By Pietro Cristofori

From December 16th to December 19th, in Tenerife (Canary Islands, Spain), was held the 24th edition of the U18 Fred Olsen Express Tournament. The seven participating teams were divided into two groups, and at the end, Joventut Badalona won the tournament after a thrilling final against Real Madrid (80-79).
Final Standings:
1) Joventut Badalona
2) Real Madrid
3) Canterbury Lions
4) CB Unelco
5) USK Prague
6) Orange1 Bassano
7) Isla de La Palma

Tournament Best-5:
Urban Klavzar (Real Madrid)
Jordi Rodriguez (Joventut Badalona)
Baba Miller (Real Madrid)
Abdou Aziz Ndiaye (CB Unelco)
Ruben Prey (Joventut Badalona)

Tournament MVP: Jordi Rodriguez (Joventut Badalona)

Below you can find some of the best performers in the tournament.

Baba Miller ('04, Real Madrid) - 6'11, Forward, Spain
The most interesting prospect of the tournament. He has grown a couple of inches in the last six months, and now he has turned into an extremely versatile 6'11 forward. On offense he’s nearly unstoppable, although it often looks like he doesn't play at his best, especially when playing against a top tier team, and the game starts going on a high intensity level (last quarter vs Joventut). For this reason, he had the highest FG made/possessions ratio of the entire competition. During the tournament, he displayed a unique combination of self- creation ability and physical tools, showing flashes of elite potential. On the defensive end he’s a disruptive rim protector, and he’s also a solid perimetral defender; that’s a really promising feature for his development.

Henri Veesaar ('04, Real Madrid) - 7'0, Center, Estonia
Veesaar is a big man who stretches the floor with efficiency and quality. Along the four days, he showed an impressive court vision for a 7'0 guy (and we should also add he is just 17 years old): a couple of full-court one-handed passes delivered with awesome timing and technique. In the final game vs Badalona, he scored just 8 points, but most of them during the crunch time. He puts energy on the court, plays tough. On defense, his rim-protection skills are impressive, and his length is a key factor to protect the paint.

Jordi Rodriguez ('04, Badalona) - 6'4, SG, Spain
Jordi Rodriguez was the main standout of the tournament. During the four days, the Spanish shooting guard displayed absolute confidence in most of the situations. His off-ball motor is really impressive. The way he prepares for taking a shot is outstanding for a 17-year-old guy: he sets his feet very quickly, and release is smooth. Although, in most of the situations he settles too much on three pointers, and he doesn’t really take advantage of the threat he is, and the attention he gathers from defense. He lacks elite athleticism and burst, but makes good use of his basketball IQ and high-level ball handling. Good hip mobility, he uses it a lot on offense to create space for his own pull-up.

Urban Klavzar ('04, Real Madrid) - 6'3, Guard, Slovenia
Urban Klavzar scored 24 points in the final game vs Badalona, shooting 10/11 from the free throw line. During the event, the Slovenian guard was mainly used as a primary handler, but I felt like he wasn't comfortable with the creating tasks he had – always looking to create for himself first. Klavzar has outstanding scoring instincts, and this might be the key to his future projection. He still needs to work on his decision making. He makes up for his lack of size with his strong upper body and nice explosiveness. He’s a very good 1vs1 defender, putting full-court pressure on the ball during all the 40 minutes.

Ruben Prey ('05, Badalona) - 6'10, Forward, Spain
After this tournament, Ruben Prey met the expectations and confirmed himself as one of the top prospects in his generation. What impressed the most about his offensive game was the ease with which he finished around the rim: his elite footwork and touch around the rim have made him a nearly unstoppable force throughout the tournament. In the final game he hit two three-pointers, both of them from pick&pop plays. Also, his eye-hand coordination is impressive for a guy of that role and size. On the defensive end, he makes up for his lack of upper body strength – which makes him struggle a bit around the rim – with exceptional timing and verticality. His defensive versatility was one of the main reasons why Joventut won the tournament: his combination of length and lateral mobility makes him an extremely intriguing defensive prospect.
Jan Vide ('05, Real Madrid) - 6'6, Guard, Slovenia
Jan Vide is one of the most intriguing prospects in the whole 2005 generation. He’s a combo guard with elite creation skills and scoring instincts, mixed with above-average size for his role. Although, in the final game during the 26 minutes he was on the floor, he didn't look that involved in Real's offense. His decision making is really good: he’s always under control, knowing when to increase the pace of the game and when to slow it down. He’s a great pick&roll player, feeding continuously his bigs on the roll. His live-dribble passes are efficient. He has very good positional size and this helps him in terms of versatility and impact under the boards.

Abdul Aziz Ndiaye ('05, CB Unelco) - 6'8, F/C, Senegal
Ndiaye was the most explosive player in Tenerife. Thanks to his outstanding leaping ability, he’s a disruptive force under the offensive glass. The energy he puts on the both ends of the floor brings up also all of his teammates’ intensity. Throughout the tournament he showed some flashes of low post creation, displaying a nice touch and feel for the basket. Abdul Aziz is a mobile and versatile defender who can switch on multiple positions, and at the same time protect the rim with good results.

Ismaila Diagne ('06, Real Madrid) - 6'11, Center, Senegal
Despite playing two years under age, Ismaila Diagne was probably the main rim protector of the tournament alongside Ruben Prey. On the offensive end, his contribution is pretty limited: he’s just a finisher, and his productivity is limited to the paint. He moves well off the ball around the rim, and he’s always ready to grab the ball in the dunker spot and finish. Thanks to his combination of size and frame, Diagne is a game-changing defender. The main question mark on his defensive game is his footwork, and his timing on the pick&roll coverage; but he has plenty of time to work and improve.

Dame Sarr ('06, Orange1 Bassano) - 6'4, Guard, Italy
Guard who can also handle the ball, Sarr stands out for his self-creation skills and physical upside. He’s a three-level scorer with good shooting mechanics, and very good touch with either hand around the basket. During the tournament, he also displayed nice court vision and promising explosiveness for his role. He recently improved athletically, and despite having a lot of room for improvement under this aspect, he showed he can already withstand a high level. Tough mindset on the court, he loves to step up helping his teammates in tough moments. At times he has to improve his shooting selection. He must add some strength all over his body: at the moment his frame is too weak for high level.