Moldova came in Oradea unprepared for this tournament, lacking not only the talent but also the basketball fundamentals to play at this level of competition. They lost all of their six games, by an average of almost 57 points. Their top performer was power forward Vadim Bicicov (’99), with some perimeter skills and likely the best frame in the team, who also was two years under age for the competition.
There was a wide gap between Malta’s two best players and the rest of the roster, who competed hard but was just not enough talented or physically gifted to represent a constant threat through 40 minutes to other teams not named Moldova. The best prospect and most awaited player for Malta was center Kurt Cassar (‘99), a 6’10 big body with decent touch around the rim: still slow and having some mobility issue, Cassar is already an important physical presence at this level of competition, despite being two years under age. He was constantly double or triple-teamed in the low post, something which resulted in him having some issue to finish and to pass the ball out of the low post. He showed some promise in his jumper, despite hitting only one three point shot in the tournament. Defensively he lacks lateral quickness and reactivity, being extremely slow in answering to the offense. Cassar is still a project, but considering that he has just turned 18 there’s still margin to work on his potential. 6’1 point guard Jacob Formosa (‘97) was also remarkable in Oradea, playing with poise and leadership. Formosa has solid frame for his position and good ball-handling skills, his jumper looked quick and consistent and he was an active cutter when playing without the ball.
A very young team which featured just two 1997-born players, Azerbaijan had a key addition with the call to the national team of American guard Jordan Davis (‘97). Davis had a lot of freedom into his team’s offense, taking a lot of shots and displaying mainly instincts as a scorer: not doing much in terms of involving his teammates, he showed tunnel vision and a below average decision making. He’s a gifted scorer who can create his own shot and play also off the ball, and his explosiveness and aggressiveness with the ball where hard to match at this level of competition. Davis ended up as the top scorer in the tournament (26.8 points per game). Forward Endar Poladkhanli (‘98) is an intriguing prospect giving his impressive physique and athleticism, he’s an extremely explosive player with strong frame and chiselled body. On offense he’s highly effective off cuts and filling the lane in transition, and his outside shot is still streaky but looks improved over the last season; his decision making with the ball is still shaky though, as he’s prone to drive right into the defense and lacks elite ball-handling skills. Wasn’t always easy to defensively evaluate Poladkhanli in Oradea, as he was often guarding the biggest opposing player and playing in the middle of a 2-3 zone. If he wants to maximize his potential, he’ll need to show to be able to consistently play at the small forward spot.
Ireland came in Oradea missing their top player in Jordan Blount, and featured a team with poor overall talent but good attitude and toughness on the court. The top performer for them was Aidan Dunne (‘97), a wing with solid frame but still undeveloped body, who showed to be able to handle the ball and attack the rim off dynamic situations, despite being a still below average shooter.
Playing for Armenia was one of the best prospects in the tournament, American 6’11 center Steven Enoch (‘97), a long, fluid and explosive player who was physically dominant in the paint at this level of competition. Always playing with high motor and being active in the paint, Enoch ended up as the tournament’s top rebounder (14.2 rebounds per game), and was a key presence on defense for his team as well, altering lot of shots and covering quickly in help defense. On offense Enoch’s most intriguing skills are in his ability to stretch the floor, to shoot comfortably as far as from beyond the three point line or to put the ball on the floor and attack with couple of dribbles; he’s an explosive finisher around the rim, who finds himself more comfortable in dynamic situations and making himself open under the basket. His low post game is still raw, despite showing solid touch with both hands around the basket. Enoch was well assisted by his backcourt teammates, among whom stood out in particular combo guard Aram Arslanian (‘98). Arslanian played mostly under control, with solid leadership and poise, moving the ball and showing good awareness in halfcourt offense. He has a decent frame for his position, even though on offense he wasn’t always using it in a proper way, resulting way more effective as an outside shooter: he’s a confident scorer who can shoot both off the catch and off the dribble, has a consistent form and never showed hesitation in taking big shots in Oradea.
16) Slovak Republic
Missing point guard Mario Ihring and losing during the tournament also big man Matej Drgon, Slovakia was quite disappointing in Romania, winning only the first game against Azerbaijan. 6’9 forward Marek Dolezaj (‘98) was one of the most interesting prospects in the tournament, confirming the good impressions left at the last two FIBA U18. Dolezaj has still a narrow frame and undeveloped body but is an explosive and extremely fluid player, with excellent quickness and coordination for a player his size. More a perimeter oriented player, Dolezaj was handling a ball a lot for his team, showing natural ball skills and instincts to make plays for his teammates. He looked more confident with his jumper, even though his shot wasn’t falling throughout the tournament. At this point looks like he still struggles to handle physical contact, particularly on defense, and his still raw body doesn’t allow him to be constantly productive in the paint.
