The summer of 2017 was without question the summer of the British youth hoops: 3 national teams competing in European Division B for the first time (U16 and U18 teams never did so as Great Britain before) and as result 3 semi-finals, 2 medals (silver and bronze), and 2 promotions to FIBA Europe Division A. After this huge hit, we wonder: what do we know about British youth basketball? Raw. Underrated. On the rise. Here in Eurospects we read some weeks ago about 99 born wing Kayne Henry-McCalla, one of the studs of this new British baller generation who chose to learn their trade in USA, working their way through the JuCo system. The dream in those cases is playing College Hoops and afterwards professionally at the higher possible level. But prior to this American adventure, where did this young and well-travelled bunch of British guys start balling and developing within a competitive environment? Aside from the special case of Henry-McCalla, who played in another minor competition named ABL, the Elite Academy Basketball League (EABL) has become the usual path for the most talented U19 prospects based in the UK. Divided into two conferences, East and West, this is the premier U19 School competition in England, and it’s entering its 8 th year of existence. Generally speaking, the EABL includes the top basketball academies and colleges in the country, with the objective of providing quality competition for the best young players while they complete their studies. With the 2017-18 season well under way, we bring you a so-called Mid-Season Roster; not just with the guys who are putting numbers week in and week out, but also with the ones who we consider have a bigger upside and will be ready to compete professionally in the near future. It’s just a game, but let’s assemble a team, let’s build a roster, let’s talk British youth hoops.
Sesan Russell (99) 6’1 PG / Charnwood Riders / Class 2018. A man among boys.
Oluwasesan Russell was at the heart of last summer’s British youth hoops explosion as the main PG for the first ever U18 GB team. They got a silver medal and promotion to Division A in Tallinn, and after coming back to the EABL Russell has picked up where he left off last summer. Current EABL leader in two different categories, assist and steals, Sesan has the experience and maturity to be top dog at this level, reading the game efficiently while looking to move the ball around to bring in his teammates, and also being able to create plays off his own drive. Usually calm and reassured, Russell plays head-up with a pass first approach, but still can turn into an offensive option especially if his team needs production and doesn’t rush his shot selection. However, where he really stands out is in D, putting his legs to work and using his notable wingspan to steal the ball often, or slow down the rival’s play and set the tone for the whole team: you surely don’t want him pressing on you full court. Expanding his offensive skill set, working on a mid-range game and creating his own shoot are the natural steps in his evolution. The Charnwood PG has an ideal approach and qualities for learning through hard work on the court, and surely we’ll see him doing so at a higher level.
Michael Anumba (99) 6’3 Guard / Loreto College / Class 2018. Built like a tank.
Michael Anumba is built like a tank, and he’s got a jumper. There was no surprise last season when he was named West Conference defensive player of the year: powerful legs, quick hands and overall impressive physical profile to shut down any rival. As we know, stoppers can win games, but in Anumba’s case he can also win them in the other end by scoring at you. Because of that, he has become one of the hot names to watch in England, and holds the Deng Camp #1 this campaign. Although he plays mainly as PG, he’s still our choice for the secondary guard spot and it’s obvious why. He can put the ball in the rim in an impressive variety of ways: firstly using his solid jumper, natural and fluid off the dribble, although he too has long shoot range/3pts menace, which still needs bits of work in the catch and shoot. However, he can be just as productive as a driver and off the bounce, bringing lots of energy with a strong first step and a bag of ball fakes and reverses to finish at the rim with both hands, or while absorbing contact through bodies. Decision-making and improving court vision will be the natural points to focus on as primary PG, but he has the versatility, tools and strength to play several positions in the backcourt, and there is little question we will see him balling as two-way professional player in a short time.
