Our Reinaldo Bessa
and Pietro Cristofori
attended the event, and below they answer to some key questions from the tournament.
The FIBA U17 World Cup was loaded of talent. Who was the best player in the competition?
: We both have to agree with Flagg on this topic, I have to go with Izan Almansa
. He was the MVP of the tournament and, even though he lost the final, he dominated the boards and used his IQ to crush the opponents. With his wide frame, he’s also capable of running the floor tremendously well for a big man. There was no match for him, with his double-double average showing for that.
: The best player probably was Aday Mara
, who led Spain to an unexpected silver medal. His impact on all the games was a key factor: above average passing ability, good touch from the mid-range. In the Final Game vs Team USA, he also added 5 blocks to his statsheet. Cooper Flagg
, as you said, deserves a mention. The 2006-born forward standing at 6’7 has impressive basketball IQ, and he has been a huge factor for Team USA. He was arguably the best all-around defender in the competition. He can do a little bit of everything on the floor, and he has plenty of room in his body to fill out.
It was the 7-footers tournament: Mara, Sarr, Zikarsky. How big was their impact in the competition?
: Mara is really a special talent with an unmatched passing ability for a big man. On the other hand, Alexandre Sarr
performed below the expectations, as I would expect him way more dominant after one season playing fast paced and physical basketball abroad. Rocco Zikarsky
was one of the main attractions: standing at 7’1, his reach seems humongous. Has great hands to catch and finish hard at the rim. Struggled against more physical bigs, and has a clear lack of strength with trouble for sealing plays. On defense he’s a great rim protector, but lacks lateral movement.
Apart from Mara, lots of eyes were on Alexandre Sarr, to see how he developed over the last season. On the defensive end he’s a game-changer, since he covers plenty of ground with his long strides, and thanks to his long wingspan he can block many shots. On offense he can stretch the floor, or shoot over the head of his defender. His footwork is elite and this helps him a lot on the both ends of the floor. Rocco Zikarsky had a tournament with highs and lows. The 2006-born is the best upcoming Aussie prospect: incredible feel for positioning standing at 7’1. His standing reach is close to 10-feet. Very mobile for his size, the big-man is a high level rim-protector: he was the best shot-blocker in the tournament. On offense, his game is limited to the paint and he’s a catch-and-finisher guy.
Was there any under-age prospect that stood out?
Reinaldo: Hugo Gonzalez
is a no-brainer when talking about under-aged prospect, but also is Team USA's Koa Peat
. He was the tournament’s youngest player but his body frame didn’t suggest that. With great athleticism, Peat didn’t shy away from contacts and used the most out of his strength to play a physical and fast-paced game, that finished with soft touch at the rim. He has great positioning on defense, resulting on multiple charges drawn and being able to guard multiple positions.
Hugo Gonzalez had an incredible tournament in Malaga. The 6’4 shooting-guard proved himself as one of the best players in his generation. Gonzalez is a slasher with a high level mix of ball-handling and explosiveness. Three-level scorer. He’s tough-minded. Good effort on the defensive end, where he can guard both the 2 and 3 spots. Also, Team USA's Koa Peat is a guy to mention. Standing at 6'7, Peat has an incredible frame for his age. Physically dominant and also very mobile. He drives at the rim with ease and plays through contact. His feet are quick and he can easily switch on guards.
The Spain-France semifinal was arguably the best game in the tournament. What was the key factor in Spain's W?
: The big man tandem of Mara and Almansa gave them the inside dominance and great pick&roll advantages, outdoing France bigs play after play. That opened up space for Lucas Langarita
to use his scoring instincts and do what he does best. They were pushed by the huge crowd that filled the gym. In the French side, the two main players were Killian Malwaya
and Zaccharie Risacher
. We should highlight the consistency and assertiveness of Risacher, who despite not scoring in bunches did a really solid performance overall. We should also signal Malwaya’s explosiveness and high motor. He was key with several putbacks, one of his strongest assets.
: Spain played at a high intensity for the whole game, pushed by the enormous home-crowd. Conrad Martinez
was a key factor in the game since Sergio De Larrea was struggling against the physicality of French guards. Conrad added pace and consistency to Spain backcourt. Alvaro Folgueiras
had a tremendous impact on both ends of the floor. Versatile forward standing at 6'8, Folgueiras attacked close-outs and knocked a couple of important 3-pointers. On the French side, Elidjah-Gabriel Lamart
had a good impact in the second half of the game. He didn't have that much playing time during the tournament: he's a lengthy, late bloomer PG, with intriguing defensive impact whose stock rose over the last week.
Almansa, Flagg, Fibleuil, Peat, Langarita. Do you agree with the Best 5?
: Joining Almansa, Flagg and Peat who we talked about above is Langarita: he was the man of the destiny for Spain, showing up his great scoring instincts when it mattered the most. As for the final spot, we could maybe discuss if Aday Mara, Hugo Gonzalez or even Ron Holland
should take it but there was no way to leave France’s main man out of this list. Ilane Fibleuil
, a step-upper, was the leader for France on every category except for assists, and his energy contributed for France’s deep run in the tournament.
This World Cup was stacked with talent, and actually it’s difficult to choose only five players. Honestly, Aday Mara is in my Best-5. Another guy I’d like to mention is Petras Padegimas,
who played an important role in Lithuania’s fourth place run. Padegimas is a powerful forward an impressive motor. He drives strong to the rim using his solid frame. Above average on-ball defender. He puts plenty of energy on the floor. He had a couple of double-doubles throughout the tournament.
After an intense Championship Game against host team Spain, the FIBA U17 World Cup held in Malaga saw Team USA celebrating the Gold medal, in front of a packed José María Martín Carpena Arena. The tournament was a great showcase for many kids around the globe to put their skills on display, making their stocks raise during the competition. France was able to claim the Bronze medal, beating Lithuania in the 3rd place game.