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U18 European Championship: Top Prospects

Thu, 12/29/2016 - 10:23pm

Samsun's FIBA U18 European Championship was marked by the absences of NBA prospects such as Luka Doncic (99', 6-7, G – Slovenia), Rodions Kurucs (98', 6-8, SF – Latvia), Omer Yurtseven (98', 7-0, PF/C – Turkey), Onuralp Bitim (99', 6-6, SG, Turkey) and Isaac Bogna (99', 6-8, PG/SG – Germany). With that said, the level of talent was actually pretty good, with many players having the chance to show their skills.

1. Frank Ntilikina (98', 6-5, PG – France)

Frank NtilikinaFrank NtilikinaThe French prospect was struggling at the beginning of the Tournament, making everyone wonder what had happened to him. As it turned out, he was saving his best for last. In the second stage of the Tournament he was phenomenal. On offense he was choosing his spots carefully, scoring with ease, creating opportunities for himself and his teamates and on defense he was as dominant as ever. In the Final against Lithuania he was even better, scoring 31 points on 7/10 shots from the 3-point line, hitting one big shot after the other! Frank Ntilikina was definitely the best player of the Tournament, earning MVP honors. His combination of athleticism, length, scoring ability and defensive upside seems almost unfair at the moment, although it's clear that he still has a lot to work on and he has make his shot release a little more smooth.

2. Isaiah Hartenstein (98', 6-11, PF/C – Germany)

He was the best big of the tournament and a member of the All Tournament team. Isaiah Hartenstein showed a good portion of his all around skills that make him so special, such as his touch around the basket, smooth release, great rebounding ability, good timing for blocks and rare passing skills for a guy his size. The truth is though that at times he had some problems finishing in the paint against physical opponents, missing shots that he shouldn't miss for a player of his caliber. But the talent is there and no one can deny that, making him a lottery level prospect.

3. Sekou Doumbouya (00', 6-9, SF – France)

He acquired his French passport just two weeks before the beginning of the Tournament and he was the youngest player of the Eurobasket, turning 16 years old on the day of the Final. That didn't stop him from dominating players who were 2 years older than him, finishing the U18 event as the 3rd leading scorer (17.8 points per game) and a member of the All Tournament Team! Sekou Doumbouya really impressed everyone with his atleticism, length and level of energy, while at the same time he surprised many with his ball handling and ability to play one on one. His shooting needs work and the same applies for his basketball I.Q, but this is natural since he is just 16 years old and still learning the game, having started just 4 years ago! He is definitely a prospect to keep an eye on.

4. Kostja Mushidi (98', 6-5, SG – Germany)

Playing for a German team that underperfomed finishing in 4th place, Kostja Mushidi had a lot of ups and downs, maybe because he knew that everyone was focused on him. The German prospect showed flashes of his athleticism and scoring touch and had some really good moments on defense. He had a great semifinal against Lithuania, showing that he is not afraid of the big stage, with 33 points and 8 rebounds. At the same time though it's difficult not to mention that he shot just 19% from the 3-point line (8/42 from long range). The talent and upside are there, but it's questionable whether Mushidi really helped his draft stock in this Tournament and that's never good.

5. Dzanan Musa (99', 6-8, SG – Bosnia and Herzegovina)

He wasn't as dominant as in the past. His shot wasn't falling. He looked tired. He had problems against elite athletes like France's players. All in all, Dzanan Musa somehow still managed to finish the Tournament as the leading scorer. And that definitely says a lot about him. There is no doubt that the Bosnian prospect has flaws, such as his body structure and his lack of elite athleticism, but nobody can deny that he is probably the best scorer of his generation in Europe. Will this be enough to send him to the NBA some day? It's too early to tell, but if he manages to improve his shooting and find a way to bulk up, his rare ability to create for himself and his teammates will help him become a great player.