The Belarus team wasn’t much polished in terms of skills and fundamentals, but featured a good amount of strong and athletic players who were able to have an impact in Oradea. Center Dzianis Vikentsyeu (‘98) was likely the team’s best prospect, and was in line with the rest of the roster: not much of a polished player, lacking a proper dimension on offense and showing still developing instincts for the game, he has an impressive frame and solid mobility, which allowed him to have a good overall impact. Power forward Tsimafei Paraliou (‘97) showed good things as well, with good awareness in moving off the ball and finishing in the paint, even though wasn’t able to find consistency in his jumper.
Despite missing their best player in Celis Taflaj, Albania had a good showing in Romania, competing hard on the court despite featuring an undersized team without much scoring talent. Big man Frenki Lilaj (‘98) looked like the team’s most polished and experienced player, even though didn’t look in the best physical shape and was kept from playing major minutes in the tournament. Lilaj is an undersized inside player with high basketball IQ and good fundamentals, being able to move without the ball and finish with both hands in the paint, while also showing solid post up moves. His mid-range jumper also looks decent, despite him being mainly an inside player for Albania. Undersized wing Daniel Lekndreaj (‘97) also had some good moment in Oradea, playing with great intensity and making few athletic impact plays.
13) FYR Macedonia
For Macedonia stood out 6’10 big man Andrej Maslinko (‘97), who has still a light and undeveloped frame but was able to have an impact inside the three point line. Maslinko is a fluid player who runs the court extremely well and can finish above the rim, and was most of the times quicker than his direct opponent under the basket; he showed some intriguing flash in putting the ball on the floor and attacking off the dribble, but lacked a significant shooting dimension and didn’t always have the best body language in Oradea. Wings Viktor Efremovski (‘98) and Damjan Robev (‘97) had also a good impact, hitting outside shots at a very good rate. Efremovski looked like the most natural shooter of the two, while Robev established himself also as the top defensive player for his team.
Kosovo didn’t have a deep or highly talented roster, but played hard and showed decent organization on the court, good enough to beat Macedonia and get the 12th spot in the tournament. Their most interesting prospect was Dardan Kapiti (‘00), one of the youngest players in attendance: Kapiti is somewhere between 6’7 and 6’8, a still developing big man who has to find his niche on offense, whether it’ll be as a 4 or as a 5: his frame is decent but still light an undeveloped, even though he’s willing to fight and throw his body around. Not heavily involved on offense, Kapiti was mainly effective off the ball as a roll man or cutter, and showed good rebounding instincts and activity level in the paint.
A physically gifted team for this level of competition, Hungary lacked significant skills and talent in his roster. 6’3 shooting guard Csaba Kucsora (‘98) was the team’s best scorer, while also having primary defensive tasks on opponents’ backcourt players: he has solid bulk and length for his position, and on offense was able to hit outside shots at a good rate, despite having unorthodox shooting mechanics. He looked at his best when playing off the ball, lacking elite ball-handling and burst off the dribble, but was able to be effective driving to the rim thanks to his strength and aggressiveness.
Netherlands featured a strong and tall roster with solid depth in the frontcourt. Center Terrence Bieshaar (‘97) was among the most efficient players in the tournament, averaging 15 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.1 blocks while shooting 59% from the field. Bieshaar was able to use effectively his big body to seal his man and take deep position in the paint when posting up, and showed good touch with both hands around the rim, turning around both shoulders and using a solid array of solutions to finish. He was also effective as a cutter and as a roll man, showing improvements in his fluidity and very good positioning inside the paint. Center Emmanuel Nzekwesi (‘97) played only four games in the tournament, but still had a very good impact for his team thanks to his strong body and tough attitude, while also being able to stretch the floor shooting jumpers off the catch.
Finland was among the teams shooting more threes in Oradea, trying to play most of the time with a 4-guard lineup around enormous center Hannes Polla (‘98). Polla played only 19.6 minutes per game in the tournament, having some issue with defensive mobility and foul troubles, but when on the court he was able to have a key impact for his team, averaging 10.6 points, 6 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game. His size is unmatchable at this level of competition, and he was able to work with his huge body inside the paint against smaller opponents for most of the time. His lack of a reliable back to the basket game looks concerning, but Polla once again hit mid-range jumpers at a solid rate and shot free throws very well. Guard Edon Maxhuni (‘98) was still the most talented player for Finland, being able to create his own shot out of nothing and hitting few key jumpers in the tournament. He started mostly off the ball and was effective mostly with his smooth and natural jump shot, struggling a bit to finish into the paint against physical competition. Another key player for Finland was energetic 6’3 shooting guard Matias Suvanto (‘97), a shooter with great motor, always active on offense and able to hit jumpers off the catch at an impressive rate. He averaged 9 points and 4.7 rebounds in 20.3 minutes per game, shooting 55.6% from two and 41.4% from three.
