championship hosted in Crete (Greece). He analyzes the most interesting players of the European teams in the championship.
Furkan Korkmaz (’97, Guard, Efes):
The Efes Pilsen talent was head and shoulder the top prospect of a talented Turkish Squad. Playing consistent minutes at a very high level in the TBL and Euroleague enabled him to garner a ton of confidence this season. It really showed in Heraklion, where the Swingman played like a Pro, rarely trying to force the action.
His shooting touch has vastly improved over the past two years as he is able to knocks down shots on the move off the dribble or as a spot up shooter with great consistency (45% on 4.5 attempts per contest). A very fluid and coordinate athlete, Korkmaz is a phenomenal transition player and possesses serious potential as a slasher. His length, quickness and quick first jump make him a prototypical NBA swingman.
Defensively, even though his effort can vary from one sequence to another, he is able to force his opponent into tough shots, keeping him in check by moving his feet and contesting the shot thanks to his length. He will need to continue working on his upper and lower body strength as he is still struggling boxing out and can be targeted with certain matchups in low post situations.
Korkmaz is said to be targeting the 2016 NBA Draft, where he could be picked in the lottery. He is likely to stay in Europe a few more years before making the jump.
Egemen Güven (’96, Power-Forward/Center, Pinar Karsiyaka):
The second most interesting prospect on that Turkish squad struggled with injuries all season long and had a hard time finding minutes in the Turkish Champions’ rotation this season in Izmir. His lack of playing time over the past two seasons doesn’t bode well for his development but he is said to be staying put with Karsiyaka next season.
Standing at around 6’11 with extremely long arms, Güven possesses above average length for the Power-Forward and Center positions (Power-Forward being his favorite). He is a very fluid and coordinate athlete for a player his size. He moves elegantly and very naturally. Güven is a mobile big, capable of outrunning and outsprinting other bigs in transition on his way to the rim or to be a very quick cutter.
Güven’s frame is a major question mark. He is still very skinny at this stage, and hasn’t filled out much the past couple years. Will he be able to add the necessary extra pounds to his frame in order to reach his full potential? Güven gets pushed around quit a bit when trying to box-out during rebounding battles or when trying to contest an entry pass on the low block. His lower body strength is particularly lacking. He tries to compensate that lack of strength with his size and length but as he keeps facing higher-level grown-men competition this task will become impossible. Not known as a good defensive rebounder, Güven had a pretty good tournament rebounding the ball (12 rebounds/40 minutes).
Offensively, Güven is able to finish at the rim thanks to a nice soft touch with both hands. His arsenal isn’t equipped of a multitude of post moves though. He has the ability to catch the ball on the move, keep the ball up and finish at the rim, which is a pretty impressive skill for a big. Güven has a tendency to finish with a lay-in or a floater rather than dunk the ball. This lack of aggressiveness can be glaring on some sequences. He only went to the free-throw line 8 times during the 133 minutes he spent on the court.
Defensively, Güven uses his lateral mobility to guard the pick-and-roll pretty well. He is able to stay with smaller wing player following a switch. Güven should end up being an above-average rim protector as well. His length and timing enables him to contest and bother a lot of shots even though his blocks numbers were not exceptional (8 in 133 minutes, 1.1 per contest, 2.3/40 minutes). Güven needs to keep his effort level very high and be in the right defensive stance. He takes a few possessions off on that end each game.
Overall, Güven had a very honorable tournament (10.3 points, 5.6 rebounds, 56% shooting) for a loaded team. Nevertheless, he clearly hasn’t made the leap we could have expected him to make after strong showings at the Mannheim tournament and at the u18 European Championship last summer. His playing time in Karsiyaka, a Euroleague team, next season is a question mark and a loan should be explored. Güven is way too talented to be seating on a bench.
Berk Ugurlü (’96, Point Guard, Fenerbahce):
Berk Ugurlü cannot shoot threes (0 make in this tournament), doesn’t have great size nor is an athletic freak but always find a way to put his team in a position to win. One year after leading Turkey to the top spot at the U19 European Championship, Ugurlü was the captain of the bronze medal squad in Crete.
