As we are approaching FIBA U17 World Cup in Rosario & Santa Fe, Argentina, Eurospects decided to preview the five European teams that will take part in the event thanks to promotion gained last summer in Podgorica at FIBA U16 European Championship.
Winner of U16 European Championship past summer and one of the contenders for medal or maybe even more in Argentina. Team will be driven by three exceptional talents: Killian Hayes, Theo Maledon and Malcolm Cazalon. Each of them took part in prestigious NBA Global Camp in Treviso on the beginning of June. Moreover Killian has just won MVP award of French U21 League. He is explosive, well-rounded guard with great tools, tremendous feel for the game and ability to set apart any defense in isolation. However lately his performance vs NBA Global Academies and USA in pre World Cup scrimmage was really worrying. Maledon has all the makings of the high level lead guard. He has equally good physical profile comparing to Hayes, looks like a veteran among peers and has been making a name for himself as NBA prospect for a while now. Finally Cazalon is really good fit for two stars. Slasher type who can be backbone of the system by providing constant presence and production on either end without hogging the ball too much. Absence of Tom Digbeu is a lot either disappointing and surprising. Incredibly gifted prospect was drifting between Spain and France for a while. It was supposed to be his first national team experience but he didn’t make the final cut as he wasn’t physically ready according to coaches. As usual there is plenty of length and athleticism in French team. Suffice it to mention CFBB prospects: Essome Miyem, Leo Billon or Maxime Carene.
PREDICTION: SEMI FINAL
This time team won’t have incredible support from home crowd which basically carried them to the final. It seems that Montenegro overachieved in Podgorica last summer but they definitely shouldn’t be ignored. There is only one change in comparison to roster from last summer – Danijel Marsenic will be replaced by Zdravko Okijevic from Capo d’Orlando. Fearless shot maker – Jovan Kljajic one more time will make effort to lead the team. Gran Canaria guard will be supported by Bojan Tomasevic who is quite well rounded stretch four with very good natural strength. Stefan Vlahovic and Viktor Vujisic are solid athletes for European standards. Also Marko Kljajevic from Mega Leks shows considerable potential.
PREDICTION: QUARTER FINAL
Not an amazing generation but Serbia is just always good. A lot will depend offensively on sharpshooter – Dorde Pazin. However his form is question tag considering the complicated process he had to go through last season. Firstly talented guard wanted reportedly to continue his career in USA and then was close to sign a deal with Partizan Belgrade. Eventually Stellazzurra found an agreement with Mladost Zemun where he finished the season and remains now under long term contract. Among others, Nemanja Popovic is undoubtedly intriguing prospect. He didn’t have great AdidasNGT season, still lacks 3pt range but possess top notch basketball IQ and competitiveness. There are three new names in bronze team from last summer U16 European Championship: Aleksej Pokusevski, Vladan Music and David Petrusev. First is arguably the biggest prospect and plays guard/forward spots at 6’11. Others have interesting bloodlines as their older brothers Novak Music and Filip Petrusev are very good players and overshadow them for now which can possibly change after this tournament. Especially in Petrusev case who plays for Montverde and European scouts don’t really get opportunity to watch him. Another asset will be well-roundedness of the roster as players like Lazar Zivanovic or Stevan Karapandzic are definitely capable of stepping in and contributing even at World Cup level in their age group.
PREDICTION: QUARTER FINAL
After losing to eventual champions France in the quarter-finals of U16 European Championship in Podgorica, Turkey bounced back with wins against Latvia and Lithuania to clinch the U17 World Cup place. Game against Lithuania was somewhat exciting for the future of this team. Half the roster had very good seasons in their youth teams and preserved their place on the team. There is no one player that can carry them to a good place on his own, Turkish team relies heavily on their cumulative team-effort. Mustafa Kurtuldum had an amazing season both in BGL and ANGTs and scored 41 against Spars in Belgrade qualifying phase, will likely be the go to guy of Turkey. Last year, this team did not have any 2002 born players but this year Alperen Şengün and Furkan Haltalı will likely to present much needed frontcourt presence the team lacked previous summer. Turkey team is comfortable and blessed at point guard position with depth. Ömer Yasir Küçük had lots of experiences with TED Ankara in competitive Turkish Second Division (TBL), Ömercan İlyasoğlu won the BGL with Efes and improved a lot, and Kerem Öztürk who spend the last season in New Hampton School, will take care of the ball distribution. Everlasting problem of Turkish youth teams, outside shooting is a problem and to overcome the problem staff included Banvit player Önder Atun to the roster. One of the most intriguing prospects of this tournament is 2003 born big man Adem Bona, who is still a bit of a mystery as he only played two games prior to the World Cup. Even being two years younger than the competition he can provide the team with his athleticism and rim protection.
PREDICTION: QUARTER FINAL
Somewhat surprising promotion after strong finish considering that on the beginning of FIBA U16 European Championship Croatia lost to Serbia and Lithuania by respectively 50 (!) and 21 points. Main figure of the team should be Matej Rudan. Talented forward left Cibona for Bayern Munich but had up and down season in German powerhouse. Croatian 2001 generation is not overly loaded. We can highlight Viktor Saric who is forward with very good body. However there is plenty of talent in next generation. While Boris Tisma and Leo Menalo are not here, guys like Roko Prkacin, Ivan Perasovic or Matej Bosnjak should be integral part of the team. Especially Roko is expected to claim that he is one of the best 2002 prospects in Europe.
PREDICTION: GROUP STAGE