A tough, gritty and physical team, Portugal was difficult to play despite the lack of elite scoring talent. This age group was once again carried by the duo of Diogo Brito (‘97) and Diogo Araujo (‘97), who made up the team’s major production. Brito has very good size and length for the wing position, and was the main scoring threat for his team: he loves to handle the ball and create his own shot, and he showed as well very good passing instincts. His jumper looks improved but still not reliable, which looks like his main woe at this point of his development. An intense and vocal player, Brito was fun to watch on defense as well, thanks to his instincts and physical attitude. Araujo is an undersized power forward who played some minute also at the small forward spot: a physical and intense player as well, his body doesn’t look always suitable to battle inside the paint. He did a very good job in stretching the floor on offense, comfortably hitting jumpers both from mid-range and from beyond the arc. 6’8 center Goncalo Delgado (‘98) showed some significant improvement over the last couple of years: the lack of shooting range doesn’t allow him to consistently play the power forward spot, but he has a promising frame and very good lateral mobility to work on.
Georgia had one of the tournament’s best prospects in center Goga Bitadze (‘99), who despite being two years under age had already elite size, length and athleticism for this level of competition. Bitadze played with good motor and effort, crushing hard the boards and showing very good overall activity level, but was still sometimes held by his immature mental approach to the game: he still tends to be caught from the flow of the game, taking bad decision and getting into bad streaks after mistakes or missed calls, and had issues in controlling his fouls and turnovers troubles in Oradea. When focused and committed, Bitadze was hard to stop in dynamic situations, cutting quick to the basket and finishing with power plays, and was hard to match from a physical standpoint. Once again he showed some promise with his face-up game, hitting some jumper and displaying intriguing passing skills from the top of the key area, but again his decision making was erratic in these situations. He averaged 10.9 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1 block, 4.3 fouls and 2.9 turnovers per game, still leaving overall a good impression giving his young age and his potential. Another impact player for Georgia was wing Davit Lomidze (‘97), a tough and aggressive competitor who showed excellent shooting skills, despite struggling to create his own shot.
The best prospect in the Belgian roster, power forward Tim Lambrecht (‘98), was named in the All-Tournament Team after averaging 16.1 points, 12.6 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.9 steals and 1.1 blocks. Lambrecht body hasn’t improved much over the last few years, as he still has a narrow and undeveloped frame, but he has excellent size and overall athleticism for his position: an extremely quick and fluid player, he has impressive body control and coordination, being able to drive and finishing changing direction and angle of his shot. He still struggles to handle physical contact and tends to score going away from it, but he plays with good intensity and goes hard after rebounds. His outside shot didn’t fall in Oradea, but he still showed impressing ability to make jumpers from different range, also pulling up off the dribble from time to time. Guard Sigfredo Casero Ortiz (‘97) was the team’s second best scorer, having overall a good physical and athletic impact: a strong and active combo guard, he was at his best when attacking the basket and beating his defender on the first step, lacking elite passing tools but being able to kick out the ball at a solid rate. Shooting guard Simon Buysse (‘97) also deserves a mention, as he was among the best shooters in the tournament: a shaky ball-handler and creator, he has a quick and consistent jump shot which he can use both off the catch and off the dribble, and showed high level awareness moving and positioning without the ball.
Poland had solid depth and physicality in its roster, despite lacking a proper go-to scorer. Guard Marcel Ponitka (‘97) was the team’s best player, playing the point guard position on a constant basis: Ponitka has excellent strength for his position, something which helps him a lot in handling physical contact in the paint when finishing and in pressuring the ball on the defensive end. On offense he’s mostly effective attacking the basket with his strong first step or after turning the corner in P&R situations, and can easily finish around the rim even if contested; his jumper is still not consistent, despite showing some significant improvement. Ponitka is still mainly an attacking guard, but his poise and patient in halfcourt offense have improved a lot, and he showed solid passing skills and an improving court vision. Under the basket the main centrepiece of the Polish team was center Aleksander Dziewa (‘97), a strong and very physical player who is willing to throw his body around and fight inside the paint. His physical impact was often a major factor for his team on both ends of the court, and he showed as well some interesting solution on offense, scoring sometimes with drop step solutions and finishing with both hands around the rim. Undersized shooting guard Jakub Musial (‘98) also deserves to be mentioned because of his display of shooting skills: he didn’t show much in terms of decisions with the ball, but was able to hit jumpers both off the catch and off the dribble, setting the tournament’s single game record both in points scored (35) and threes made (8 out of 11 attempts) in the game against Georgia.
