The second window of the EuroBasket 2022 Qualifiers ended last night. The event looked very promising for young European prospects due to the absence of the most important players in every country but their presence in the court was very limited eventually. The importance of every game in the qualification made coaches to rely more on their veteran core. These Qualifiers were supposed to be exciting considering that many European prospects such as Yannick Kraag (‘02), Fedor Zugic (‘03), Augustas Marciulionis (‘02) or Cameron Hildreth (‘02) were called up for the first time with their senior National Teams but none of them had the opportunity to show their skills.
Biel Colominas breaks down the best European prospects who took part in the first window of the season.
Which young player shined the most?
Elias Valtonen (‘99) had a great show for Finland, even though they couldn’t get any win against Georgia and Serbia. The Finnish wing did a little bit of everything on the court, averaging 17.7 points, 10.1 rebounds and 5.1 assists per 40 minutes. Covering mainly the small forward position, Valtonen was great moving off the ball for his team, filling empty spaces, creating passing lanes and using his first step to get downhill when receiving the ball on the move. Valtonen was pretty good on defense but he keeps showing a certain lack of self creation skillset and an average shooting ability which is concerning if he doesn’t keep improving.
Did anyone exceed your expectations?
Clearly Alperen Sengun (‘02). Yes, he is having a tremendous season with Besiktas in the Turkish first division, but in a team with Shane Larkin and the responsibility to win games to keep their options alive, he really got a lot of minutes and was very productive as a 18 year old rookie. His athletic limitations and an already developed body are a real issue in terms of upside but Sengun has proved that he can be a solid contributor at the pro level right now thanks to his toughness, strength, high IQ and willingness to play physically. He was at his best when playing the center position alongside a stretch four, since he needs a lot of space when rolling or playing one-on-one in the low post. Sengun averaged 9 points and 6 rebounds in 18 minutes.
Was there any under the radar player who has put himself in a better position after this window?
Bosnia & Herzegovina had in Kenan Kamenjas (‘00) an impressive producer at a center and was an important contributor to earn a ticket for the EuroBasket 2022. Kamenjas, who is also having a breakout season in ABA Liga 2 with Spars, is an undersized big with a very strong and compact body. He plays with a high motor and toughness and was great running the court and finishing in dynamic situations out of P&R or moving off the ball. His shooting form and touch from the free-throw line look pretty good, and he even scored a standstill three point shot with very consistent form. His lack of size, length and athleticism limit his projection as a long term player. Kamenjas finished the event averaging 15.5 points and 5 rebounds in 26 minutes.
Is there any NBA Draft prospect who has raised his stock with his performance?
There was actually a lack of potential NBA players in these Qualifiers. It would have been a very good test for Usman Garuba (‘02), to try himself in a different scheme than the primary defender rim protector role that is playing in Real Madrid, but he had to remain with his team playing Euroleague. Also, he is a solid candidate to join the Spanish National Team in the upcoming Olympic Games. So without Garuba, the only real candidate was Roko Prkacin (‘02), who had a good opportunity to translate his solid performances and leadership from Cibona to a less talented Croatian team. In his first appearance with the Croatian National Team, Prkacin looked shy on the floor and made some mistakes. Still, he displayed flashes on his well-known versatility, athleticism and high basketball IQ.
There were some players who are currently playing in Europe that attended the Africa and America Qualifiers. Has any player cracked your eye there?
In America, Jean Montero (‘03), our #2 in the 2003-born ranking, made his debut with the Dominican Republic National Team in the win against Cuba and he exhibited his strong personality scoring 7 points in 6 minutes. Gael Bonilla (‘03) was called up with Mexico but he couldn't make it to Indiana so the first minutes of the most awaited player out of his country will have to wait a little bit more. Regarding the Africa Qualifiers, Blois forward Mbaye Ndiaye (‘99) had a great showing for an unbeaten Senegal. Ndiaye has a ridiculously impressive frame with his wide shoulders and huge wingspan. He has a huge impact on defense, where can match multiple positions. His game is still raw in terms of fundamentals and understanding of what is going on and his shot is still inconsistent, but he has instincts. For Central African Republic, Allan Dokossi (‘99) was the best performer of the team averaging 12 points, 7 rebounds (4 on the offensive end) and 2.7 steals in 19 minutes. Dokossi, who is currently playing for For-sur-Mer, is a lefty forward who plays with relentless energy on the court. He stands out for his aggressive slashing ability on offense, and his instincts to cut passing lanes on defense. His shooting mechanics are something to work on and he lacks a self-creation skillset though.