A floor general with good size for the point-guard position, Ugurlü can run an offense thanks to his above-average basketball IQ and ability to change pace. A good ball-handler, with both hands, Ugurlü loves to navigate aggressively in pick-and-roll situations in order to create easy opportunities for his teammates. He is also pretty confortable pushing the ball in transition, driving and dishing for teammates early in the shot-clock.
His shooting touch is a major work in progress. Ugurlü is pretty much a non-threat from behind the arc, missing all of his 8 three-point attempts. He was able to hit an occasional jumper when the opposing team was slow to step out on pick-and-rolls or was going behind the screen. Shooting consistency is a major issue for Ugurlü. His mechanic is fine and he has a reputation as a hard worker. In order to be able to play at the highest European level, Ugurlü will need to make major strides in this area.
Ugurlü is not a great finisher at the rim either. His lack of elite athleticism and explosiveness doesn’t help and his touch is questionable at best.
Finally, his decision-making has room for improvement as he makes a couple mind-blowing decisions each game.
Not likely to receive much playing time at Fenerbahce once again next season, it will be extremely important for Ugurlü to get loaned and find the right environment to continue developing.
Diego Flaccadori (’96, Guard, Trento):
Following up a very strong showing at he Adidas Eurocamp in Treviso, Flaccadori surfed on the same wave to have a nice tournament in Heraklion (17.6 points per game, 3rd top scorer). Thrown into a team where he needed to take a lot of shots, including a ton of tough ones, Flaccadori supported a big load to lead Italy to an honorable 6th place overall.
Very creative with his ball handling, Flaccadori was very assertive on the offense end, looking to create offense for his team at all times. For the first time with an Italian youth national team - maybe was it because Federico Mussini was not sharing the backourt with him - finally played as he knew he was the best player on his team. The first half he played against an ultra-athletic USA team was probably the best illustration of how skilled he can be as a ball-dominant guard. His footwork is very creative and he has the ability to change gear and get by his defender without being the most athletic player. He was not bother or intimidated by the USA physicality and constant defensive pressure.
His shot didn’t fall with as much consistency as it did in Treviso (30% from three) but the offensive load he had to shoulder certainly took a toll physically on the skinny shooting-guard. It is not really a concern for Mussini as he is a very good free-throw shooter (85%) and has a very consistent and solid shooting mechanic with a good form on his shot.
Flaccadori needs to get a lot stronger and will be looking to improve on the defensive end of the floor if he wants to get more rotation minutes at Trento next season. At this stage of this career, improving his body and being more intense and focus on the defensive end of the floor should be his main target in order to reach his full potential.
Yankuba Sima (‘96, Forward/Center, St. John’s University):
The future St John’s student showed all tournament long why he was a terrific get for Chris Mullin’s squad. Sima is a matchup nightmare on the defensive end of the floor. His size, length (great wingspan) and leaping ability makes him a major dissuasive force around the rim (2 blocks a game) and an easy target on offense. He consistently bother shots at the rim and will make the offense think twice before attacking the rim.
His lateral mobility enables him to switch off pick and rolls and guard smaller wing players. His defensive potential is truly special as he can cover a ton of grounds very quickly thanks to nimble feet. He is always in the right defensive stance. His defensive impact makes him an NBA prospect all by itself. When he plays with effort his energy make him a great defender but also make his team a much better defensive squad. He loves to communicate with his teammates while patrolling the paint, giving advises and directing guards on the perimeter.
On the offensive end, Sima is still very raw and a work in progress. His low-post game is close to non-existent. A very mobile big, Sima moves in a very robotic way when thrown the ball on the low block. He is clearly not the most confortable guy working down low.
Sima prefers to receive the ball on the move, sliding to the rim. His mobility makes him a constant threat when rolling to the basket after setting a good, hard pick. At the very least he will force the defense to react and help, creating his team an open outside shot.
His shooting mechanic is not horrific (only 57% free throw shooter though) and he even knocked down a couple open threes in the last couple games of the tournament. If he can ever become a reliable threat from 15 to 20 feet, Sima might become a very serious offensive weapon.