Adrian Nosa Castillo (00) 6’5 Forward / JMA Rockets / Class 2018. The glue guy
Our choice for the SF is a former Real Madrid academy player who now works his way in the EABL under GB U18 head coach Alan Keane. Forward Adrian Nosa Castillo fits the bill for the modern 3&D glue guy who helps to win games in both ends of the floor. The Spaniard is a classic and athletic forward who makes himself noticed at first for his defensive effort, although he delivers the goods as well in the offensive end. Adrian has a natural talent for the steal and transition game, but he is also good at cutting and filling up lines toward the basket. Then his offensive game gets more interesting when you realize how good his shooting mechanics are, knocking down shots consistently from the mid range, and very effectively on the catch and shoot and long 3s. Moreover, it won’t be a surprise seeing him usually playing bigger than his size, and able to produce/feed others from the post. The last treat in his skill set is his ability to crash the boards, especially the offensive one, hustling and keeping the play alive. Castillo needs to work hard in some bits of his game such as strength, food speed, or using his left hand more often and becoming a better ball-handler overall. His hard-nose approach, versatility and talent make us confident enough of a professional future.
Edoardo Del Cadia (99) 6’7 Forward / Myerscough College / Class 2018. The Chef is cooking
He’s known as the Chef within the Myerscough set up, and definitely Edo Del Cadia has all the ingredients to become the next big thing in the EABL. The Italian has started a revolution in the competition, and has done so from the forward position, playing like the only true big man in his team, and shooting the lights out every night around England. Often he’s been unbelievable in iso plays and clutch time. Simply put, nobody in the EABL can make his numbers and at the same rate: Edo is a skilled high-level player, and much more than just a shooter. Strong and versatile, he likes to start the play from the 3pt line, but then he can create off the bounce and leave defenders behind, and also finish at the rim no matter bodies, getting a good fare of And1s thanks to his notable athleticism. His footwork is good as well, but creating his own shot with the back to the basket is far less usual in his game, since his strong point is facing up. Edo has a good motor, works well cutting towards and around the basket, and despite not having elite size, he’s extremely competitive on the boards. In addition, he runs the court and thrills in transition, unusual for a guy with his frame, time and again driving himself the ball and being able to change speed and direction. Translating this ability to 5v5 game will be key to his professional future, giving him the edge over quicker defenders. Staying in front of smaller players will help his D evolution, and next to his fighter approach and shooting ability will at some point deserve a place in the Italy U20 programme. Del Cadia is certainly knocking at its door this year.
Ariel John Edu (00) 6’9 F-C / SGS Bristol / Class 2018. All aboard to the Filipino hype train.
Now in his second year in Bristol, AJ Edu hype train is about to leave the station, and you don’t want to miss on this one. Born in Cyprus to a Nigerian father and a Philippine mother, AJ Edu showed last summer his worldwide background, and how much he is up to the challenge when he chose to play for Philippines in the 3x3U18 World Cup in Chengdu, China. In his first international showing, Edu was one of the main names in the tournament, carrying his team to the Quarterfinal round and exploding with his mix of athleticism and modern forward qualities. At 6’9, fluid, bouncy and mobile, AJ Edu belongs to that breed of big men who can do a bit of everything at high level: from running in transition to creating with the ball in their hands, or protecting the basket playing well high above the rim. He has length and good timing for shot blocking, plus he can deliver in the offensive end moving on the post or facing up. His jumper is in progress, and he can also score the 3 rolling in the P&R. Close him too much and he’ll burn you off the dribble, good handle to work with for a guy of his size. Strength is still an issue when facing bigger bodies in the paint, so muscle is needed there, plus work in other defensive aspects such as foot speed when switching, or reading passing lines and offensive options. Nevertheless, we are talking about a 17 year old who dominates the boards in the EABL, and scores a ton using his versatility and instincts well. With a natural physical development and understanding of the game, AJ Edu could become a terrific pro baller and the best advert yet for the EABL.
Jonathan Brown (00) 6’3 / PG – Canterbury / Class 2019. The modern PG
Canterbury second year guard Jonathan Brown is a bit younger than the previous guys who play at the point, but his progress this season has been quite something remembering his first good year at Canterbury. Brown is quite long for a PG, has a great feel for the game, and holds the offensive package needed for the modern play. Quick and fluid, bouncy and athletic, good in transition and with a taste for the crossover, he is able to split the defence while looking for the pass or finishing at the rim with both hands. He can knock down the open three in catch and shoot, good mechanics too, and has a pull up game in progress. Better decision-making, timing his explosive runs and tightening the handle are the next steps. Can he defend at elite level? He’s got the looks and the body, but just like his offensive game Brown, has lots of room to grow yet. For sure the talent and the tools are there for building up his game and becoming a tougher and very competitive baller.