Russia was quite disappointing in Oradea, missing the promotion to Division A despite having a gifted team both in terms of physical potential and basketball skills. 6’8 forward Agasiy Tonoyan (‘98) started slowly in the tournament, but ended up as the most important player for his team in the last games. Tonoyan is an emotional and tough player who had a major impact both with his skills and his leadership: a still skinny player who doesn’t have much of an impact inside the paint, he has excellent ball skills for his position and loves to handle the ball and create for his teammates out of the P&R or attacking the closeout. He has high level court vision and excellent timing and touch as a passer, being able to create open shots for his teammates despite lacking some burst off the dribble. A gifted scorer Tonoyan with high level shooting skills, Tonoyan didn’t often have many possessions on offense though, and sometimes had to rely on his very good ability as a cutter to be able to score. Power forward Andrei Lopatin (‘98) tried to be more active and aggressive in Oradea, showing better attitude and motor; he still has issues against physical competition though, and his body hasn’t show much improvement in the last few years. He still is an intriguing prospect giving his combination of size, touch and face-up skills, but he didn’t have major scoring responsibilities for this team.
3) Great Britain
A team with lot of quality bodies and a strong group of athletes, Great Britain was a tough team to handle once combining proper aggressiveness to those characteristics. Big man Akwasi Yeboah (‘97) was named into the All-Tournament Team after finishing as his team’s top scorer (14.3 points per game) and three point shooter (1.6 threes made per game, on a 42.3%); he had his best scoring performances in the two games against Russia, and averaged also 4.7 rebounds per game. An undersized but strong and intense inside player, he was at his best when popping out to receive the ball behind the three point line, showing good touch off the catch and solid decisions against the closeout. Inside he showed potential to make plays as a roll man and a cutter. Wing Carl Wheatle (‘98) was Great Britain’s main perimeter player and ball-handler, impacting the game in many areas thanks to his combination of ball skills, strength and athleticism. He was able to create quick transition opportunities thanks to his ability to push the ball right off the defensive rebound and aggressively attack the basket, and created lot of shots both for himself and his teammates by attacking the basket to either finish or kick out the ball. He still needs to improve his decision making with the ball, as he tends to drive into the defense, and his jumper as well which has improved a bit lately but is still not reliable. Guard Rayell Eytle-Rock (‘98) was also solid, as a strong combo able to make plays off the dribble and create his own shot, even though his decision making also needs to improve.
One of the most talented teams in attendance, Croatia was able to get the promotion to Division A, led by guard Roko Badzim (‘97) who ended up in the All-Tournament Team. A tall guard with solid frame for his age, Badzim has average explosiveness but can easily create separation with his defender thanks to his advanced ball-handling and ability to use his body: he’s a smart and crafty player who can play both off the ball and with the ball, and he also shot 39% from behind the arc in the tournament. Forward Leo Cizmic (‘98) had a solid tournament as well, despite being bothered by some illness in the very first days of the competition: he clearly benefits from not having to be the main guy on offense, and was able to be effective as a scorer off the ball. He had his best game in the quarterfinals against Georgia, shooting well the ball and aggressively attacking the closeout to finish in the paint. Point guard Mate Kalajzic (‘98) was a key contributor as well, thanks to his strength, change of pace and creativity in the paint.
Host team of Romania was able to shock Russia and Croatia in consecutive games to win the tournament, with a hard-nosed team which made up for its lack of talent with toughness and team plays. Center Emanuel Cate (‘97) was named MVP after averaging 15.7 points, 12.7 rebounds (2nd in the competition), 5.3 offensive rebounds (1st), 2.5 assists, 1.5 steals and 2.5 blocks (1st): Cate’s frame is strong and well developed, his size and length were hard to match at this level of competition, and he showed high level motor and toughness in the paint. Never afraid to throw his body around and battle inside, his scoring range is still quite limited but he has good hands to catch the ball and can score around the rim. All-around forward Nandor Kuti (‘97) didn’t have an efficient tournament from a scoring perspective, but his presence and impact in many areas of the game earned him also a spot in the All-Tournament Team. A tough and emotional player, he was extremely active on both ends of the floor, having a key impact on defense and rebounding the ball very well. Forward Bogdan Nicolescu (‘97) had also a decent tournament, shooting well from beyond the arc and playing aggressive defense while covering both forward spots.
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