By Pietro Cristofori

The first edition of the Play For Passion tournament was held in Bassano del Grappa, Italy from the 3rd to the 6th of March. The winner of the tournament was Real Madrid, beating host team Orange1 Bassano in a thrilling championship game.

Final standing:
1st: Real Madrid
2nd: Orange1 Bassano
3rd: Olimpia Milan
4th: FC Barcelona
5th: Stellazzurra Rome
6th: Bayern Munich
7th: Ratgeber Academy
8th: Promitheas Patras
Best 5:
Samuele Miccoli (Olimpia Milan)
Dame Sarr (Orange1 Bassano)
Dayan Nessah (FC Barcelona)
Hugo Gonzalez (Real Madrid)
Tiefing Diawara (Orange1 Bassano)
MVP: Ismaila Diagne (Real Madrid)

Ismaila Diagne (’06, Real Madrid) – 7’1, Center, Senegal
Ismaila Diagne was the most dominant big man in the tournament, and the MVP of the competition. Over the last year he added one inch and some muscles all over his body. He played a lot in the low post, where he displayed good vision and mobility. He also hit a couple of mid-range shots, also not easy ones. On the offensive glass he was a factor. On the defensive end, he can improve his rim protection and timing on the pick&roll defense. Overall, he was the true leader of the Madrid team: he has the right mentality and leadership.
Hugo Gonzalez (’06, Real Madrid) – 6’6, Wing, Spain
Gonzalez was one of the main players of the competition. His size and athleticism are elite for this level, with broad shoulders and quick feet. Really good use of his body. He’s a versatile shooter, with impressive slashing abilities. During the tournament he struggled from behind the arc, and shot selection is something to improve. Footwork is great. Defensively he’s improving - he was able to guard guards and forwards with consistency. His mindset is something he surely needs to improve: gets easily nervous, got ejected during the 1st place game.
Dame Sarr (’06, Orange1 Bassano) – 6’6, Guard, Italy
Dame Sarr had difficult times shooting the ball efficiently during the tournament, but he proved himself as the most talented player on the Bassano roster. He has plenty of room for development, both under the technical and physical aspect. Sarr looked really improved on the defensive end, as he has good lateral mobility and displayed good footwork. He got consistently over screens, and he was able to make up for his lack of strength thanks to his quick hands. He showed elite burst, beating almost everyone on the perimeter, getting himself an easy way to the rim.
Tiefing Diawara (’06, Orange1 Bassano) – 6’11, Center, Mali
Diawara had a positive tournament overall. Thanks to his lateral quickness he can switch on multiple position, and that makes him an extremely versatile defender, with good timing for blocks around the rim. His outside shooting is still a work in progress: during the tournament he played some pick&pop situations, but he struggled a lot shooting the ball there. Also, he showed good vision from the low post and nice moves on the pivot foot, sometimes struggling to finish against length.
Iker Garmendia (’06, Barcelona) – 6’7, Forward, Spain
The Spanish swingman was one of the most talented players in the whole tournament. His frame is skinny, but has long arms and room to fill out. Not the most athletic on the court, but his footwork is very good. He often runs pick&rolls, looking to create himself space for a shot, although he’s not a selfish kid. Barça’s offensive system was based a lot on his shooting abilities – he shot 6.0 3-pointers per game. His shooting form is quick and very efficient off the catch. Has good basketball IQ.
Dayan Nessah (’06, Barcelona) – 6’5, Wing, Switzerland
The Swiss swingman was the second most physical guard in the tournament. His offensive productivity is mainly based on points in the paint, where he has nice touch and verticality, and with size he can make room for himself anytime. At this level of competition, he can guard three positions, thanks to his combination of upper body strength and mobility. In the 3rd place game against Milan, he had a really solid performance with 22 points and 14 boards, carrying the team for three quarters.
Samuele Miccoli (’06, Olimpia Milan) – 6’3, Guard, Italy
Samuele Miccoli is a three-level scorer with plenty of strength in his lower body. He was the leader of Milan team, being both the initiator and the finisher most of the times. Miccoli can finish with either hand at the rim, after beating his defender thanks to his disruptive burst. This, mixed with good footwork, helps him creating plays and being a threat, both scoring or assisting. Pesky on-ball defender, he wasn’t a brilliant off-ball defender, losing focus every now and then, but he already made some improvements throughout the season.
Axel Piccirilli (’06, Stellazzurra Rome) – 6’5, Wing, Italy
Piccirilli was the most interesting guy on the Stellazzurra roster. He led the offense of his team and showed high basketball IQ. He has soft touch scoring from around the rim, and showed some very smooth finishes with which he made up for his lack of athleticism. He almost didn’t shoot the ball from long distance (0/2 in 4 games), and he gave up some of these shots to make an extra-pass or to attack a close-out.
Fynn Schott (’06, Bayern Munich) – 6’8, Center, Austria
On loan from 2nd division Austrian team Raiffeisen Furstenfeld, Schott is an impactful big man, that makes great use of his strong upper body and toughness, lacking some explosiveness. He’s a mobile big, setting solid screens and rolling fast to the basket, being able to finish with either hand around the rim. Good moving off the ball. Although he’s not that big, on defense he displays good feel for positioning, always ready to help and rotate on weak side. Basketball IQ is above average.
Gabor Lukacsi (’07, Ratgeber Academy) – 6’3, Combo Guard, Hungary
Lukacsi was the main standout of the hungarian side. Despite playing one year under age, he showed good personality and a solid array of moves. He needs to add plenty of muscles be able to handle this level of competition on both ends of the floor, but his slashing and ball-handling abilities make of him one of the most creative scorers in his generation. He’s still afraid of contacts finishing inside the paint, as he keeps taking mid-range floaters to avoid them. Good pick&roll player, can also spot the open man with nice looks. 3P efficiency is still erratic. Defensively has good instincts, but he's not a fighter.