Final standings: 1) Red Star Belgrade 2) Stellazzurra Academy Rome 3) USK Prague 4) Get Better Academy Prague 5) Apollo Amsterdam 6) IBAM Munich 7) Get Better Academy (U18) 8) NBA Academy Africa
All-Tournament Team: Zoran Paunovic (Red Star Belgrade – MVP), Patrick Mwamba (NBA Academy Africa – Top Scorer), Jordan Bayehe (Stellazzurra Academy Rome), Radek Farsky (USK Prague), Marek Welsch (Get Better Academy Prague)
8) NBA Academy Africa
In a highly balanced tournament, the NBA Academy from Dakar, Senegal went in a matter of just one game from being able to compete for the first spot to have to play to avoid the last. They ended up in the last place, but getting their only win against the champions of Red Star Belgrade.
A brand new program still building his own structure, they featured a raw roster with promising physical and athletic upside but still poor basketball skills.
Congolese small forward Patrick Mwamba (’99) ended up as the tournament’s top scorer and was named to the All-Tournament Team, carrying most of his team’s offense. Mwamba has a very good frame, with wiry body and long wingspan which he was effective using also on the defensive end; on offense he still needs to improve his ball-handling and outside shooting, but showed decent instincts with the ball in his hands and was able to efficiently drive and finish at the basket. Senegalese center Ibou Badji (’02) has a very impressive frame, standing at 7’1 with long arms and promising upper body, and showed above average fluidity and explosiveness considering his age and size; but he’s still at the very beginning in terms of IQ and fundamentals, showed poor instincts for the game and a very immature attitude on the court.
7) Get Better Academy (U18)
The second team of Get Better Academy featured a younger group of 2000 and 2001 players, which competed extremely hard but obviously lacked something in terms of experience and physical development.
The most intriguing prospect in this group was Slovakian center Tomas Pavelka (’00), a 7’2 player coming from some decent showing at last FIBA U18 European Championship Division A. Still raw in his understanding of the game and physically not fully developed yet, Pavelka has started to improve his frame, which has potential to fill up extremely well. He’s a long and mobile center who covers ground easily on defense and brings intimidation at this level of competition, despite still learning timing and spacing. His combination of size and mobility is definitely worth to be tracked. Power forward Lubos Kovar (’00) was the most consistent performer for his team: a strong and aggressive player who always bounces around with high motor, Kovar is a dynamic contributor inside the paint, chasing rebounds outside of his area and showing willingness to throw his body around; he’s also effective on the perimeter, either shooting off the catch or attacking the basket on a straight line.
6) IBAM Munich
IBAM featured one of the most intriguing prospects in attendance in lefty guard Joshua Obiesie (’00), a late bloomer who still doesn’t look aware of his full potential. Obiesie has a high-level physical and athletic profile for his position, and showed to be able to create off the dribble for both himself and his teammates, with good vision and pace. He’s still not as aggressive as his talent would allow him, but is surely a player to keep an eye on as he gets more confidence in his skillset. Obiesie won the Three-Point Shooting Contest and had a nice run also in the Slam Dunk Contest in Prague. Forward Isaiah Ihnen (’00) showed some flash of talent, being comfortable in handling the ball, slashing to the basket and even playing some P&R as a ball-handler. His body is still extremely skinny and undeveloped, and despite his size and length he struggled a lot in absorbing contacts and finishing in the paint.
5) Apollo Amsterdam
A quite disciplined and tough team willing to share the ball, Apollo Amsterdam looked solid in Prague. Elite prospect Tristan Enaruna (’01) bounced back extremely well after a disappointing showing at last FIBA U16 Division B: the Dutch forward looked more aggressive and willing to carry the offense, making plays off the dribble, finishing strong at the rim and generally showing a better attitude on the court. A smooth player with an elite physical and athletic combination, Enaruna will need to show such a mental approach on a constant basis to maximize his enormous potential. Tristan’s older brother, forward Iyen Enaruna (’99), also had a good tournament: he also has intriguing size, length and athleticism and, despite lacking Tristan’s high-level talent, he showed solid versatility, making lot of intangibles plays on both ends of the court. Iyen was also quite proactive on offense, taking shots without hesitation and finishing at a decent rate inside, despite struggling to create his own conclusion.
