U-18 European Championships
Lithunia won the European U18 Championships on Sunday blowing out Russia 91-60 behind intriguing center prospect Jonas Valanciunas. Valanciunas was the Tournament MVP scoring 31 pts (12-14 fg) and 18 reb in the final against Russia. The young bigman was dominant showing excellent skill, mobility and desire.
He averaged 19.4 points per game over the tournament, second only to Italy's Alessandro Gentile. He led the entire event in rebounding at 13.4 per game, and recorded 2.7 blocked shots per game.
Lithuania took home gold behind their tremendous home fan support in Vilnius. The team was presented with their gold medals by European legend Arvydas Sabonis whose son played for the team. Also in attendance were Linas Kleiza and Donatas Motiejunas.
Lithuania nearly missed the gold medal game if not for an exciting comeback against Serbia the day before. They overcame a late double digit lead in the fourth quarter behind their excellent fan support.
*One NBA scout I spoke with who had never seen Jonas Valanciunas before this game came away very impressed. He said this after the final: "He gets up and down the floor ... Great hands ... Runs the floor ... If he were coming out of high school here (in USA) he would be the top "big" hands down ... He finds a way ... He plays hard ... Knocks down his free throws ... They don't give him the ball enough ... Not overly athletic but his activity compensates ... Good defender ... He needs a face up game to 15 feet ... Right now (if he entered the draft) he's a lower first rounder, but i like his upside ... Better than a lot of guys that were drafted ... I reserve my opinion until I see him live."
*The all tournament team consisted of: Jonas Valanciunas (Lithuania), Dmitry Kulagin (Russia), Deividas Pukis (Lithuania), Davis Bertans (Latvia), Nikola Siladi (Serbia)
*For Russia the most intriguing player was left handed 6-7 190 SG Sergey Karasev, another 93 kid that is a full year younger than most of the competitors. Kasarev struggled from the field and had a nightmare final against Lithuania, but was very impressive in the semifinal against Latvia. His versatility and scoring ability shows some promise.
*France's Rudy Gobert appeared to be the next best bigman prospect after Valanciunas. His offensive game isn't nearly as advanced but he's a got more lift. His body, like Valanciunas, still has a long ways to go and his offensive game has much further to go. He averaged just 9.2 ppg and struggled getting to the line: just 24 times (knocking down 11 45 %) in 9 games. On the positive side he was 4th overall in blocked shots (1.7) and rebounds (9).
*Ukraine's 6-11 Olexiy Len led all players in blocked shots (4.3) despite being a year younger than most of the competition. He was also very productive in other aspects of the game averaging 16 ppg and 11.4 rpg.
*Janis Timma was the most intriguing player for Latvia. The 6-7 forward has a mature body and showed solid versatility. He can put the ball on the floor as well as shoot from the perimeter. He shows an aggressive demeanor and was third on the team in scoring at 11.2 ppg.
*Italy's Allesandro Gentile is a scoring machine who led the event. He's described as a true talent with some NBA potential. He's comparable to a 6-5 version of Danilo Gallinari with decent athleticism and good shooting ability.
*Poland's Mateusz Ponitka was the most impressive shooter in the event knocking down nearly 50% of his 3 point shots (23-48). Another '93 kid, Pontika received some buzz from scouts after his performance in Hamburg at the U17 Worlds a few weeks ago.
* Poland 7-footer Przemyslaw Karnowski was one of the youngest in the event (Nov '93) and also one of the biggest. Though not overly athletic, Karnowski shows some solid skills (9.2 ppg and 6.9 rpg) for his age and should continue to develop as a legit center prospect.
*Greece's 6-8 SF Linos Chrysikopoulos was the event's third leading scorer at 17 ppg. A player we had the opportunity to see in Treviso in June. While pretty raw, he's a solid athlete with a huge wingspan.
*Croatia's 16 year old wunderkind Dario Saric had a solid though unspectacular performance. He's regarded by many as the top prospect of the next generation. His 12.4 ppg was good for 14th overall. It's easy to forget that he's 2 years younger than many of the kids here and already one of the best.
Hey didin't expect an article from nbadraft.net on euro U -18 great job guys ! We ( lithuanians) are very pround of those guys because they had to deal with a lot of pressure by being the clear favorites to win and playing in home country. I just feel pitty for the other teams that played against Lithuania - they had to deal with army of fans ( in the final game there were like 11000 people all supporting Lithuania and we support like europeans do - chanting, songs, big drums - very passionate. ( no violent actions )
I already wrote my impressions about Valanciunas but for those who didin't see it :
Hey guys I've been reading nbadraft.net for quite some time now, but this it's only my first post here. Since I'm from Lithuania I had to watch all the games on TV - it was pretty big thing in our country, because everyone expected gold medals. And yes we did - second gold medal for these guys ( they also won euro U - 16 beating oponents by 30-40 points - even in the final where they beat someone like 77-33 i think....) So to get on topic - Valanciunas was clearly the best player on our team and probably the best one in the tournament. He has some decent post moves, can pass when being doubled or tripled team and he DOMINATED the boards grabbing almost every rebound. His scoring could have been higher, but since we had good all - around team, the guards didin't feed him the ball that much. He's still very young - turned 18 this spring. He plays in one of the two top basketball teams in Lithuania - Vilniaus "Lietuvos Rytas" and he will be their starting center and the owner clearly stated that they will do whatever it takes to develop this talent. So expect 28-32 minutes in Euroleague. But he's still far away from perfect - he needs muscles and weight to be successfull in pro basketball, needs more post moves and thought he showed some kind of mid - range game playing for his team, he didin't attempt any mid range shots in the U-18 tournament.
