For the second year in a row during Euroleague Final Four weekend, Adidas organized U16 All Star game between Europe and Asia. It seems like selection of players leaves something to be desired and last year level was slightly better. Eventually Europe took a win 97:85 behind 22 points of Davide Casarin. Below our subjective rank of Euro prospects and some of scouting takeaways. We didn’t go in depth as sample is very small given first look at many new players and tricky evaluation setting (players never really played with each other and hardly had any practise time).
- Victor Wembanyama
- Nikola Radovanovic & Gustav Knudsen
- Nikola Jovic & Davide Casarin
- Alexandros Kalaitzakis & Nicolo Virginio
- Villiam Adsten Garcia & Xhuljan Tola
VICTOR WEMBANYAMA (CENTER, FRANCE, 2004) 4pts, 3rebs
At first impression Victor Wembanyama looks every bit of a unicorn. 7 foot tall, baby faced, mobile with cosmic length, ball skills and sweet shooting touch. He is still extremely thin, operates at completely different gravity center than his peers and gets overpowered by smaller and stronger players. Sooner or later physicality will come but he seems to avoid contact too much so mental sphere will be even more important moving forward. What concerns for now is paradoxically…size. There is a possibility that Victor can grow even too tall which is not always obvious advantage nowadays at some point. Also tall people tend to have slower reflexes because of longer nerves that taper and Victor’s reactivity is VERY lagged at the moment.
„La French freak” was probably first reknown 2004 born prospect in Europe. However I don’t think early stardom, being featured in various outlets or general curiosity about his future can help the kid. No matter how tantalizing he is, he is just the fantasy for now and has a very long way to go. Wembanyama couldn’t produce much in the game but seeing his body and in how early development stage it is plus few glimpses of Forward skillset here and there make talent evaluators realize that they are dealing with the phenom.
Other highly anticipated French prospect Kymany Houinsou unfortunately didn’t suit up for the game.
GUSTAV KNUDSEN (FORWARD, DENMARK, 2003) 15 pts, 4rebs
Danish prospect still resides in his homeland despite being tempted by many teams and playing multiple tournaments with Real Madrid youth program. This season he got a lot of recognition during Kaunas AdidasNGT where half jokingly half seriously, some scouts were saying that he looks like Mindaugas Kuzminskas little brother. Knudsen possess good feel for the game for someone coming from non basketball country. He is fluid and plays with the ball very well for a wing his size. There are visible habits of player who scores at will on low level which is good and bad (impressive confidence but also much better stroke off the dribble than after catch because of being used to handling it for long stretches) but at least he is unselfish player in opposite to others coming from such environment. Besides intriguing athlete with defensive potential and frame which should fill out nicely in time. There is no doubt he should make a jump to some European powerhouse and looks every bit of the best Danish prospect since Rasmus Larsen.
NIKOLA RADOVANOVIC (WING, SERBIA, 2003) 13pts, 4rebs, 6Fdr
Nikola Radovanovic recently joined Partizan Belgrade after being somewhat one man army in Budocnost Bjelina where he at least logged minutes for pro team very early in his career. He is a sized wing with decent bounce who possess pure scorer mentality (had 38 points vs Bayern Munich in EYBL this season, on 36 shots though). Serbian prospect can really handle the ball and even seems capable of some PnR facilitating but attacking mode clearly overpowers his willingness to share the ball as of now. He is fluid in transition and gets to the rim almost effortlessly relying on long strides and knack. Jumpers looks workable but shaky. Lefty but still not much of an off hand. Posture looks a little concerning too given Musa esque hunch. Somewhere in between being raw and skilled but certainly very good (however not that elite?) prospect.
NIKOLA JOVIC (FORWARD, SERBIA, 2003) 16 pts, 8rebs
Nikola Jovic was probably the biggest positive surprise of the event. Relatively unknown prospect is maybe not outstanding but should lead Mega Bemax youth teams next years and definitely looks like a project for their ABA League team. Tough minded forward played with aggressive approach and presented nice combination of physical potential and versitality on offensive end. He has a bit loose dribble and weak left hand but it didn’t stop him from bringing the ball up multiple times and making plays in transition. Grabs many rebounds and has a smooth shooting motion.
DAVIDE CASARIN (GUARD, ITALY, 2003) 22pts, 8rebs, 5asts
Son of Umana Reyer Venezia president is a real baller with big balls who already shined vs two years older players at Belgrade AdidasNGT. A bit of an early bloomer but already stands at 6’4, displays tremendous intensity and solid scoring package for a guard. Always around the ball, plug and play kid. Really shots a lot, shows some occassional passing flash but may need to become more balanced between scoring and assisting moving forward.
ALEXANDROS KALAITZAKIS (GUARD, GREECE, 2003) 5 pts, 3rebs
Alexandros Kalaitzakis is a younger brother of 99 born twins and definitely looks like a brother of PAO’s guard Georgios given similarities in profile and motor coordination. Tall PG (who should grow more) with nice maturity who protects the ball and shows good patience. Much more about game reading and long strides than speed. Willing passer with solidly looking shot but can’t keep up pace defensively as of now with quick smaller guards.
NICOLO VIRGINIO (FORWARD, ITALY, 2003) 10 pts, 7rebs
Italian forward left positive vibes about his performance in Vitoria. Kept great spacing off the ball and showed potential as a shooter with his feet set but it looked like he is still expanding the range. It seems that he has a knack for cutting and rebounding as he provided some easy second chance opportunities for his team. Could be more athletic or at least explosive in driving or start creating the offense for himself and others on ball more but definitely good project for big domestic teams.
VILLIAM GARCIA ADSTEN (WING, SWEDEN, 2004) 6 pts, 5 rebs
Sweden based wing with Cubanese roots has a good length and nice shooting touch. He seemed still very unpolished and didn’t take much initiative offensively. Couldn’t produce good looks for himself and had problem as far as making the right decisions (4 TO with no creativity whatsoever as a passer). There is a potential but seemed kinda overwhelmed by the level of competition for now. Needs time but smooth prospect with interesting profile who can’t be ignored at this point. Garcia should change the environment to play with better opponents on a daily basis and then his potential can be reevaluated. Being only 2004 born besides Wembanyama is extenuating circumstance.
XHULJAN TOLA (BIG, GREECE / ALBANIA, 2003) 6 pts, 8 rebs
Albanian player is probably rare prospect with such passport but rather far from elite one for European standards. Body is good but physical development wise he may be slightly ahead of his peers. Played as a backup for Wembanyama solely on 5 position. There was no other bigs so it could have been forced or maybe it’s all he can do so developing PF skillset could definitely help him if he doesn’t grow enough. Had a rebound every second minute and made an advantage from his strength several times. Was throwing himself around and made multiple hustle plays, and possibly looked like the one who appreciated this opportunity to showcase himself the most. Not the greatest touch in hands it seemed to me.