To no one’s surprise, France has progressed all the way to the Finals without losing a single game thanks to their impressive length, athleticism and talent. Unluckily Spain broke their winning streak by playing relentless defence and sent them home with silver medals.
Throughout the whole event none of the opposing teams could match or even get close to their exceptional length mainly thanks to 7’2” Victor Wembanyama, who’s jaw dropping physical profile can’t go unnoticed. Year younger than the rest of the competition, was one of the two 2004-born players recognized with the All-Star Five honours and finished the event with averages of 9pts, 9.6reb, 1.4ast, 2.1to and 5.3stl.
With his enormous reach&wingspan, nice mobility for his size/age, great timing and good awareness Victor was a defensive anchor for the team, meeting all the opponents who dared to penetrate inside with his exceptional shot blocking abilities and forcing them out of their usual comfort zone by taking a higher arc on their attempts. Finishing inside and rebounding were other great aspects of his game thanks to his physical profile. Simply being able to grab boards high out of the reach of an average player, finishing inside with his quick hands and even catching bad passes on cuts /plays under the basket made him a bit unpredictable and hard to defend. On top of that, Victor has already shown glimpses of a mid-range/outside game, confidently taking shots, given the opportunity, playing sometimes off the dribble and even passing from the high post or top of the key to cutters with nice timing.
His enormous skinny body is also a downside to his game, with a question of how much muscle will he be able to stack up on his very narrow frame. At the moment he lacks physical stretch, loses positions and is not always able to hold his ground because of the high centre of gravity and gets pushed out the way. Nonetheless, all these factors put together make him a very unique prospect that is a must to follow.
Other players that really stood out from the French team were the duet of Armel Traore & Ousmane Dieng who took a crucial part in the team’s success. With a few up&down performances along the way, Ousmane presented himself as a clear-cut top prospect in this age generation by taking good care of ballhandling duties, nicely distributing the ball, converting at a high clip from many angles as well as showcasing his defensive upside thanks to his tall/long body for a PG. Very confident shooter both from the spot and off the dribble nicely using screens to his advantage and getting into position. Pulls off smoothly, comfortable shooting of the step back and presented solid numbers from FT’s (78.6%). Didn’t always make the best decisions, sometimes getting into too much traffic on his drives and losing the ball in the turmoil, also on defense wasn’t enough focused in rotation, slightly getting out of sync with the rest of the team, losing sight of his man at times. Finished with 8.9pts, 2.7rebs, 3.6ast and 2.3to’s.
Armel is a versatile wing who plays with a lot of effort and has an impressive defensive upside. Not afraid of physical contact, has a good body with muscle already outlined on the frame that will fill in nicely over time. Usually delegated to guard the best players on the opposing team, was doing a fair job of making their life difficult, cutting them off the ball, but clearly wasn’t always able to keep up when guarding smaller/faster opponents. Also having trouble when going through screens and recovering back, but always played and contested until the end. On the other end, was shooting from the spot with success, penetrating the defense with a comfortable first step, finishing inside as well as being aggressive on the glass getting half of his rebounds on offense. Was also drawing fouls regularly driving to the basket and converted his opportunities on the line at the solid 70% rate. Finished the tournament with averages of 12.9pts, 5.4rebs and 1.7ast.
With a few intense games along the way Spain progressed to the Finals where they met physically overwhelming France, defeated them with though defense and became 2019 U16 European Champions. Two players really stood out and got selected to All-Star Five – Juan Nunez Garcia and Ruben Dominguez Gonzales who was also selected as an MVP after being a reliable asset throughout the tournament and having exceptional performance in the Finals.
Ruben is a shooting guard who heavily relies on his smooth 3 point shot, has a good feel, high IQ and solid game on both ends of the floor. On offense knows how to position himself and get in to open spot to pull off or drive to the basket, looks to create his own shot both from 3 and from mid-range area. Nice separation on drives, fairly fast dribble and first step able to finish inside with either hand, but not very athletic. Good timing on his passes, sees who is going to get open, careful (only 0.9to a game), willing to make an extra pass to better positioned teammate, unselfish. On the other end, sometimes forgets to box out but rotates accordingly can fairly hold is ground, if beaten recovers and contests all the way. Finished the event with 13.4pts, 3.4reb, 2.3ast and 1.6stl.
Juan started every game on the bench but that didn’t stop him from having a very impactful tournament. He was a second 2004-born player selected to the All-Star Five after showcasing a lot of maturity, feel and understanding of the game for a such a young player. Left-handed, great vision, super creative on passes with already nice ball control and aggressive dribble. Able to confidently drive inside, draw attention and split the defense with strong one-handed deliveries to the weak side, a lot of drive&kick action. At the moment he prefers to drive left and generally operate with his stronger hand and also has a tendency of gambling a bit and not being fully accurate with his passes. Sees pockets for penetrations inside, not afraid to play 1×1 and eager to take care of the ball and create in important moments, like those cold-blooded FT’s to tie the game and take it to OT against Serbia. Was able to step up a notch in big games.