Ade Adebayo (01) 6’3 Guard – Baking Abbey / Class 2019. British guard power next generation
Barking Abbey is a unique set up within the EABL not just because they partner with a professional club as many other EABL schools, Kent Crusaders, but because their third year top players compete in NBL Division-1 for most of the season, or just until EABL playoff time, and in the meantime their young guns will play tons of minutes in EABL. From this year young bunch the standout is Ade Adebayo, who follows the British guard profile and style that we loved to watch with the GB national teams lately. Ade is a bouncy and agile backcourt player with good size and length, fluid and dynamic with the ball, with quick feet and useful hands in D, and great instincts attacking the rim and finishing with either hands or floaters. He has a good long range shooting, especially in the catch and shot, which will bring eventually an effective pull up game. His low-gravity handle next to his first step make it a challenge for most of his rivals to match up and stay in front. He is versatile enough to take over the PG spot and create off the dribble, but there he can still improve his overall IQ and reading P&R. Chances are that he will be still a key member for Barking Abbey when they bring in their most experienced guys (such as Caleb Fuller or Micah Savery-Richards) later in the season. Competing and sharing regular game time with those third year players will surely spur and help his development even further.
Mate Okros (01) 6’6 Wing / Myerscough / Class 2019. Born a maverick.
Hungarian born Mate Okros represents the future of British youth hoops almost better than anybody else. A go-to guy for the U16 GB team that was a bucket away from promotion to Division A, Okros has a high upside built on his notable ball handling skills, length and shooting ability. Playing at Myerscough against guys 2 or 3 years older, he has become a sort of a maverick that can fill up the 4 spot, bring up the ball against press, shoot 3s not just from the corners, or work his way back to the basket to create driving lines while bringing in other players with his passing. And he’s doing so helping out in D and in the boards, and showing his versatility playing across the backcourt line. Physical development is obviously needed yet, mainly strength, and decision-making will get better with time. But there is no hiding from the fact that he’s one of the top British prospects at the moment, who we expect will become a dominant figure next season in the EABL.
Ashleigh Briggs (99) 6’8 F-C / Itchen College / Class 2018. The know-how guy
Last summer Ashley Briggs was on the fringes of the GB U18, and watching him play, he will have a stronger case this summer for the U20 team. We are talking about a big man who at 6’8 is not extremely imposing, but he’s large, which makes him bigger than his size, allowing him to block shoots even when left behind by faster and smaller players. You won’t say for that matter that Briggs is really quick or athletic, but he can surely play with the back to the basket: nice footwork and pos up game, good touch with both hands, using fakes and sealing guys, and kicking out the ball to the open shooter. But what really gives him the offensive edge is his improved ability to stretch the floor as face up big. Briggs has turned into an efficient 3pt shooter, versatile enough to pop or roll with equal danger, a handful for his match up and creating space to drive for himself or others. How he improves defensively, especially strength for contact, foot speed and ability to switch, and how he works his passing skills when facing up, will set the road for a professional future. But his versatility and length are not to be ignored, as he’s ready to play at a higher level.
Johnny Hall (98) 6’10 Center / IBA Copleston. Class 2018 The towering Welshman
When you have Johnny’s size, it’s obvious that basketball games will come to you no matter what. The ball will be in your hands at some point, and you will have the chance to secure some boards and put big numbers, at least at EABL level. Hall is the oldest prospect that we include in our roster, and even so we can say he’s still a work in progress, learning how to be effective and later dominant, using his body advantage in the best way. They say big men take longer to develop and in this case it is very well true. Because from his towering presence, the IBA Copleston center has still plenty to learn and work with to become successful at the next level: understanding D in the P&R, mobility and athleticism to become a better rim protector and not allowing smaller players to finish above him, strength to hold contact and move/contain bodies in the paint, footwork and quicker movements when back to the basket, and above all playing with one or several more degrees of aggressiveness and intensity. Certainly a big improvement in those areas is needed, but Hall has an interesting value as a future stretch 5 if he can turn into a solid shooter and a defensive force on his board not just when playing zone. Potential is certainly there.