Sima is also participating to the U20 European Championship this summer before heading to St John’s campus. There is very little doubt he will be able to have an impact right away and get significant minute in his freshman season. The way Sima has progressed the past 18 months, it wouldn’t be a shock if doesn’t spend more than a couple years in College before heading straight to the Draft.
Marc Garcia (’96, Guard, Barcelona):
Coming in as the offensive leader of the Spanish team, Marc Garcia struggled to put the ball in the basket for a majority of the tournament. A very fluid athlete, Garcia possesses a great feel for the game, scoring instinct with ball-handling skills on the offensive end that can sometimes remind those of Evan Fournier. Unfortunately, his lack of success offensively annihilated his confidence as the tournament advanced. Garcia shot the ball at a 27% clip overall (20/73) which is simply mind-blowing for anybody who covered past European youth events which Garcia attended. Not playing a ton of minutes nor having a major offensive role in Manresa certainly prevented him from coming in with confidence in Crete.
Despite those horrible shooting numbers, the foundations of a great scorer and shooter are still there for Garcia. His shooting mechanics is consistent, the arc on his jump-shot is great and he made free-throws at a very high rate (85%). Garcia still has terrific footwork and ball-handling skills, doesn’t force the action much and is great at creating contact with the defender and get to the foul line.
As he looks to get playing time at the ACB level (certainly not in Barcelona), Garcia will have to go through a major weight-lifting program as his frame has barely filled-out over the past 18 months. Not an elite athlete by any mean, Garcia will, at the very least, need to bulk-up in order not to become a major liability on the defensive-end and a non-factor offensively. Garcia struggles against tough, physical defenses and has major issues finishing accurately at the rim. Those are the kind of things we were not used to with Garcia at the u 16 and u18 levels when he was facing younger and generally less physical defenders.
Garcia has a busy summer in front of him as he immediately traveled to Italy where he is participating to U20 European Championship. He will try to regain some confidence before entering a crucial season for his career development.
Borisa Simanic (’98, Forward, Red Star)
Among a sea of disappointments, the youngest player on the Serbian squad, and one of the youngest overall, was a major bright spot. The Red Star prospect was not supposed to play a major role in a team full of very experienced players, but the more he starting receiving minutes early on in the tournament, the more it looked obvious how he had to be part of the rotation.
Averaging less than 17 minutes a game, the young and elegant Power-Forward from Red Star had a real impact on the game (10.1 points, 3.4 rebounds, 1.6 block and 1.3 steal a game). He had his coming-out party against South Korea where he put up 23 points and 6 rebounds.
A modern Power-Forward, Simanic is a really-skilled player. Standing at 6’10 with good length, Simanic is a really mobile big who can run the floor and play on the perimeter without many difficulties. For a player who just turned 17, his frame is really interesting and he should be able to fill-out in time. His lower body in particular will need to get stronger.
Offensively, Simanic is a prototypical Power-Forward. He can step out and hit outside shots (only attempted 6 threes in this tournament though) or take his defender off the dribble and finish at the rim. His basketball IQ is simply really high. He reads defenses and makes quick decisions based on what he sees. He possesses good hands and very nice soft touch around the rim. He is able to catch the ball on the move off pick-and-rolls and be very efficient as a finisher.
As he continues to get stronger, Simanic will need to become a better defensive rebounder (13 defensive boards in 117 minutes) as he still gets pushed around pretty easily and can be seen forgetting to box out on a few possessions each game. Simanic is also not much of a point-forward at this stage, being mostly a catcher and finisher in Crete. He only had 2 assists in the entire tournament.
The way he has improved the past couple years, there is little question SImanic will soon see regular minutes with Red Star at the highest European level. If he can keep filling-out and get his outside shot to fall consistently, he could end up being a very intriguing draft prospect.
Vanja Marinkovic (’97, Guard, Partizan):
The terrific Serbian shooter had a good showing in Heraklion for a team that disappointed mightily. After a slow start, the Partizan Belgrade player finished the tournament on a strong note in classification rounds. Unsurprisingly, Marinkovic was one of the best shooters in Crete, shooting the ball extremely from distance (44% from 3) and from the free-throw line. His mechanic is very well oiled, his release is very quick and the arc on his shot beautiful. Marinkovic has all the tools to become an elite shooter at the highest level. He can shoot it with his feet set as a spot-up shooter (great shooter in the corners) or as a ball-handler, on the move. He is also not scared to take his responsibilities early on in the shot clock with his quick trigger. His confidence in himself is quit impressive.
