By Alex Kaftan
Amedeo Tessitori 6’9" (possibly 6’10" in shoes) 235-245 PF/C 1994-born
Virtus Siena’s post player is as gifted as he is frustrating; in fact, the mercurial Tessitori stood out as the single most frustrating player at this tournament, and one of the most frustrating I have ever scouted. His strengths include excellent size and skill-level, a promising, wide-bodied frame, impressive anticipation skills, advanced ball-handling, a solid perimeter shot, and good quickness and leaping ability, especially considering how he lumbers from end-to-end.
Despite these notable advantages and his U-18 productivity, averaging 21 points and 13 rebounds in this tournament, Tessitori, who would be a junior in high school, will likely never reach his NBA-potential due to a myriad of attitude issues that became evident just a few minutes into his first game, when he attempted an excessively boastful one-handed tomahawk dunk in a one-on-none transition–and missed–and slammed in a teammate’s would-be and-1, thereby negating the bucket.
Tessitori, however, showed more than mere idiocy in Siena’s only loss, to Istanbul in the game that would have sent the winner to play Zagreb in the finals. Trailing 60-58 with ten seconds left, Tessitori stood at the free-throw line with two shots, but missed the first. From the bench, his coach gave him clear instructions to make the second free-throw, commencing a foul-and-chase. Tessitori, however, intentionally missed the second, and, before the ball touched the rim, broke the free-throw line plane, resulting in a violation that gave the ball back to Fenerbahce, thus burying Siena.
Besides this stubbornness, Tessitori is also an unwilling defender, pretending to show on screens, and oftentimes getting back on defense three or four seconds late. As mentioned, he lumbers from end-to-end as a twenty-year veteran, frequently walking up the court. This poor conditioning could be ameliorated if he dropped about twenty pounds of fat, though unfortunately he doesn’t appear to be disciplined enough; in speaking with members within the Virtus Siena community, I found out that he gained seven pounds during the Christmas season.
Think about that for a moment. A seventeen-year-old gained seven pounds in under a week. Think about the metabolism of someone still growing, and think about how much he would have had to eat in order to add that much weight. To give you a more concrete idea, seven pounds of fat are equal to about 25,000 calories, meaning that Tessitori had a net consumption surplus of 25,000 calories in about a week. That’s mind blowing. In ten years, with a slowed metabolism, how would his body react to such voracious consumption?
Due to his playing style, strengths, and weaknesses, I would compare Tessitori to a poor-man’s Zach Randolph, a more slender-bodied Derrick Caracter, or a smaller Renardo Sydney. As you may have noticed, these three are highly-talented post-players with attitude issues that nearly derailed their careers, or in the case of Sydney and possibly Caracter, are in the process of derailing their careers.
Francesco Candussi 6’11" 225 lbs. PF 1994-born
Virtus Siena’s other talented post player is rather different from Tessitori. Francesco Candussi features a lean and lanky body, solid agility, and an effort level that goes from adequate to sterling. He even has touch out to the three-point line, and exhibits a promising pull-up jumper, as well as the potential to drive past slower bigs.
Despite these strengths, Candussi lacks aggression going to the boards, has neither particularly long arms nor broad shoulders–giving him a low-strength potential. He also doesn’t post up with authority and gets backed down easily. His rear could use some extra weight, which would help, though this deficiency is also connected to an overall lack of assertiveness in his game.
Candussi has plenty of talent, though due to his lack of strength he may be several years from contributing at a high-level. In the interim, he must work diligently on his body, improve his back-to-the-basket offense and defense, and develop a mean streak to better-utilize the height and skill advantages that he will consistently have.
Corrado Bianconi 6’8" 190-200 lbs SG/SF, 1994-born
Corrado Bianconi, a tall, long, and skinny wing, is Siena’s best long-term prospect, though due to his mental and physical rawness has the longest route to reach his potential. He immediately stands out, as he has outstanding height for a player that likely projects as a shooting guard, with a long wingspan, smooth quickness and athleticism, good speed, and the potential to add about twenty pounds without loosing his physical advantages.
Bianconi also shows promising ball-handling, passing, and shooting ability, which, coupled with his athletic profile, could make him into a dynamic offensive role-player. However, to maximize this potential, he must dribble closer to his body, become less streaky on his jumper, and not become overly disappointed with himself after inevitable mistakes.
The last issue mentioned alludes to Bianconi’s biggest obstacle–a lack of confidence. With all his physical and skill potential, Bianconi will never even become a Serie A player if he doesn’t believe in his ability. He easily got frustrated, and oftentimes displayed little to no aggression on both offense and defense. His passivity–as well as his lack of muscle–lead to negative plays, such as turnovers or point-blank misses, which further decreased his level of confidence.
It was a pleasant surprise when, facing Fenerbahce, Bianconi played the entire game with a fiery disposition, confidently taking jumpers, driving, and defending. Several times in the second half, Bianconi utilized his superior quickness and adequate ball-handling–as well as his new-found aggressiveness–to blow by his man, taking off from the baseline or the wing, thereby drawing an extra man to either dish perfect passes to Tessitori, or successfully kick-out to open shooters, or driving all the way to the basket, either drawing fouls or, on one occasion, finishing with a thunderous two-handed slam.
The Bianconi seen against Fenerbahce is the Bianconi that must come out far more consistently if he ever has aspirations of playing in the Euroleague or the NBA. He appears to be a good kid, with a solid family, and is still just seventeen years old. Furthermore, his lack-of-confidence may partially stem from being in Tessitori’s shadow, as the management of Virtus Siena seems to heavily promote their moody center at the expense of their other capable players. That, coupled with his age, makes me believe that he may develop more either on a new team, or whenever Tessitori changes squads, which will likely happen within the next year.
