In the summer of 2014 Apollo Amsterdam copied the program of CBA Canarias which was already established as a notable talent supplier for American Universities. This fall team headed to USA for intensive trip including 6 scrimmages in just 5 days against: Our Saviour New American, West Nottingham Academy, Robinson School, Saint Benedict’s, Upper Room Christian and Woodstock Academy in Connecticut. I had a chance to attend 3rd and 4th game during my East Coast basketball tour.
Roster was headlined by Dutch mega talent – Tristan Enaruna. It was not the first opportunity for him to play against Americans as he was there with the team also last season. However for us it was premier occasion to evaluate him versus the like-wise college competition which he is tending to be a part of in near future.
Those were not do or die games for Enaruna but all eyes were undoubtedly on him. He is the best talent but not neccessarily main contributor day in day out for Apollo as he plays with much older players. Nevertheless we expected him to be eager to show how good of a prospect he is and that he can excel on the floor next to players from United States. Unfortunately to no avail.
There is a small explaination not to say excuse for his somewhat disappointing performance. Apart from facing physicality from another world, the Robinson School gym is more suitable for 3on3 pickup basketball than real 5 on 5 competition (baseline „threes” have never been easier to make). Also before the second game Apollo witnessed the New York City agglomeration Friday afternoon traffic at it’s best/worst. The game started with the big delay which notably shortened the warmup duration and could cause deconcentration.
Moreover Saint Benedict’s Prep is a really good team which by the way gathered solid Swedish colony from KFUM Fryshuset in Stockholm – Zaba Bangala, Barra Njie and Ebrima Dibba. Barra who I was looking forward to seeing the most of them didn’t grew much and unfortunately was not given significant minutes as he was benched quickly after mistakes he did repeatedly. On the other hand Dibba was a positive surprise. He looked like legitimate Division I prospect. Stands at 6’5 and is able to defend 1-3 positions. Lacks high level feel for the game but helped as a back up point guard when necessary. His energy and desire to compete were absolutely top notch.
Coming back to Tristan, he looked very sophisticated on the floor. His motor comes and goes. At times it just seems that he cannot get used to his his athleticism and has no clue how to utilize it consistently which makes him absent. He doesn’t avoid contact at all and makes occassional power plays but looks like he is still not 100% comfortable banging and staying physical. It was also the matter of adjustment – he just couldn’t produce under the pressure as much as usually. Remained unproductive in half court off the ball and made unnecessary extra passes instead of attacking.
On defense he doesn’t lower his hips enough and was not even close to stay in front when challenged by quick guard in open court. Looks like he got used to rely on his length too heavily. He tried to take advantage from it also during the scrimmages I attended but the game pace was on another level which caused some extra problems to be on time in roation.
I believe that the biggest improvement he can make which will become the catalyst for reaching his full potential is to raise above mentally. Don’t get me wrong he looks focued on the court – never too high after dunk, never too low after silly mistake. He tries to motivate himself but it’s not enough. He has to become aggressive. He must show his heart and desire to overcome all the hardships.
Obviously I saw not only cons but also pros. The nicest skill was shooting – form is just extremely smooth, very repeatable and good looking. I changed the status in my notebook from „promising” to „very good shooter”. Despite great size and wingspan for the wing, Tristan grabbed many rebounds on either end of the floor. Especially chasing them on offensive end was promising but I hated the passiveness on the protecting glass instead of grab and go plays he should try. His explosiveness is very good also for US standards. It is not a big deal to blow his man by but contact with help defense still slows him down. He looks ambitextrous but goes almost exclusively to the left side and has bad habit of finishing with his left at all costs.
For short stretches Tristan handled the ball as fake playmaker. I don’t see him doing that often on high level but any type of point forward assets can only help him. His handles are not tight but good for the size and he was able to cover the rock well with his body. But he still turns the ball too often which is often the problem of tall players guarded by few inches smaller defenders. However I believe that those with lengthy arms have an advantage to bounce the ball lower and should have more control on it. On the plus side, he created few pull ups off the dribble also in pick and roll situations.
The team from Amsterdam looks basically ok. Considering that basketball is not the first or even third choice when it comes to sport it’s hard to build something better with only domestic players in the roster. Few guys are solid Division II prospects or even borderline low major D1.
Iyen Enaruna is two years older but barely known and less skilled brother. He posses equally good length and body which moreover already filled out more. However his ceiling is definitely not as high as Tristan’s. Feel for the game is really poor, and simple mistakes like dribble turnovers or bad one handed passes happens regularly. However you can dig something interesting in defensive potential and willingness to slash. Other interesing guy maybe Malevy Leons. He is kind of lanky tweener. Still raw with kinda streetball flavour but has an interesting size. Quite good athlete especially as far as his bounce is concerned. Needs to improve his bad form and off hand in order to be able play more with the ball.
However environment doesn’t seem perfect to raise there a star. Individual approach and participating against older players (which are by the way far from considered as fundamentally sound) is simply not enough. Several games per year are nowhere close to few dozens of them that he could have in America or even in some other more developed basketball country in Europe. Leaving the homeland could help a lot to ease the transition and speed up Tristan development.
So do we know now if Enaruna is a clear cut high major player worth all the buzz around him? Answer is no, we don’t. As they say scouting is the business of making less mistakes. In my opinion very few people can be totally convinced if he becomes big time or not. But there is one thing for certain – he is such an intriguing prospect that many would dare to say he is.