Possessing average length for a 2-guard, he is much more athletic than his body and frame may make you think at first glance. He is able to elevate high above the rim with unexpected power and strength.
Marinkovic needs to keep getting bigger - his body is vastly improved compared to last year’s NIJT for instance - and work on his ball-handling skill as he is likely to be asked to bring the ball up and create offense for himself at the next level.
With the utmost necessity to have as much shooting as possible on a basketball court those days, Marinkovic bring a major skill to the table. He can certainly bring shooting and spacing for any team in the near future. It wouldn’t surprise anyone if he gets his name called in the second round of the NBA Draft over the next two or three years
Georgios Papagianis (’97, Center, Panathinaikos):
Considered as a major European prospect since the 2013 U16 European Championship, Papagianis had mostly navigated under the radar the past couple years, spending one year in high school near Philadelphia and then coming back to Greece and Panathinaikos without getting much playing time. He also had a couple of discrete appearances at the U17 World Championship and U18 European Championship last summer.
Papagianis was able to partly redeem himself this year with the home team.
As we already knew Papagianis is a huge human-being (7’1, 260 pounds), almost too big for his own good. He is kind of a slow-footed stiff who has a hard time covering ground and defending pick-and-rolls 30 feet from his own basket. Papagianis never even tries to hedge on pick-and-roll situations, putting in limited effort in the way he moves and not having the right defensive stance. His lack of lateral mobility even pushed the Greek coach to play some zone-defense when he was on the court. Not the most athletic guy, Papagianis showed the ability to protect the rim consistently throughout the tournament. His size, length and timing make of him a defensive force at the rim (5 blocks/40 minutes).
Offensively, Papagianis possesses good hands and is able to catch passes and finish at the rim, most of the time to dunk the ball, with ease. He still has some troubles controlling his body while catching passes on the move. Coordination for a player this huge is key and he still has ways to go in that area. His big body should enable him to get good position on the low-block but he often gets pushed around and out of his comfort zone, maybe because his base is not strong enough yet. When he is able to catch the ball less than 10 feet away from the rim he becomes very hard to stop. In general, Papagianis needs to become more aggressive, more assertive in all areas of his game. At times, he can seem to be coasting for long stretches. His size and his talent should make it possible for him to impact the game at all times.
His conditioning should be another point of emphasis as Papagiannis has a hard time staying on the court for long stretches without being gassed quickly. He only averaged 21 minutes a game and played 9 minutes against Spain in a crucial quarter-final game.
Papagianis has turned down multiple College offers (Kentucky, North Carolina State...) to sign a multi-year deal with Panathinaikos. Hopefully there will be a plan in place to develop him (loan?) as he certainly won’t see the floor a lot with the Greens’ first team.
Vasilis Chalarampopoulos (’97, Forward, Panathinaikos)
As the most experienced player on the Greek National Team, great expectations were surrounding Chalarampopoulos as he entered the tournament. Unfortunately, an injured right foot (major swelling) limited his time spent on the court in Crete. After missing the first couple games, Chalarampopoulos found a way to forget the pain and played a major role for his team when it mattered the most, in particular in a magnificent semi-final performance against team USA (21 points and 7 rebounds).
Not the tallest, not the longest, not the strongest nor the most athletic, Chalarampopoulos is an extremely skilled basketball player built in the same mold as Alexander Vezenkov. Using an unlimited amount of fakes whether it is with his footwork, his hips or his behind, the PAO forward is always really tough to read for opposing defenses. He can post you up or face you up on the low block if you are a weaker defender, or he can drive by you from the top of the key if you are a bigger, slower defender. He is a tough matchup overall. And, when his outside shot starts falling he becomes unstoppable to guard (50% from 3, on only 14 attempts).
Chalarampopoulos behaves like a leader on and off the court. An extremely unselfish player, he is an above-average passer for a forward as he regularly found cutting teammates with beautiful one handed bounced-passes.
