FIBA U19 World Championship are in the books now. USA bounced back after their loss to Canada in Cairo two years ago and took the crown in Heraklion. Below we present our notes on the most notable Non European prospects that play for Euro teams as well as Oumar Ballo who already took his talents to USA but big credit for his development goes to Spanish youth systems.
MAXWELL DARLING (6’6, FORWARD, NEW ZEALAND)
New Zealander prospect possess truly unique physical profile. Standing at 6’6 with lengthy 7’1 wingspan which almost allows him to touch his knee while standing straight, huge hands and thick upper & lower frame. His kind of heaviness at the first sight is misleading as Max shows promising mobility and extremely effortless and big bounce for someone with his weight. His gifts allow him to play bigger than he is in fact as he is extremely hard to move and can challenge a lot vertically with his length. Defensively he is a rock, if you are very quick and shifty you may manage to go around but if you enter contact it’s hard to maintain full balance and mostly it ends up by kicking the ball out unless you are big with good size and touch to make a hook over him. Often he defends inside but offensively likes to spread the floor. He shows promise of a adequate 3pt shooting ability and is definitely nimble. While post game doesn’t seem to be in advanced stage at the moment he is a solid mismatch driver and even if doesn’t manage to finish over bigger guys his super strength often allows him to curve out space, collect the ball again and finally finish. Moreover has a good timing for playing off the ball whether it is chasing putbacks or cutting wisely towards the rim. His solid ball handling for PF position allows him to bring the ball up at times but most impressive perimeter skill can actually be passing as he definitely has a knack for making extra passess with accuracy and bullet speed. On the court he seems focused but may lack this hyper energy which often characterizes and helps to thrive undersized bigs. Not clear as a NBA prospect but definitely a candidate to find a niche for himself on high level in Europe in few seasons. Already had solid minutes with Osijek in Croatian league this season.
SENEGAL It was hard to evaluate anyone on that team. While they had all the length in this world, there was no one among the guards who could organize the game and deliver the ball properly. If players could join some other teams one by one would be a terrific help but together they simply couldn’t work.
AMAR SYLLA (6’9, FORWARD)
Maybe the biggest victim of the system as he was used almost exclusively on small forward position which laid bare his feel and skill shortcomings. At times in some reports you can read that Sylla has a foundation of some serious on ball skill and can possibly shot, dribble and pass the ball. In my eyes he is really raw and actually perhaps doesn’t need that at all. He can probably still make millions as a 5 man just switching, rim running, dunking and protecting the rim but becoming PF could definitely help his future. Here he struggled to create his own shot. Could possibly be someone who plays over defender on the perimeter but ball handling (no right hand) is just too bad (ball watching) and turnaround jumper is the only go to move (also unpolished) he possess. I don’t really see it changing anytime soon if ever but moving out to Oostende in Belgium is a good choice for the NBA outlook. It may not be the league known from players getting drafted but situation seems secured given solid level of competition, likely to happen playing time, European competitions etc.
IBOU DIANKO BADJI (7’1, BIG)
Barca’s prospect looks slightly improved, is nothing but finisher and shot blocker but can reach elite status in both and be Rudy Gobert type of player if keeps developing basketball IQ and becomes more reliable in non dunk attempts. Also being better FT shooter and displaying more mistakes free brand of basketball (huge TO % for a big) can definitely help him down the road to stay on the court in elite level of competition. Other 7’1 players with his mobility, frame and willingness to compete who possess 240 cm wingspan simply doesn’t exist on this planet.
BIRAM FAYE (6’9, BIG) was super productive (3 ball looks better now) and aggressive again on youth level and overshadowed his Gran Can teammate KHALIFA DIOP.
2003 PAPE SOW did not standout but already had some role as three years younger player than competition which deserves to be noted.
LEANDRO BOLMARO (6’7, GUARD, ARGENTINA)
Sized, wiry and super creative wing from Barcelona was battling ankle injury and returned to action unexpectedly fast. It doesn’t take long to recognize his talent. He displays off the charts natural flair and style characteristic for top Argentinian prospects combined with aggressiveness and passion. Energetic, athletic and poetic Bolmaro attacks the hoop really well on closeouts thanks to quick first step but having the ball in his hands doesn’t bother him and can beat defenders off the dribble as well thanks to shiftiness and rangy crossovers. But the most exciting skill can actually be his ambidextrous passing which can look spectacular at times especially in transition (seems created for fast pace offenses in general). Shooting is not bad but still pretty much a swing skill. He clearly looks to drive too much and must improve percentages on the next level when finishing inside gets more difficult. Exciting prospect overall given his great feel for the game, size for secondary ball handler, excellent quickness, fluidity, competitiveness, ability to defend or rare and equally good ability to assist & score.
OUMAR BALLO (6’10, BIG, MALI)
Ballo could not play the first two games because of visa issues but it didn’t stop Mali from the good start. Their grit and surprisingly good coaching level was widely noticed in Heraklion and history has been made as before African team has never been in Top 8 of U19s. Big credit for that should go to Ballo who had (ex aequo with Filip Petrusev) the best efficiency in the tournament. It gets even more impressive regarding that Oumar can possibly participate in the next edition of this event in 2021. Malian prospect labeled as a baby Shaq is great around the rim. He is a force hard to stop but there is more to that than pure physicality given his nimbleness, footwork, positioning, rebounding instincts, toughness and post repertoire. While Ballo looks leaner and more mobile he still has a huge problems on switches and is somewhat of a throwback regarding that he projects as potentially bad perimeter defender and back to the basket heavy player. There are some serious questions about his NBA projection: will he be able to keep players in front while taken away from the hoop? For how long stretches can he keep with the intensity of the game? Will he start to shot threes as now even his mid range J doesn’t look that promising? Can he compensate for defensive deficiencies with his domination inside (as long and strong he is now, he didn’t overpower at will strong bodied bigs, he would have to be a real Shaq not his baby version to change the modern era)? Despite that he is surefire candidate for great career in Europe on the highest level if NBA turns out not to be his world. And can steal some serious minutes on 5 spot from Filip Petrusev as a freshman in Gonzaga.
Side note: Small PG Siriman Kanoute who plays for Nancy in France was a starter and integral part of cinderella story. Lighting quick and fearless but still needs to cut TO number. Looks like a solid candidate to play Pro A in future though.