Defensively needs few improvements, sometimes is getting too deep in rotation trying to help inside but leaving his man without coverage, flashes looking for steals or hops instead of sliding. Nonetheless, he presented nice defensive instincts trying to encourage double-teams in full or half-court defense, slashing through passing lanes, poking balls loose on help or being active on the glass. Despite risky impulses in his game Juan presented himself as a top prospect in his age category and finished with 10.6pts, 4.1reb, 3.7ast, 3.3to and 2.3stl.
With only winning one game in the group phase to North Macedonia after 3 overtimes, Israel got matched up against Croatia in the round of 16, where they got quickly knocked out the race and finished 11th in the final standing. Israel heavily relied on their 2004-born shooter Emanuel Sharp who has been a central part of their offense delivering on average a mind boggling 25 points a game and finishing as a top scorer in the event.
Emanuel is a very confident player, who won’t hesitate to pull off given an inch of a room from anywhere and won’t get discouraged by misses. Has a questionable shot selection at times, often shooting with a hand in his face, off balance or from a considerable distance and as a result, he has managed to put up below average 25.9% from behind the arc on just over 8 attempts a game. Not very active off ball. Sometimes had blinders on and wasn’t able to get his teammates involved even when on wide open positions. Looks a bit heavy but runs the floor well and doesn’t seem to be much affected by few extra pounds on his frame, it even helps him to absorb contact on his drives to the basket and allows him to finish strong through contact. Didn’t present himself as a reliable defender being beaten fairly easily, fouling a lot, getting lost in rotation or not looking where his man is but has good hands that allow him to poke the balls lose from a careless opponent and start a fast break. Finished the event with 25pts, 6reb, 1.1ast, 3to and 1.4stl.
Italian backcourt dynamic duo of Davide Casarin & Matteo Spagnolo led the host team all the way to Semi-Finals but fell short against stacked French team. Ended up playing for a bronze medal where they came out on top against Russia to whom they have lost previously in the group phase and secured the place on the podium.
Both Matteo and Davide shared ballhandling responsibilities, have good ball control with either hand, but Davide looks a bit better as a pure ballhandler and distributor shocking his opponents with fakes, good hesitations or very crafty passes on PnR’s and his drives to the basket. Matteo, on the other hand, is more of a combo guard, has a deadly mid-range game, reliable 3 point shot and quickly converts defensive rebounds or steals into rapid drives coast to coast, very good acceleration. He is also a good rebounder for his size, regularly crashes offensive glass, snatches occasional balls away, but on defence often ends up sacrificing box outs to pursue them. Sometimes not focused enough on what his man is doing, as a result, he is getting out of sync with team’s rotation and allows cuts inside for offensive rebounds or easy points. Needs to improve his overall defensive game as he is giving up his position 1×1 too often and is an easy target on mismatches inside not being able to even attempt to disturb opponents.
Despite being a backcourt general and most productive with a ball in his hands, Davide has also shown promising off ball game, getting well to position using screens in catch&shoot situations as well as cutting to the basket from the weak side. Looked competitive as a defender fairly holding his position 1×1, rotating well, playing with effort on mismatches and was also putting up a good fight on the glass. Sometimes likes to take risks with his passes and from time to time is late with his execution ending up turning the ball over. Matteo was recognized with All-Star Five honours after finishing the event as a top scorer and rebounder for the Italian team, averaged 16.3pts, 6.7rebs, 2.6ast, 2.4to’s, 3stl. Davide finished with 15.5pts, 5.3reb, 4.2ast, 3.2to’s.
Serbia had a disappointing summer all around in all levels and U16 wasn’t different. Nikola Radovanovic looked like the top prospect on the team even though having his ups and downs throughout the competition. He can easily be classified as an aggressive scoring first player that fights on the court all game long. Lefty player is a decent slasher even though body strength is not there, certainly has flair doing that. Shooting stroke is promising but consistency is yet to be seen and also, we have seen some bad decision shooting the ball in this tournament. Another impressive thing is that he helped rebounding as the team lacked inside presence. For now, he lacks ball handling skills that will allow to unleash his gamestyle. Usually he does not operate with his off-hand, making him liable to mistakes most of the time.
Matija Belic, stole show in important games for Serbia by displaying an all-around game from multiple positions. He was used as and undersize big due to his buffy body and mobility. He was impressive on both ends of the floor, crashing offensive glass and making efforts plays were not really what spectators expected to see from him first. Right now, it is hard to restrict him to a position but he does not seem to be growing and will probably stay around 6’6. He is most likely to be 3-4 and has the tools to be prolific in both in the future. He displayed mature understanding of the game; dishing out right passes, taking the right shots, helping where his team needed and didn’t really forcing the game too much. However, he lacks athleticism and ball handling skills to operate at 3 and will have hard time defending 4s on D.