Already seeing minutes at the highest European level with Panathinaikos, and being a regular on Greek youth national teams for the past 5 years, it was not a surprise to see Chalarampopoulos play with confidence and not shying away from competition. But the fact that he made it all happened while having a major physical issue shows how tough and relentless Chalarampoulos is.
His upside is without a doubt limited, he is still some sort of a tweener between the 3 and 4 spots (likely a future stretch 4), his lateral mobility is questionable (can he guard 3s?) and he may be undersized to defend NBA Power-Forward but his fundamentals, high basketball IQ and smartness make him a very intriguing player to track.
Tyler Dorsey (’96, Guard, Oregon):
The Los Angeles native, and Oregon-bound next season, had a tremendous impact on the Greek National team in this tournament. Possessing Greek roots through his mother and grand-mother, Dorsey seized the opportunity to showcase why he may have been slightly underrated in the recruiting process in High-School. A dynamic, skilled Combo-Guard, Dorsey is an athletic player possessing an above average scoring instinct keeping an aggressive mindset at all times.
Dorsey shot the ball extremely well all tournament long being a constant threat as a spot up shooter with his feet set or off the dribble (52% from 3). By far the most athletic player on the team, Dorsey was a perfect fit as he brought to the table skills that Greece fairly lacked. He rebounded the ball very well for a guard and was the best wing defender on the squad. On the offensive end, his ability to create off-the-dribble for himself or his teammates, including in pick-and-roll situations, greatly help Greece to generate offense.
Dorsey’s upside is, at least for now, limited by his lack of physical strength. He is a tad undersized (6’4 in shoes), has below-average length and his upper-body still needs to get way stronger before being NBA ready (Can his frame fill out?). Dorsey can also tend to be a little bit out of control at times and force the action when the opposing team is increasing its on-the-ball pressure (4 turnovers against the USA).
This experience will have been extremely profitable for his life, career and his NBA stock as he now looks to start his college career. There is very little doubt that Dorsey is an NBA talent and that his summer international experience may be a major step forward on his way to the Draft.
Tyler Dorsey was elected to the all-Tournament first team.
Marko Arapovic (’96, Forward, Cedevita):
Transferring from Cibona Zagreb to Cedevita last summer, Marko Arapovic, one of the most talented prospects of the 1996-1997 Croatian generations, played his first consistent, though limited, minutes at a high level in the ABA league this season j(9 minutes per contest).
A dominant force inside at every youth events he participated the past 4 years, Arapovic once again made his presence felt in Crete (15 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists a game) as he had to shoulder an heavy offensive load with Zizic and Bender sidelined.
A very fundamentally sound and skilled basketball player, Arapovic possesses great fundamentals. He can pass the ball extremely well for a big (5+ assists/ 40 minutes), has great court vision, can handle the ball and keeps his head up at all times. He has the ability to find cutting teammates, or open shooters on the weak side. His passing ability made his fit and duo with Zubac formidable.
Arapovic is also a good rebounder, using his wide frame and mature body to box-out opponents and grab defensive boards at a high clip (13,8 rebounds/40 minutes)
He loves to play on the low-block, can face up or play with his back to the basket. He can finish with both hands and has an automatic right-handed hook.
If he wants to reach his full potential and play at the highest possible level, Arapovic will need to get more consistent from distance as he shot at a 22% clip from 3 (5/23). Arapovic could turn into a prototypical stretch 4 down the road but the question mark remains if he will be able to become a reliable jump-shooter.
Arapovic’s upside is limited by his physical profile. Standing at 6’9 and with limited length, Arapovic can’t make it up with exceptional athleticism. He is quit mobile but will struggle at time defending the pick-and-roll and is a non-factor protecting the rim. He blocked a grand total of one shot in 207 minutes spent on the court in Heraklion.
As it stands today, his game is clearly better fitted for Euro Leagues than the NBA. Nevertheless, big with tremendous passing skills and high basketball IQ can always be useful to a basketball team. He is probably one reliable jump-shot away from being a sure-fire NBA prospect.
Arapovic was elected to the all-Tournament first team.
