By Artau Pascual

The 2024 FIBA U17 World Cup ended yesterday in Istanbul. For the seventh time in a row, the USA National Team won the trophy. This time it was against Italy, in a game resolved by a 41-point difference: 88-129. Players like AJ Dybantsa stated to the world why they are so highly touted, and Cam Boozer was crowned as the MVP after a 24-point performance. The US roster displayed unbelievable athleticism, defense and competitive mindset and blew out every opponent they found in front of them.

However, ignoring the result, this FIBA U17 World Cup event was useful to get to know new players and see firsthand how most of the ones we already know performed in a different scenario, with a new role and approach. Let’s take a look at some takeaways the tournament left.

Time to get used to Fabian Kayser

Two U15 players were part of the FIBA U17 World Cup: Nathan Soliman and Fabian Kayser. We have already seen Soliman in many events: he already played in the 2023 U16 FIBA European Championship, as well as he has already played consistently for INSEP in ANGT’s and local games. For Kayser, the World Cup was a way to introduce himself to the mainstream youth basketball landscape. And so he did.

Germany struggled to compete against the best teams in the event and Kayser’s shooting results were inconsistent, but even under these circumstances, he had various eye-catching sequences. Standing at 6’7, Kayser fits the mold of the tall ball-handler with highly reliable shot-creation and shotmaking skills at multiple levels. Not only this, but he also was able to make the right read driving and dishing against older competition and slowed down the game frequently. Kayser has many big-time traits and projects as a player who will be able to handle the offense. Playing a significant number of games in less than ten days affects a 15-year-old player's consistency, but anyway, he found a path to display glimpses of his potential. He was a big reason for the best stretches of the German NT. A great example of this is how he took a leading role against Egypt in a one-point win.

Hugo Yimga Moukouri’s performance

It was a tough event for the French National Team. After a competitive first half against the USA NT in their World Cup opener -probably the best minutes any team played against the Champions-, the French NT struggled to deliver at the expected level for the rest of the games.

2008-born, 6’8 Forward Hugo Yimga Moukouri was one of the few green lights for the French NT. The INSEP product excelled in a role that looks completely translatable for him at the next level: he was a relentless threat at challenging the offensive board, showed up as an efficient cutter for most of the time, and made an impact driving in a straight line. Hugo’s go-to attribute is strength, and he uses it greatly to finish in the paint, clearing space for himself using his shoulders and playing through contact. Even if developing a vertical leap is still a work in progress for him, he already knows how to take advantage of his qualities on the offensive end. Hugo’s ceiling will be determined by how much he can improve his perimeter shooting, maybe speeding up the shooting release will be necessary to do so, but he’s already helpful and appears to buy in a role that suits his strengths.

An interesting trend we saw in some games in this FIBA U17 WC was him being used as a main guy to attack the zone, with a big being placed at the baseline (usually Noa Kouakou-Heugue). Against China, France based a part of their offense on this tool, and Hugo’s answer was positive because he was able to attack slower and taller opponents face-up, short distances successfully.

Gildas Giménez’s role projection

It’s been a strange season for Gildas Giménez. The 2007-born, 6’6 dealt with a smaller role for the main part of the season with Real Madrid, so he didn’t have the chance to take it where he left it in the FIBA U16 WC. For a 17-year-old player, changing the role and approach from one month to another is a difficult thing to do, and that’s what he had to do for the Spanish U17 NT.

Gildas doesn’t have to be evaluated as a player with a primary offensive role. He’s another type of thing: he’s elite at filling the lanes in transition, he can earn his way to the rim attacking slower opponents in space, and he does his best to provide second chances to his team. The outside shot still needs development and repetitions, and his closeout attacking ability is a work in progress. What stands out from his game, and what makes him a high-level prospect among the 2007 generation, is his defense. At the current level, Gildas is a 1-4 defender who can match up with the best player on the opponent team without struggling at it. His defensive fundamentals are great: he does a solid task at mirroring ball-handlers, he can navigate screens -or switch at the current level- and his shot-blocking and anticipation talent are off the charts. Will he still works to figure out some tactical things, his instincts, and physical/athletic attributes make a key impact in every game he takes part in.

Luigi Suigo is trending up

The 7’1 Italian Big has been one of the main stories in Europe across the entire 2024 year. The EA7 Milano big had an OK performance in Belgrade back in March, left a good impression in Berlin for the ANGT Finals, stood out at the BWB Europe event on the first weekend of June and, finally, established himself as one of the most exciting prospects in the 2007-born European age group in Istanbul.

Suigo is a big and long player who made an impact as a rim protector during important stretches of Italy’s route to the Finals. He helped change the game against Australia because of his presence in the paint, and he also was the main reason why Felipe Quiñones’ didn’t feel comfortable driving and getting to the rim against Italy in the first half -Italy had a report in front of the players in the bench that pointed how critical it was to pack the paint against him-. On the offensive end, he keeps improving as a finisher through contact and put into practice some post moves that were productive enough, as well as he was also able to read how he could hit his teammates in easy reads. Suigo also showed he’s a smart floor stretcher: his outside shooting volume was limited, but he did well playing off high screens and when he had to shoot the ball, he didn’t pass on open looks and his mechanics looked consistent and quick. His development still has many ways to go, and he’s far from being a finished product, but the mix of skills on both ends of the floor makes him an appealing player. 

Felipe Quiñones’ second appearance in Europe

Felipe Quiñones played for Real Madrid in a Minicopa event a few years ago. In that event, the 2008-born, 6’6 Puerto Rico Guard established himself as an impressive ball-handler with insane courtmapping talent. Undeniable NBA ceiling. Back then, Felipe had a great ability to generate off-pick and roll, both individual and team-oriented who could play at multiple paces. In his European return, this time in Istanbul, he showed up being a different player and led PR to a cool run.

Felipe’s first games were quiet. Even if it’s true that a month before he was playing in the FIBA Americup U18 and his warm-up for the U17 WC was complicated, he didn’t display the level of offensive aggressiveness expected from him. Everything changed when he erupted for a 42-point performance against France in a game that was, hands down, the most significant one to evaluate a prospect like him. Against France, Quiñones put up a masterclass on how to put in jail his opponents in pick&roll and got every single shot he wanted. He established himself as the best ball-handler out of the ones in the USA NT.

Quiñones needs to keep working on his burst, acceleration, and craftiness on the drive to become an even more unpredictable player, but he’s already elite at manipulating the game and slowing down the pace. He keeps the angles alive, plays with the distance with the defender, and picks up the spots he wants at will. The shot isn’t still consistent, but his mechanics off the dribble look clean and quick and when he gets hot, he has NBA range. Let’s add to the mix that his body language and interaction with the teammates when the game was down the stretch was also remarkable, even with some veteran behavior in certain situations to disallow the opponent team from getting advantages. Quiñones dealt fairly well against star-like defenses, and he did it very well.