Leandro Bolmaro (’00) - Argentina, SG, 6’7
Bolmaro went down with an injury in his first game in Crete, after scoring 16 points in 12 minutes against Russia; he came back in the third game of the competition but wasn’t at his best for the rest of the tournament. The Barcelona shooting guard still showed to be one of the tournament’s best prospects: his speed and ball skills are above average for a player his size, he’s extremely fluid and natural with the ball in his hands and always shows aggressive attitude on the court.
Joel Ayayi (’00) - France, SG, 6’5
Named to the All-Tournament Team, Ayayi had a strong showing in Crete and ended up averaging 20.9 points, 5.6 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 2.1 steals. He loves to handle the ball and is mostly effective off the dribble; lacking elite explosiveness and first step, he’s mostly comfortable using ball screens to beat his man. He shows good vision and passing skills coming out of the P&R, does a good job changing speed after the screen and has proper combination of touch and body control to finish around the rim, even though his scoring is heavily jump shot oriented. He’s solid shooter off the dribble from mid range, but his efficiency as a three point shooter is still below average.
Nikolaos Rogkavopoulos (’01) - Greece, SF, 6’7
The host country didn’t feature its best generation, as this same group ended up in the third to last spot at the 2018 FIBA U18 European Championship. Rogkavopoulos was the best prospect in his team, playing mainly off the ball and not handling it as much as with his age group. He has solid physical profile and decent overall athleticism for a wing and his non-stop motor is a big plus to his game. He’s an efficient shooter off the catch with extended range and showed some good plays attacking the closeout, even though his decision making with the ball is still quite erratic.
Arturs Kurucs (’00) - Latvia, 6’4, SG
Latvia had a tough tournament, mainly because of the absence of Artur Zagars, the team’s main creator. Kurucs had to take over tasks as primary ball-handler and creator, which he didn’t look suited to perform: he’s a shaky ball-handler against pressure and turns out to be turnover prone, being more efficient if he can start off the ball on offense and focus on scoring. He was the main scoring weapon for his team, using well his strength and aggressiveness to attack his defender; he has excellent balance and consistency in his pull up shot, can easily hit deep threes off the dribble and shows solid touch around the rim, even though his shot selection could be improved.
Rokas Jokubaitis (’00) – Lithuania, 6’4, PG
In a deep Lithuanian team which ended up in 4th place, Jokubaitis was the main emotional leader and the main reference in his team offense. Able to play at different speed, he was comfortable pushing the ball in transition, taking advantage of wider space to create both for himself or his teammates; he struggled more when opponents had time to put pressure on him, particularly against guards with elite physical and athletic profiles. He still did a nice job operating on the P&R in the halfcourt, easily setting his teammates up thanks to his high-level vision and quick passing decisions. Didn’t always take over from a scoring standpoint, but his shooting skills and his ability to finish with contact were on display.
Erikas Venskus (’00) – Lithuania, 6’9, C
Venskus had a solid showing in Crete, finishing as the top scorer and rebounder for Lithuania. Despite lacking explosiveness and size he had a big impact moving without the ball and finishing inside. He’s a very fluid big who moves well without the ball and has good hands to catch and finish inside; his touch is extremely soft and he can finish with both hands around the basket. He showed potential to extend his shooting range and hit some jumpers with confidence. The average physical and athletic profile will limit his upside though, particularly on the defensive end.
Siriman Kanoute (’01) – Mali, 5’9, PG
The little scoring guard from Nancy had a very good tournament, leading Mali to an historic second place and ending up in the All-Tournament Team after averaging 15.4 points, 5.1 assists, 2.4 steals (but also 4.7 turnovers). He’s a fun player to watch, playing with non-stop motor and at very high speed. He loves to push the ball in transition and is always in attack mode in the halfcourt. He has some serious shotmaking skills and a quick pull up jumper he can hit from very deep range. His shot selection and risky passes are too dangerous for his team offense right now, but he definitely bring an exciting spark to the game.
Nikita Mikhailovskii (’00) – Russia, 6’7, SG
One of the most awaited prospects in the tournament, Mikhailovskii had a positive tournament despite some up and down performances. After the first game vs Argentina where he finished with 0 points and 0/10 from the field, he followed up with a triple double against Greece (20 points, 13 rebounds, 12 assists). A big wing with elite playmaking skills, he showed once again his impressive ability as a ball-handler and creator, being able to change speed at will with the ball and see the whole court all the time. His focus into the game comes and goes and his shooting is still streaky, but he established himself as one of the most intriguing players in attendance.
