From 3rd to 5th of January we attended Baltic Sea Basketball Cup in Tallinn for the first time. Tournament gathers U16 & U18 national teams from Estonia, Latvia, Sweden and Finland. Usually not all the best players participate in this event due to obligations with their clubs but still there were some big names in the rosters and it’s always good to see if countries have more depth in particular generations. Below notes on the standouts from U18 age group and full tourney recap for registered users.
HENRI DRELL (6’8, Estonia)
Arguably top Estonian prospect was really disappointing during the tournament in his homeland. He seems like a potential future star given his size, good low dribble, isolation moves and long strides. However while his upside is hard to match for most of the peers reality keeps raising questions whether he ever achieves it. After successful FIBA U18s where he contributed in big degree to the triumph in Division B a lot of people were hoping him to dominate this event. Drell was unable to take over games even though he tried but at times his wrong shot selection caused totally opposite effect. He doesn’t have locked in mentality and can get lost in action on the floor. His feel for the game looked poor at times – delayed many passes which ruined the tempo of possessions and chance for an easy buckets. He still has tendency to overdribble and makes mistakes which just doesn’t befit top prospects. It’s really questionable if he becomes difference maker on high level but with improved understanding of the game and mental aspects he can still work out as valuable secondary or third main offensive option thanks to his tools and skills.
MIKAEL JANTUNEN (6’9, Finland)
In 1997 generation HBA had Markkanen, 1999 Elias Valtonen and 2000 is definitely headlined by Miakel Jantunen. Finnish forward one more time proved himself as a legitimate High Major candidate. While he is not the type of offensive dominator and typically for the guy coming from interior/center background his shot is still not a threat at all, he provides other countless values for the team. 6’9 player has well proportionate frame, good no step jump and is capable of switching pick and roll plays onto guards. He is comfortable handling the ball and sharing it also at full speed which makes him asset in transition offense. He executes advantage with his back to the basket and is very unselfish. Mobility, rebounding instincts and good body control on straight line drives complete his versitality.
ERIK PERSSON (6’3, Sweden)
Swedish combo guard is an underrated prospect from 2000 generation. Currently resides in new Spanish academy (SBA) and participates in one tier below EBA Liga which would definitely be more appropriate for his development. Persson is extremely efficient scorer on youth level who displays top notch shooting skills. He possess great individual technique. Footwork, handles and coordination allow him to create enough space to get the shoot off the dribble almost at will. He is not overly quick but makes up for the lack of explosiveness with his pace shifting ability. He is also plus defender when he digs in. On the other hand his size is very average and so so playmaking ability raises questions whether he can translate his game on the good European senior level. He doesn’t get to the rim enough and his pick and roll reads are average in best case scenario. Needs to broaden his offensive repertoire to become more than very capable scorer but on low level.
ANRIJS MISKA (6’9, Latvia)
One of the Top 2000 born Latvian prospects decided to go back to his country on loan this season. We can say he followed Rinalds Malmanis way and this decision turned out to be very prosperous. Miska already had a lot of good games with Valmiera pro team where he scored in double digits multiple times. He looked like a different player. Stepped up mentally and played with toughness which at times was even borderline fair. There is also slight improvement in his body. He may not have imposing frame but it seems like he works a lot on strength & conditioning in general. Played both 4-5 positions but makes effort to take his game more and more outside which is promising regarding his average length for Center. Shooting is still not overly consistent but he can definitely go back to Spain better and more ready to contribute.