By Giovanni Conte
The Under 16 European Championships from Hradec Kralove/Pardubice Czech Republic are in the books. The event had one superstar who stood out above the rest: the dominator: Mario Hezonja! The young Croatian star led his team to the gold medal. He appears to be the most talented European 2-guard since Drazen Petrovic. Born in 1995 in Dobrovnik, Hezonja is ready to play at a high level. In fact, next season he will be an important part of KK Zagreb, a team that plays in Euroleague. Super Mario finished the European Championship with averages of 20 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.7 assist and 2.2 steals per game, and was named MVP of the tournament. The Croatian pup is one of best guard prospects to emerge outside the US in a long time, perhaps 20 years. Only Ricky Rubio at the same age is comparable. He should put on some muscle and not settle for three points shots (8.3 attempts per game), but the NBA is his destiny.
Other players to keep an eye on:
Aleksandar Vezenkov (6’9”/204 cm, SF, Bulgaria, 1995): he was the brain and the brawn of Bulgaria; He averaged 27.1 points (the best in competition), 9.9 rebounds (2nd), 3.6 assists (9th), 1.8 blocks (3th), with a nice 53.6% from the field (4th) and an excellent 42.9% from three point line (1st). Next season he will probably make his debut in Eurocup with Greek team Aris Thessaloniki. Against guys the same age, he’s illegal: remember his name for the future.
Edvinas Seskus (6’4”/192 cm, SG, Lithuania, 1995): He is a very solid player, physically strong and athletic, but probably is not a prospect for the NBA level. However, in this tournament he played very well and finished with 21.3 points, 9.4 rebounds and 3.6 assists.
Martin Peterka (6’7”/199 cm, F, Czech Republic, 1995): He is a really interesting guy, on the court he can do almost anything. Martin can use his body very well, also for this reason he was the best rebounder of the European Championship with 12.6 per game. He can score in a lot of ways: he averaged 17.6 points with 51.2% from the field and a nice 42.9% behind the arc.
Ilimane Diop (6’11”/210 cm, C, Spain, 1995): Born in Medina Gouna (Senegal), Diop is one of the most interesting young big men in Europe. From a technical point of view, he is still in his infancy, but physically he is amazing. He’s skinny, but has time to put on some muscle; his coordination and his skill to run for the court are really impressive. He finished the competition with 10.3 points, 9 rebounds and 3 blocks per game.
Damien Inglis (6’6”/198 cm, SF, France, 1995): The captain of French team is a beast. No one in this tournament can contain the physical strength of this guy: he resembles Mickael Gelabale, but more muscular. He averaged 14.9 points and 7.8 rebounds per game.
Radovan Kouril (6’0”(182 cm, PG, Czech Republic, 1995): Certainly the best point guard of the Championship. He is a very smart player, always has control of the rhythm, but probably too small for the NBA level. But his stats are excellent: 15.4 points and 6.1 assists per game.