2007 Euro Final Four: Top Junior Prospects
By Aran Smith
[img_assist|nid=3889|title=Panathinaikos Fans - Photo: Harry Moutharis|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=400|height=271]Zalgiris Kaunas of Lithuania defeated FMP Belgrade in the Nike Euroleague Junior Championship 78-74.
The Final Four junior tournament consisted of Panathinaikos, CSKA Moscow, Maccabi Tel Aviv, Cibona Zagreb, Zalgiris Kaunas, Montepaschi Siena, BC FMP, Olympiacos Piraeus, and Prokom Trelf Sopot. Missing from the championships were the Spanish junior teams from Final Four participants (Unicaja and Tau Ceramica) as their junior team's were considered not talented enough.
The level of talent in the junior tournament was disappointing to say the least. As one European based NBA International scout said "It's bad. I'm learning all their names, doing my due diligence, but there just isn't anything to get excited about."
Normally in a junior tournament like this you have 3-5 quality NBA prospects and someone really breaks out. This year, in the 1989 born group, there wasn't even one player that you could call a surefire NBA prospect. So for NBA scouts, the junior tournament was a major disappointment.
Regardless, here's a look at the top prospects from the junior tournament:
Donatas Motiejunas 6-11 215 PF Zalgiris Kaunas 1990 -- The lefty Lithuanian was the top prospect in the junior event, but that really isn't saying much. He won MVP of the tournament leading Zalgiris to claim the junior title averaging 17.7 ppg on 64% shooting and 7.5 boards over 4 games. Donatas is also a year younger than the rest of the kids. He has a solid face up game with the ability to knock down the mid range jump shot. He ran the floor well converting on one big jam in the first day off the break. He'll need to add a good bit of weight as he's definitely a PF prospect for the NBA. Shows developing post moves and ability to use either hand. Has a long wingspan. Reminds a little of Ukrainian PF and Wizards first round pick Oleksiy Pecherov, although he needs to get a lot stronger and better shooting the ball to reach that level. He really struggled from the free throw line: 2/11 in one game and 7/19 overall. He also showed a major hole offensively in his lack of ability to finish when on the move.
Vaidas Cepukaitis 6-10 200 PF Zalgiris Kaunas 1989 -- Long and rangy, he was a monster on the boards averaging 11.25 rpg, out-rebounding his teammate Motiejunas in every single game. He lacks upper body strength and there is some concern that he will never be able to put on a lot of strength. Athletically he is decent with long arms and very fluid running the court. He could turn into a high level European player, but a lot depends on how his body develops.
Zygimantas Janavicius 6-3 180 PG Zalgiris Kaunas 1989 -- Fiery left handed leader for Zalgiris. He has good size and quickness and a point guard mentality. Really fearless playmaker who will take the ball inside. Did not put up big numbers but did a good job of setting the table for the bigmen and running the show. His biggest weakness is his lack of shooting ability.
Dejan Musli 7-0 220 C FMP Zeleznik Belgrade 1991 -- First the good news, he's 7-feet with long arms and just 16 years old: two years younger than the rest of the kids here, so he has some time to improve his body and develop. His skills seem to be decent as he showed some solid passing ability, and knowledge of what to do in the post area. Now the bad: He is slow running the floor, shows limited athletic ability and doesn't seem to have a very athletic body type. Right now he looks far from an NBA prospect. He's got some mass, but lacks any real muscle tone. He's far to slow reacting under the basket, allowing the defense to recover on plays that should be easy baskets.
Milan Macvan 6-9 PF FMP Zeleznik 1989 -- Macvan was easily one of the top 5 players here, but he has no NBA potential whatsoever. His game is all about aggressiveness. He went to town against Motiejunas in the final bullying him inside and scoring to the tune of 28 points on 8/14 shooting and 15 rebounds by using his dominant body strength. He gets virtually no lift when he jumps and is considerably limited athletically even by European standards. Has a solid basketball understanding and plays hard. He appears to be close to his peak despite being just 18 due to his well developed body strength and overall game.
Semen Shaskov 6-8 184 SG CSKA Moscow 1989 -- Shaskov was said to be CSKA's junior star, but he had a miserable tournament looking lost from the very beginning. Maybe it was the number of NBA scouts looking on, but he surely struggled to live up to expectations. He has a long, athletic body, but for now the confidence and offensive skill level is not there yet. Towards the end of the tourney he began to show something scoring on some jumpshots off the dribble, but he was an absolute no show overall.
Maxim Zakharov 6-6 SG CSKA Moscow 1989 -- Had a much better performance than Shaskov. He lacks the length and potential of Shaskov, but showed a lot more poise. He was CSKA's top player, but for a severely underachieving team, it's not saying much. He can handle the ball and scores well attacking the basket, he also showed some ability to shoot from outside. Unlikely to be more than a decent Russian player as he doesn't stand out skill wise or athletically, despite being their top performer.
Filip Toric 6-6 PG/SG Cibona Zagreb 1989 -- Didn't put up big stats but was impressive with his ability to handle the ball, pass and play some point guard at his size. He's close to 6-6 and shows a solid understanding of the game with good length and agility. Played out of position at SF but showed enough point guard ability in the short time that he was there to garner some intrigue.
Dino Hodzic 6-3 PG Cibona Zagreb 1990 -- He's got a very American style of game. Probably the most athletic kid in the event. Went up for some nice jams off the break and showed some vision. Still has a long ways to go as a point guard and may not have the true feel of a point. Showed some ability to handle the ball in traffic, but also gave the ball away on some terrible passes. But he's tough and athletic and since he's a year younger than the rest of the kids, he has a chance to develop.
Filip Kruslin 6-6 SG FMP Cibona Zagreb 1989 -- Was one of the 5 Junior first teamers and had solid stats in each of their games. He's a solid though not spectacular athlete with good body strength. Displays a smooth offensive game with the ability to hit shots from outside as well as score off the bounce. Not really a bigtime prospect as he lacks great athleticism at the 2-guard position, but could develop into a high level European player.
Thank you very much for this information.
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