6. Tadas Sedekerskis (98', 6-8, SF – Lithuania)

He was forced to play a lot out of position as a power forward, but that didn't prevent him from having a great Tournament, finishing as the second rebounder of the Eurobasket with 10.2 rebounds per game, along with 14.5 points, 3.8 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.3 blocks per game. He showed once again that he can fill a stat sheet like a few players of his age, and explore every mismatch thanks to his advanced athleticism, earning All Tournament honors. There are some concerns however: 1. He failed to score even a simple 3-pointer in 6 games, shooting 0/14 from the 3-point line. 2. He shot just 50% from the free throw line. It's almost certain that both stats will get better, since his shooting mechanics aren't that bad and nobody can ignore that every kid in this Tourmanent was forced to play 6 games in 7 days. With that said, it's still difficult not to mention his percentages.

7. Ragip Atar (99', 6-11, PF/C Turkey)

Playing for an undermanned Turkey team which was missing its two best players (Omer Yurtseven of NC State and Onuralp Bitim), Ragip Atar was probably the only reason for a few smiles for the underachiving host of the European Championship. The Turkish prospect had a great Tournament, averaging 14.4 points and 8 rebounds per game in just 19.8 minutes of playing time, and he even had a monster line (21 points and 15 rebounds) against Isaiah Hartenstein! He is still pretty raw and his atleticism is just about average, but he is a relentless rebounder who is not afraid to fight with... just about everybody, as he also showed in the U17 World Championship that was held in Zaragoza the past summer.

8. Roberts Blumbergs (98', 6-10, PF – Latvia)

Probably the best Stretch-4 of the Tournament, mainly because Isaiah Hartenstein was mostly used as a center in Germany. Roberts Blumbergs had some really good games and he looked better and better as the Tournament was prosceding. He is a good athlete, a very good rebounder, has a nice shooting stroke, can put the ball on the floor and posseses an above average face up game. He would be an even more interetsting prospect if he could play as a small forward though.

9. Arnoldas Kulboka (98', 6-9. SF – Lithuania)

He is long, athletic and had probably the prettiest looking jump shot in the Tournament, but he definitely has a long way to go. If there is one thing that Arnoldas Kulboka is lacking, it is consistency. He finished the Tournament as his team's leading scorer (15.7 points per game), but his scoring numbers were a result of 3 games with +24 points and 3 games with below 8 points! The Lithuanian prospect can become a really good player in the future, with NBA potential. For this to happen though, he has to become a lot stronger, stop avoiding contact and find some consistency.

10. Borisa Simanic (98', 6-10, PF – Serbia)

Based on his performances he shouldn't be included in this list. By the numbers, Borisa Simanic was actually one of the disappointments of this Tournament, but reality is a little bit different. The Serbian prospect actually had just one bad game and played only one minute in his fourth game before he suffered a right ankle sprain that kept him out for the rest of the Eurobasket event. He definitely didn't stand out as many expected him to and he didn't become the leader of his team. But still, his upside makes it difficult to ignore him, because he is long, fairly athletic and with nice touch around the basket. He probably has made a step back in this Tournament, but it's up to him to improve and become the player that the Serbians think that he can.

Honorable Mention

Oscar Leon Da Silva (98', 6-9, SF – Germany) and Louis Olinde (98', 6-9, SF – Germany) had some great moments, taking advanatage of their length and athleticism. Arnas Velicka (99', 6-4, PG – Lithuania) proved once again that after Luka Doncic and Isaac Bonga he is probably the best guard of his generation in Europe at this point, with his playmaking and scoring ability. Just one or two steps behind him is probably Dimitris Moraitis (99', 6-4, PG – Greece), who has a similar style of playing and Davide Moretti (98', 6-1, PG – Italy). Sergi Martinez (99', 6-7, F – Spain) was a... beast once again, but for him to make the next step he has to be able to slide over to small forward. Olle Lundqvist (99', 6-6, SF – Sweden) was one of the pleasant surprises with his ability to create for himself and his teamates.

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