Zakhar Vedischev (’00) – Russia, 6’5, SG/SF
Vedischev was a breakout player in Crete, as the most consistent producer for 5th placed Russia. He ended up as his team’s top scorer and three point shooter, averaging 16.5 points per game while shooting a total 21/52 from beyond the arc (40.4%). A wing with average size and explosiveness, he’s an elite shooter off the catch who can naturally hit shots off the dribble too and never shows any hesitations in taking responsibilities in crunch time. Despite not being an elite creator because of his lack athleticism, he showed good instincts with the ball too, properly operating on the P&R and displaying excellent vision and passing skills. His body language was erratic during the competition though.
Khalifa Diop (’02) – Senegal, 6’11, C
Senegal featured a big roster with a shortage of perimeter players, being forced to play with lineups too big and slow where the spacing was greatly sacrificed. A context like this was not the ideal situation to shine for their prospects, and Diop had his fair amount of troubles while playing most of the time with another center next to him. He showed his best things on the defensive end, where his impressive combination of footwork, strength and length allows him to easily be a huge factor at this level of competition. On offense he didn’t show major skills, finishing mostly close to the rim out of power moves, but his motor and rebounding presence were remarkable. His shot is not reliable yet, lacking consistent mechanics and displaying below average touch so far, but has some potential to expand his shooting range.
Biram Faye (’00) – Senegal, 6’9, C
Faye was the top performer for Senegal as he was mostly playing in his comfort zone and ended up being one of the most productive players in the tournament too: he averaged 19.4 points, 10 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 1.9 blocks per game. In an effort to display a more versatile skillset, he took a lot of shots from beyond the arc off the catch, connecting on them at a decent rate (13/42, 31%) but also settling too much on jumpers at times; he features a broken and not consistent form, but his improvements as a shooter are intriguing and worth to track (something which was also expressed by his encouraging 19/23 overall from the free throw line). He was extremely productive inside the paint, taking advantage of his strong body, physical approach and high-level motor, despite lacking a proper array of moves close to the basket. He also had a good showing on defense, using well his quick feet and reactivity to switch, contain and contest shots.
Amar Sylla (’01) – Senegal, 6’9, PF/C
Sylla resulted the most sacrificed player in the big lineups Senegal used for most of the tournament: he was asked to play mainly at the 3 spot, where he struggled because of his below average perimeter skills for the position and the poor overall spacing. Having below average ball-handling and shooting ability, he was mainly attacking on a straight line with his strong hand, often ending up right into the defense and not trusting his shot enough; he was asked to shoot too much from outside and shot a total 2/20 from three point range, lacking fluid and consistent mechanics. He was way more productive when able to play closer to the basket, where his quickness, athleticism and length were a real factor on both ends of the court. Averaged 12.6 points, 8.7 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 1.1 blocks per game.
Marko Pecarski (’00) - Serbia, 6’9, PF/C
Pecarski had yet another highly productive tournament at the youth level of competition, finishing as the top scorer in Crete and averaging 22.1 points and 8.6 rebounds. An extremely skilled scorer inside the arc, his wide array of solutions, his touch around the rim and his craftiness using fakes and pivot foot moves make up for his lack of athleticism, elite size and length. He’s a high-level rebounder thanks to his positioning, quickness and timing, often gathering contested rebounds and chasing the ball even outside of his area. Right now his shot selection is an issue, as he tends to always look for scoring and doesn’t show much willingness to pass the ball, but giving the average level of the Serbian backcourt he was requested to take over a major scoring load.
Filip Petrusev (’00) - Serbia, 6’11, C
Just like at 2018 FIBA European Championship, Petrusev formed a highly efficient scoring duo together with Pecarski, with Serbia putting a major importance on its frontcourt play. He made good use of his big frame and physical attitude to get deep position inside the paint and seal his defender, dealing well with contacts and going often to the free throw line. He showed very good touch around the rim and good passing skills facing the basket, but once again with the national team he was mainly used inside and not allowed to show much from the mid-range or the perimeter. He also ended up as one of the tournament’s top rebounder, showing good position and ability to keep his position around the basket. His defensive footwork will need some work.
Uros Trifunovic (’00) - Serbia, 6’6, SG
After a breakout showing at 2018 FIBA European Championship, Trifunovic had another strong tournament in Crete where he looked like the most interesting backcourt player in the Serbian team. A tall combo guard with still undeveloped body, he’s comfortable handling the ball and showed good awareness and decision making on the P&R. A crafty scorer with good touch at the basket, he still struggles to handle physical contacts in the paint because of his light frame. Despite some work needed on his shooting form, he shot the ball well in Crete, finishing with a total 11/29 (37.9%) from beyond the arc. His defensive game still needs major work, as he’s not always in proper stance and struggles from a physical standpoint.
Photo by fiba.basketball