4) Get Better Academy
The host team ended up in 4th place, placing Marek Welsch (’99) in the All-Tournament Team. The fearless little point guard as always played with unlimited confidence, showing sometimes shaky shot selection but always keeping opponents’ defense on the lookout. An advanced ball-handler with a strong change of pace off the dribble, Welsch plays bigger than his size, not being afraid of throwing his body around; his quick shooting motion and vision as a passer off the dribble are valuable tools, and his leadership is a key component of this GBA team. Forward Jakub Dombek (’98), who also won the Dunk Contest, showed some promising improvement in his confidence and consistency with the ball in his hands, making few big plays on both ends of the court during the tournament; but he’s still far from being a developed player and will need to work a lot on both his body and his offensive skillset. Slovakian center Maros Zeliznak (’99) was also solid in Prague, using well his strong body to battle inside, rebounding the ball and not being afraid to push and seal in the low post; he’s a fluid big man who can catch and finish well inside the paint, but sometimes his scoring production was hampered by the limited number of quality passes thrown at him.
3) USK Prague
A loss in the final seconds against Apollo Amsterdam was the only one in the tournament for USK Prague, but was still enough to keep them in just the 3rd spot in the final standings. A competitive team with solid guard plays, they placed shooting guard Radek Farsky (’99) in the All-Tournament Team. Farsky is a quite explosive scorer with very good ball skills, able to easily create his shot off the dribble and score from virtually any spot on the court, displaying also a consistent jumper with range extended from well beyond the three point line. His decision making is not always up to the task and his passing instincts are average at best, something that can hurt his team in certain situations, but when it comes to scoring the ball he can heat up at any time. Wing Patrick Samoura (’00) also had a key role for USK, coming up big with few pivotal plays in crunch time: a strong, aggressive slasher who can easily make his way to the basket and get many foul calls, he’s a good finisher around the rim but still lacks confidence as an outside shooter.
2) Stellazzurra Rome
Stellazzurra brought a big, tough roster in Prague, which was able to play stretches of high-level defense thanks to its aggressiveness and length, but struggled to consistently score the ball on the other end of the court.
Cameroonian big man Jordan Bayehe (’99) ended up in the All-Tournament Team, after establishing himself as one of the toughest and most physical big men in Prague: an excellent defensive player with length, footwork and strength who are tough to match at this level of competition, he’s a relentless rebounder on both ends of the court and can finish decently around the rim, catching with ease off P&R situations. He’s trying to improve his shooting range on offense, taking jumpers from as far as from beyond the three point line. Forward Paul Eboua (’00) was one of the most awaited prospects in the tournament: a freakish athlete with an impressive physical profile, Eboua is filling up extremely well his frame and can be a disruptive player on defense thanks to his amazing footwork and length. He played both forward positions in Prague, but showed to be more comfortable playing the power forward spot: he still lacks consistency in his perimeter skillset, while he’s hard to stop inside being that much dynamic and athletic.
1) Red Star Belgrade
The Serbian team won the tournament in Prague, crushing Stellazzurra in the final. They featured a roster with good length and aggressiveness, able to put opponents in troubles when increasing the defensive pressure. Shooting guard Zoran Paunovic (’00) was the leader of the team and had a key role on both ends of the court, finishing as the tournament’s MVP. Paunovic, who was already named in the All-Tournament Team at last ANGT Belgrade, is taking advantage of an increased role as a ball-handler in his team after the departures of Aleksa Uskokovic and Stefan Momirov: while last year was used mainly off the ball, in Prague he had major responsibilities to create off the dribble both for himself and his teammates. He’s an aggressive player with strong first step, and plays at a decent pace with the ball in his hands, but his ball-handling and his P&R game will need to take a step up to be effective at a higher level of competition. Paunovic was also extremely valuable on defense, as an aggressive defender on the ball with quick hands to force plenty of turnovers. Another key contributor for Red Star was forward Nemanja Popovic (’01), who already made himself a name at last FIBA U16 European Championship in Podgorica. Still very young, having just turned 16, Popovic has a skinny but promising frame, with excellent size and length and elite footwork for his position. He was among the most impressive defensive players in the tournament, and on offense showed high IQ and versatility, despite still lacking proper shooting range.
Photo by Instagram (@gbacademyeu)
The second edition of Young Guns GBA Invitational, organized by Get Better Academy in Prague, took place from the 18th to the 21st of December.