By Rafal Juc
Second day Nordic Cup was really exhausting for Eurohopes staff, however exciting too. Spending all day in Solnahallen we were able this tame to watch 6 games, taking closer look at all Scandinavian prospects. Day started with Iceland’s blow-out win (83-42) over Norway in u18 category. The winners with their aggressive defense and up-tempo offensive small-ball strategy are quite entertaining team to watch, but honestly Iceland lacks true prospects. For sure worth to take a closer look at Valur Orri Valsson (’94), a 6'0'' risky playmaker, who loves opening fast-breaks in every possible moment. Left-handed guard with his low and really strong dribble is terrific 1-on-1 player, especially that possesses rare ability to throw with slightly "broken" release. He finished game close to triple-double with: 10 points, 9 assists and 7 rebounds. In Norway team this time good impressions left on us 6'3'' small-forward Marko Lepovic (’94). Really tough and experienced at international level Lepovic knows how to take advantage of his bulky body. He is quite tough mismatch on wing, especially that is capable of knock down really deep 3-point shoot too. Worth to admit that Lepovic, who presents Balkan character always crashes the glass aggressively, what helps him to score in second chances.
Undeniably there were intriguing prospects to follow in U16 between Denmark and Norway. Danish Johannes Leth Nielsen (’96), with 20 points, 8 blocks and 7 rebounds led his team to the win (69-55). 6'7'' Nielsen, who currently is used as power forward mainly, is really versatile player, who without no doubt in future could play on small forward. He impresses with nice combination of size, body coordination, pure footwork and mobility. Being one of the highest on the court. Nielsen instead of playing back to the basket, prefers coming out on high-post and knocking down pull-up shoots or attacking the rim on dribble. With all that said, worth to admit that he impresses also with jumping abilities, smartness and experienced. However, at this moment more perspective seems his teammate Kasper Victor Christiansen (’97). Almost 6'8'' forward presents not only impressive size and nice shooting touch, but first of all plenty of the room to improve. In yesterday’s game he gave only 10-minutes substation, but showed really polished skills taking account that he is only 15-years old. Christiansen impresses with amazing wingspan, habit to try to block every shoot, great fluidly in moves and ability to knock down threes.
Next match-up between U18 Sweden - Denmark finished with surprisingly loss (60-67) for hosts. However, Swedish Johan Loftberg (’95) made the best impression on us. Almost 6'6'' small forward possesses really efficient 3-point shoot as well as midrange jumper, mainly in spot-up situations. However, he still lacks experience and due to lack of bulk is not able to beat of dribble stronger guards, so at this moment he limits his game generally to waiting for open shoots.
But then we observed Sweden’s win over Iceland in U16 category (59-52). This time the best scorer was 6'5'' William Skagius (’96), who playing on both wings in all situations is terrific mismatch. Being really bulky, but at the same moment well-coordinated and mobile Skagius in most of his actions tries to take advantage of his body attacking the basket 1-on-1 being back to the basket. He showed really high basketball IQ and smartness. But the clutch player in that game was Swedish 6'1'' playmaker Sheriff Drammeh (’96). Bearing some resemblance to Rajon Rondo, Drammeh is quite athletic, impresses with his length, possess really quick hands. Thanks to amazing footwork and quick first step he is able to beat off dribble his guard in almost all 1-on-1 situations. In addition Drammeh is really creative, passing a ball a lot. However he still has to work on his shooting touch and add some muscles to his really thin frame.
In U18 Finland’s win (84-65) over Norway the main role played 6'8'' power forward Julius Rajala (’94). He finished game with 32 points on 14/18 FG, 11 rebounds, 2 blocks, 2 steals and 2 assists. A bit shaky and really thin Rajala is one of the smartest as well as most versatile player of whole Nordic Cup. His offensive package in almost completely: Rajala is able to play face-up 1-on-1 on dribble, but is also really willing to post up on low-post, where he takes advantage of his pure footwork, finishing mainly with spin-moves to baseline. In addition he possesses really nice shooting touch, being capable of knock down midrange jumper with quite quick release. Worth to admit that he always crashes the glass and has got character of killer. Undeniably player to follow, especially that he has never played before in any European Championships.
We finished the day with not too exciting (90-41) win for U16 Finland over Norway. For us the most interesting was Henri Niemisto (’96), at the pic. Listed at 6'5'' Finn with amazing wingspan and length play as power forward. At this moment his most dangerous weapon is 3-point shoot, but we have to admit that his shooting mechanics is quite wild. Being really athletic and fast Niemisto at this stage is just unstoppable attacking the basket on dribble. However he seems somehow raw offensively, struggling with finishing above the rim. In addition he looks like early-developed one, so question is - how much room has he got to improve?
Twitter of the author: @rafjuc
Photo: www.basket.fi (Henri Niemisto)