Ayerbek Guleryuz 6’9" 195 lbs. SF/PF 1995-born
In addition to James Metecan Birsen, Fenerbahce Istanbul had another promising wing player in Ayerbek Guleryuz. Unlike the highly-polished Birsen, however, Guleryuz is extremely raw. His physical profile, however, makes him into a possible NBA prospect: he moves exceptionally well for his size, displaying both gazelle-like end-to-end speed and blow-by quickness. He also shows an extremely aggressive mentality, constantly seeking to attack the basket on offense and block shots and go after loose balls on defense.
Furthermore, for someone as tall and as young as him–he’d be a high school sophomore–Guleryuz demonstrates the hand-eye-coordination necessary to greatly improve his currently-spotty ball-handling, inconsistent shooting, turnover propensity due to playing too fast; in addition, he must add strength to his body, which lacks muscle in both the upper and lower halves.
It’s far too early to make any definitive predictions with someone this young and this raw. To fulfill his potential, Guleryuz needs to reach a skill-level that wouldn’t render him into an offensive liability, as he, with his turnovers, occasionally is now. Players with his physical ability, however, are not common, and make it worthwhile to periodically check up on his progress.
Berk Ugurlu 6’3" (possibly growing to 6’4" or 6’5") 190-200 lbs PG 1996-born
On the other end of the high athleticism/low skill spectrum, there is Berk Ugurlu, one of the youngest players at this event, and the youngest protagonist. For someone that would be just a high school sophomore, he shows an uncanny ability to run a team, displaying charisma, a high basketball IQ, advanced leadership skills, and a pass-first disposition. Furthermore, Ugurlu efficiently managed the shot-clock, as he kept wasteful activity, such as pounding the ball, to a minimum.
Despite his skill-level, Ugurlu has several areas to improve upon. First and foremost is his body; he exhibits a pudgy physique typical of adolescents who have not finished their growth. He likely will get taller, and through that process, fill out by turning his excess fat into muscle. With a leaner build, Ugurlu will improve upon his average quickness, although even now, with his intelligence and nifty hesitation moves, he managed to find his way past his primary defender. Secondly, he must improve both his shooting range and his ability to handle the ball with his left-hand. Thirdly, he ought to add strength, which, along with increased agility, could make him into an adequate defender.
Though early, Ugurlu has considerable upside, as 6’3" fifteen-year-old true point guards with his skill level are rare on either side of the Atlantic. The way he grows physically, and the consequences that his growth will have on his quickness and strength will largely determine whether, barring an injury, he has NBA or Euroleague potential.
Mouhamed Barro 6’8 1/2" 205-215 lbs. SF/PF 1995-born.
Despite seeing his teammate, the explosively athletic Tridòn Makonda Moke be named to the first team, Mouhamed Barro was actually the more productive player. And despite not sharing Makonda Moke’s long-term ability, Barro has a far higher floor, and thus a far smaller chance of disappearing in four years.
Barro primarily plays power forward, or even center, for Gran Canaria. He has an average frame with an upper-body that must become stronger, no matter his position, though he currently has a surprising amount of wiry strength, which, along with his highly competitive disposition, makes him a competent rebounder and defender. His ability to rebound is further aided by both his high basketball IQ, as he can readily determine a missed shot’s trajectory, and his above-average quickness.
Barro is a bit of an odd player, in that he clearly has some rawness to him, though he also has an unusual feel for the game; despite his rawness, basketball comes naturally to him. One side of this apparent contradiction manifested itself in intelligent plays; in his tendency to play calmly without sacrificing aggressiveness; and his surprising ability to thread pin-point passes to both open and covered teammates. The contradiction’s opposite side consisted in underdeveloped ball-handling and near-nonexistent shooting ability.
With his physical and mental attributes, as well as his young age, Barro could potentially transition to small forward, which would be the position where he’d find the most NBA success. This transition, however, may take several years–though he does appear to have the skills and the basketball IQ to do so.
Sergiy Zagreba 7’0" 235 lbs. Center. 1994-born.
A rather polarizing center, Sergiy Zagreba was the tallest frequently-used player in the tournament. Just like his Dnipro teammates, he has a physically-developed frame, with lean muscle, decent leg-strength, and impressive end-to-end quickness for someone his size. In addition, Zagreba also possesses an adequate wingspan, which one day could be used to corral a large quantity of rebounds. Furthermore, he exhibited a soft touch, coupled with primitive, yet promising, post-moves, most potent of these included his jump-hooks from around seven to ten feet out.
Zagraba is polarizing for a reason, however; he tended to rely too heavily on his physical strength, frequently placing his forearm onto opponents in an attempt to displace them. Furthermore, it’s questionable if his strength advantage will hold up at the senior level, as his narrow shoulders make it appear that he may be close to maxing-out on his physical development. When he didn’t get his way, he oftentimes got visibly angry, and in his frustration, became a detriment to his team. Additionally, his low basketball IQ–seen primarily by his slow decision-making, as he allowed himself to be double-teamed most times he touched the ball–further hampered his effectiveness.
Zagreba has a ways to go, especially in trying to dissect a defense, and to better-utilize his height and touch on offense. Since centers are usually the slowest to develop–Zagreba would merely be a high school senior if he were American–he has a chance to become an adequate Euroleague, and potentially NBA, performer.