Russia came as a surprise to many people watching them first time, they definitely worked their way up to semi-finals with an amazing performance against Turkey on QFs. Easily the best prospect on the team was the 6’11 big man Iaroslav Niagu. At the first look, he looks very raw body wise but definitely has impressive basketball IQ that allows him to be efficient in both ends. It is always hard to judge big men in U16 level, as their coordination is usually lacking at that stage but Niagu had none of it. He was finishing around the rim with ease, ran the floor pretty well and defended against stronger players thanks to his positioning and intensity. Conditioning wise, he has a long way to go as he never played more than 30 minutes in any game in the tournament. Another impressive trait of him was his ability pass out of low block and it looked all so natural about him. Horizontal mobility is not there but can be solved to an extent in the upcoming years.
Another impressive name was Aleksander Kolosov, a 6’6 Guard/Forward and a volume scorer. Body looks pretty decent already, looks comfortable absorbing contact from opposition. He even stepped up in crungh games, especially against Turkey where he went to the FT line 8 times and making 11/16 in a crucial game. Savvy with the ball and his good handling skills makes him unpredictable with the ball. Another impressive skill was the ability of him to pull up in several occasions. Considering his on-ball skills and creating his own score makes him definitely a prospect to keep track of from this class. On defense, he was moderately competitive and pursued rebounds on both ends.
Turkey came to the tournament hoping a shot at the medal, but getting into the World Cup at least is a pretty big achievement alone as well. All eyes were on Turkish/Nigerian progidy, Adem Bona. Bona is around 6’9 started playing basketball very late. His development in the last year has been phenomenal, two years ago he didn’t even know what to do in offense but now he is turning into more of a threat. Strength and athleticism is just too much for this level and he just looks so natural on help defenses, close-outs and coming from the weakside. Definitely likes to do highlight plays he showed plenty during the tournaments with chasedown blocks, alley-oops and poster dunks. He averaged 4 blocks per game which is amazing but he overshadowed by Wembanyama’s spectacular defensive performances. What was totally unexpected was to see him take some 3 pointers, he also showed he can make them when he is left wide open from the forwards. As he is learning more about the game, he is now more careful on defense to not get unnecessary fouls and understands where he has to stay on the court. His potential to defend multiple positions on the perimeter is definitely make him interesting along with his inside presence.
Player that was running the plays more often was Batın Tuna, leading the team on perimeter in his second U16 EC experience. It wasn’t the best we could have seen, especially shooting-wise. He had his ups and downs scoring the ball but looked all so comfortable playing in all 1-2-3 positions. Versatile and flexible player with high basketball IQ can do a bit of everything on the floor and showed that with a near triple double against Greece with 17 points, 9 rebounds and 9 assists. On the downside, it was more evident here that he lacks athleticism to compete even with his peers. He has a stiff running mechanics that definitely limits his game on the court. If those problems are sortable, we can see much more out of him in the upcoming tournaments.
Croatia and France probably bring out the best game in the tournament with a big clash in the paint. All eyes were on Ivisic brothers and scoring guard Duje Brala in Croatia.
Tomislav and Zvonimir Ivisic look pretty alike but their gamestyle are not similar whatsoever. Tomislav Ivisic is more of an inside/outside stretch five with very soft hands within the paint whereas Zvonimir is more a tall 4 man with good mobility but lacking physical power. Until the tournament, Tomislav was the more touted prospect from Croatia and Zvonimir missed couple of national team tournaments due to injuries. In Udine, Zvonimir showed that he is definitely not a lesser prospect compared to his brother. Tomislav has very good feel for the game, understands possessions, can take sot up jumpers from outside when left alone and can pass out of low post pretty well. He looked to be struggled against contact though, still not hardened inside the paint in any sense and never really looks intense in the games.
Zvonimir had more success scoring inside thanks to his mobility and game IQ, made most of his off-ball game with easy finishes around the rim. It was beyond the 3pt line where he lived. He averaged 5 3pt FGA per game which is a lot for a 7 footer for sure. At this stage both looking vulnerable on defense being soft but the pair collect rebounds from everywhere and definitely having the instincts to get those loose balls.
Slovenia did not have a stellar tournament at all, but there is a lot to take away for sure. Urban Klavzar already displayed how skilled he is a year before in Novi Sad, playing against 2 year older guys in a more stocked tournament. In Udine, he didn’t disappoint as he was the scoring leader of the team. However, it looked like he was much more focused on scoring on his own than creating for his teammates. Of course, it was not a great generation for Slovenia but he could have done much better in terms of involving others. It might be better to adjust our expectations from Klavzar as he looks to be an early developed player with terrific instincts but also lacking in physical departments. Hard to say he is an elite athlete or defender as well which are raising doubts upon his potential.
Another player that catched some eyes in Udine was Sasa Ciani, 6’10 4/5 with good fundamentals around the rim. His physical combination of mobility, wingspan and running the floor are making him an interesting prospect. Very good rebounder, he can take rebounds above the rim with ease as he showed that with 4.6 OFF Rebs per game as well. On offense he could have been much better as he is making a lot of mistakes on positioning on both ends. He is still developing the knowledge of the game. That explains his defensive woes as he showed lack of awareness time to time. His soft hands and physical potential are still pretty intriguing and his basketball IQ will surely improve along with his experience in the latter stages of his youth career.