Now you mentioned Biedrins - Valanciunas probably will be as good as him when it comes to rebounds, defence, blocking shots etc, but he will surpass Biedrins on his offense game. The kid sometimes scores from impossible angles o.O.
Also when you look at him and Motiejunas - Motiejunas CAN'T defend. Now I hope that he will improve on his defence while playing in Italy before coming to NBA, because even guards in the NBA could knock him down in the paint if he stays the way he is now. I ( and quite frankly many other lithuanians) think that Valanciunas could turn out to be better that Motiejunas.
On a side note I'm just happy that Lithuania's national team is set at PF and C positions with those two. Now all we have to do is find a PG of their level....
p.s. Sorry for any mistakes I made - english is only my second language.
P.S.Also you mispelled Arvidas Sabonis name in the article - it's ArvYdas Sabonis.
P.P.S. http://www.nbadraft.net/players/jonas-valanciunas theres a little mistake - His hometown isn't "Rytas" ( theres no such city in Lithuania to be exact) his hometown is Utena.
Thanks for the corrections! Lithuania might be more passionate about basketball than any country in the world. It was good to see them win. Congrats.
It´s nice to read Prophet´s post - it´s really analytic and realistic, despite of the fact, that Valanciunas could be the next best thing after Sabonis in Lithuanian basketball scene. I like, that you see his flaws as well as his strong sides. That what makes Lithuanian basketball scene so special - fans and crowd alltogether are very aware about the finesses of basketball and because of that fairly demanding. That keeps young guys developing and does not let them take bad attitude. It´s sad to say, but everything, what´s right in Lithuanian basketball, is wrong in Estonian. So I only have to show respect and hope that we can learn something.
and, congrats, f course. As we dont have estonian players in the big scenes, we consider lithuanian guys a little bit "our" guys, too, and support them more than others in NBA and Euroleague as well.
International Basketball has always been good but now I believe it is better than ever, and the games will be more competitive than ever.With emerging teams such as Lithuania, and Canada, who have always been nations with interest in the sport, but lacked the talent to compete, African nations being given the support to hold basketball camps and develop their talent, and teams like Spain, Argentina and France only getting stronger, International Basketball should be very exciting for a long time.
>Aran_Smith Yup where are really passionate about basketball - it's said that basketball in Lithuania is second religion.
>Ralwarez Hey nice to see someone who's living relatively near me :) But actually we have a little problem with our youngsters - we seem to do really well in u-16, u-18 other youth tournaments but when the players have to take the next step - become pro basketball players, many of them seem to fail to do that :| Also on a side note your goverment does everything right, while our doesn't :(
Hmm sorry for double post but I'd like to respond to OhCanada post also. While I agree that international basketball is getting better I want to clarify other point - IF I understood correctly you said that in the past both Canada and Lithuania lacked talent to compete ? Well I'm not sure about Canada's past accomplishments in basketball, but Lithuania always had talent and always competed. I mean we even won gold medals in Euro champs wayyyyy back in 1937 and 1939 :D And there are only two countries that made 5 consecutive appearances in Olympic top4 - USA and.... Lithuania :) Since we regained our independance back in 1990 we reached Olympics basketball top 4 every single time we participated ( in 92', 96', 00' we even won bronze medals).
Also Ralwarez you mentioned crowd's good understanding of basketball game, rules etc. - well referees have hard time in our country because if they make a 50/50 decision that favors opponents team - expect to hear some booooooooo's. Also don't f.uck up in an important game for us or this will happen :D
What happens before - the refs call a technical on green's team player ( Zalgiris) while there wasn't even an offensive foul... And that call stopped us from reaching Euroleagues Top 16. So yeah don't mess with us :)
Also just to explain what basketball means to us - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_mc-USW5BSc just superb vid :) Enjoy.
- you are obviously a Zhalgiris fan :D Yes our government is ok, but not out basketball assotiation, we don´t have a real system for even a young guys. The problem about u18 players turning pro-s is better solved in Latvia - a lot of guys going to NCAA - which is quite a good way to make a transition from juniors to real pro-level. In baltics the approach may not be so proffessional training-wise - every 1. division NCAA teams have real proffessional approaches to physical training, conditoning, individual work and developing right mindset as well - damn, even top high-schools in states have all of that. I enjoy young guys like John Wall or especially Patrick Patterson talking - their attitude, work ethics.
Dario Saric, made some strong performances playing in the U18 Euro Championships alongside players two years older then him, he proved his talent, but tonight in the final of the U16 Championships he showed what kind of player he could become.
Croatia dominated Lithuania in the final winning 80:52, and Saric was clear cut MVP of the tournament while some of his numbers were just extraordinary. In the final he achieved extremely rare triple-double by pouring in 32 points with 12 rebounds and 11 assists.
He is a unique talent, somebody who could definitely become the star of the future. Already, as a 16 year old kid he is 202cm tall, he moves extremely well for any size, he shoots the ball, runs the floor like a playmaker even though it is obvious he will be a power forward. Things he can do on the floor cannot be done by many at his age, he is massively talented. Croatia has a star in the making.