Ivica Zubac (’97, Center, Cibona):
With Bender out the whole tournament, and Ante Zizic suffering a leg injury during the first round of the competition, Ivica Zubac had to shoulder heavy responsibilities which enabled him to have his coming out party in Heraklion. Paired with Aranitovic, Zubac performed at a very high level (17.6 points, 7.9 rebounds to lead Croatia to a Final spot against team USA. He ended up with the highest PER in the overall tournament. Not considered a headline prospect even in Croatia (he averaged 3 points and 3 rebounds per game at the U16 Euro Championship 2 years ago, it’s only youth competition so far) Zubac put his name of the map with this tournament.
Standing at 7 feet tall, Zubac possesses tremendous size for the Center position. His body is already pretty mature for somebody who just turned 18 even though he still has some body fat. What makes Zubac truly special is the way he is able to move despite being this big. He is an agile athlete with nimble feet who knows how to use his body. It sounds pretty incredible when you remember that Zubac suffered a severe leg injury a couple years ago, injury that sidelined him for an entire year.
Zubac can struggle from time to time on pick-and-roll situation when he has to guard quicker wing player. He has repeatedly said that he was from his top athletic shape. It will be interesting to track how his progress on that end will materialize.
A tremendous post-player, Zubac absolutely loves to spend a ton of time on the low block. He uses his body to get the ball deep down low and is able to finish around the rim with an efficient right-handed hook. His touch and efficiency close to the rim were off-the-chart in Greece (55/76, 72.4%).
Defensively, Zubac is already a good post-defender, using his long arms and his mature frame to contest the entry-pass. Like Arapovic, Zubac is far from beng an athletic freak. He bothers a lot of shots with his size and length but will rarely block any (6 blocks in 186 minutes). Rim protection is not his strongest skills but he is also far from a finished product athletic-wise. With that kind of size and length he should be able to turn into, at least, a decent rim protector when it’s all said and done.
Despite having received offers from top US colleges (ie. Duke), Ivica Zubac will stay one more year with Cibona Zagreb where he still has 3 more years on his contract. He has already claimed his willingness to join a Euroleague club before making the jump to the NBA.
Nik Slavica (’97, Forward, Cibona):
Considered as an elite prospect since he was 15 years old, Nik Slavica was never able to escape the large shadow of the uber-talented Dragan Bender and Lovro Mazalin. With both sidelined because of an injury and a sneakers imbroglio, Slavica had the opportunity to make headlines and lead the Croatian National Team on this major international stage. For the most part, he delivered the goods.
Standing at 6’8 with an impressive leaping ability and a frame that has nicely developed over the past few years, Slavica is an NBA-level athlete. The best defender on the Croatian team, Slavica had to shoulder heavy responsibilities and to guard the opposing top wing player (ie. Against Canada and Justin Jackson). His lateral mobility, his length and athleticism make him a tough one-on-one defender to attack off the dribble. His motor is non-stop as you rarely see him give up on any play defensively (ie. Block on USA’s Tatum in the final game). He loves to defend and it shows. Slavica is also an above-average rebounder for a wing (5.6 rebounds per game), having a real knack for the ball and using his athleticism to out jump opposing rebounders.
Offensively, Nik Slavica takes advantage of a very quick first step and his leaping ability to get to the rim in a hurry. He is also a deadly transition player. Slavica is very unselfish and creates a ton of open shots for his teammates (around 6 assists per 40 minutes).
An inconsistent outside shooter, even if he can hit an occasional three (7/26 in this tournament), Slavica shot 27% from 3 after shooting 29% last year at the U18 European Championship. His shooting mechanic isn’t broke by any mean but the arc on his shot is rarely the same one shot from another. A more worrying fact is that he also struggled to make free throws (19/32) which doesn’t bode well for his long-term potential as a shooter. As he continues to get more reps with high intensity, his accuracy should increase but it’s a major concern at this point. Slavica will also need to keep improving his ball handling skills as he is more of a straight driver at this stage of his career and he isn’t very efficient when put in pick-and-roll situations as the ball-handler.
A player of Cibona Zagreb, Slavica is keeping his option open this summer as he may be thinking about a move to College. There is very little doubt he will receive a lot of offers from top level institutions after this showing in Heraklion.
Twitter of the author: @BBFromLA
Photo by: FIBA