From December 27th to 29th Stella Azzurra hosted the Citta di Roma, which is the first of the four qualification tournaments (L’Hospitalet, Siaulai and Belgrade the other venues), of the Nike Junior International Tournament. The winner was the Bosnian team KK Spars Sarajevo who topped Fenerbahce Ulker Istanbul. Here is a list of prospects that showed the most NBA potential.
Romaric Belemene (1997, 6’9”, SF, Unicaja Malaga, Congo)
He was the real surprise of the tournament, definitely the prospect with the biggest upside for his age, if his ’97 age is legitimate. Standing 6’9”, he’s a wing with incredible mobility and athleticism, with good ball handling and the ability to create his own shot off the dribble. On the defensive end he is really an intimidator, with good timing for blocks and the ability to defend both forward positions. He’s a pretty raw prospect from the technical standpoint, especially in terms of game comprehension and shooting skills, regardless he’s a player that deserves attention for the future.
Doko Salic (1995, 6’9”, C, KK Spars Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina)
Salic is a really skilled player with soft hands and great range for his position, he’s also a continuous threat in pick and pop situations. He has a really robust frame, he’s already developed from a physical standpoint, compensating for his lack of height, at least at this level. He has a complete offensive repertoire, both facing and back to the basket, also having great instincts and sense of position for rebounding. Standing 6’9” he’s a bit undersized to play the center position in the highest European level, but his toughness and technical skills allow him to put forth a solid impact on both sides of the floor. His ceiling seems rather limited but he’s complete prospect, ready to compete at the senior level. He won MVP of the tournament and he was also the top scorer.
James Birsen (1995, SF, 6’7”, Fenerbahce Ulker Istanbul, Turkey)
Birsen has shown the ability to play multiple backcourt positions, often switching to the point guard spot at the conclusion of the offensive action. He has a natural feel for the game, combined with great passing instincts and court vision, especially in transition. On the defensive side he has good instincts for steals, working effectively in passing lanes. Despite all of his strengths, there is a concern about his development, that seems to have plateaued. His lack of consistency on the jump shot and his average explosiveness, struggling to beat defenders off the dribble, are flaws that could limit his potential. He showed a poor attitude during the tournament, in fact even if he was basically the most talented player on the court, his impact on the games was rather limited.
Nedim Buza (1995, 6’7”, SG, KK Spars Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina)
Buza is a tremendous sharp shooter, with remarkable size for the position and smooth and quick mechanics. He’s a killer in catch and shoot situations, where he exploits to perfection the off the ball game, often finding the perfect timing to release the three pointer. He has great fundamentals and a great use of the pivot foot, with a complete offensive skillset. His main shortcoming is a lack of explosiveness and of a quick first step, even if he’s definitely a good athlete, with the ability to play above the rim. He struggles a bit when he has to beat defenders in 1 on 1 situations, as he prefers to use screens instead of isolation. On the defensive side he has a great attitude and effectiveness, he often takes care of the best backcourt player of the opposition. Behind Mario Hezonja, he’s definitely the best scorer of his ’95 age group.
Aleksej Nikolic (1995, 6’2”, SG, KK Spars Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina)
Nikolic is a prolific scorer, with the ability to score in many different ways, from the perimeter or attacking the basket. He has a really solid frame, with a quick first step and good explosiveness. He has amazing instincts and personality, sharing the responsibility of clutch shots with Buza. He’s a bit undersized for the role, in fact a boost for his professional career could come from an evolution to the point guard position.
Ayberk Guleryuz (1996, SF, 6’8”, Fenerbahce Ulker Istanbul, Turkey)
Guleryuz is an athletic small forward with a solid frame and good coordination. His leaping abilities are quite impressive (at least two dunks per game), he’s a vertical player that puts forth great intensity on the floor. He has great instincts as a rebounder without any fear to battle below the boards, showing a blue collar style of game with a significant contribution of intangibles. He has also good passing skills and the ability to involve teammates when the double comes. He needs to work on his ball handling in order to improve his ability to create from the dribble. Furthermore he has to add fluidity to his mechanics in order to build a reliable jump shot from midrange. Definitely a prospect with a good upside and one of the best of his class.
Berk Ugurlu (1996, PG, 6’2”, Fenerbahce Ulker Istanbul, Turkey)
Crafty point guard with low center of gravity and a solid frame that allows him to withstand contact effectively. He’s extremely fast, he pushes the ball in transition with confidence and effectiveness, often finishing at the rim. He has great court vision and good playmaking skills, he’s essential but really effective, leading the team with his personality. He has a reliable floater, but he needs to work on his jumper in pick and roll situations and on his three point shot.
Daniel Mayr (1995, C, 7’0”, Brose Basket Bamberg, Germany)
Mayr is a skinny center who needs to bulk up, but with a frame that will allow him to add muscle quite easily. He has good mobility and coordination and runs the floor well in transition but he lacks athleticism. He struggles to play back to the basket even against smaller defenders and lacks a reliable pivot game. He has good hands and is a good passer, but he needs to put more energy on the floor gain some nastiness and toughness. Mayr is an interesting prospect with good upside and basketball IQ, but he absolutely has to improve from a mental and technical standpoint.
Leon Kratzer (1997, PF, 6’9”, Brose Basket Bamberg, Germany)
A young prospect with great maturity and a well-defined body. Standing 6’9”, he has a large wingspan, that combined with a good sense of position makes him a reliable rebounder. Kratzer plays with intensity, making an effective contribution also with intangibles despite his young age. When he’s in post position, he’s able to open the floor creating space for teammates, showing a good understanding and feel for the game. He needs to work on his offensive skills, especially the jump shot and the hook shot in order to become more complete, but certainly a prospect to watch for the future.
David Taylor (1995, PG, 6’2”, Brose Basket Bamberg, Germany)
Taylor is a point guard with a solid frame, a strong upper body and astonishing athletic skills. He’s blazing fast running the floor, but when the rhythm of the game slows, he tends to put too much emphasis on the dribble. This leads to frequent turnovers in those situations, also due to travelling violations, he needs to work on his playmaking skills and his ball handling, since his game is really instinctive and raw. He has great timing for steals and a good defensive attitude. Definitely a prospect with great potential if he polishes his game and adds a reliable jump shot.
Domantas Sabonis (1996, 6’10”, PF, Unicaja Malaga, Lithuania)
Son of Arvydas, Domantas is a gifted power forward with solid fundamentals and a reliable hook shot. He’s long and mobile for his height, but he needs to work on his body control when he attacks the basket, since he tends to lose balance after contact. He’s a good athlete even if he’s not really explosive, his mobility allows him to run the floor well, with great effectiveness in secondary transition situations. He needs to expand his shooting range and improve his ball handling in order to become a more effective offensive player. The main concern is his mental toughness, sometimes he struggles in managing pressure and loses focus, especially after some bad calls from referees.
Mo Soluade (1995, 6’5”, PG, Unicaja Malaga, England)
Soluade is an athletic combo guard with amazing physical skills and a slashing style of game. He has great instincts for steals with quick hands. Thanks to his speed, after a steal he’s able to drive the court with tremendous effectiveness, often getting to the rim. He has a terrific potential, but all will depend on his ability to develop reliable playmaking skills and add consistency to his jump shot. He has three point range, but he needs to work on his mechanics, plus he isn’t a pass first guard and he has to look to involve his teammates more.
Adam Pechachek (1995, 6’9”, PF, Virtus Bologna, Czech Republic)
Pechachek is a solid and mobile PF with good coordination and well developed from a muscular standpoint. He is a good athlete but not too explosive nor does he have great feet speed. He has good ball handling skills for his height and runs the floor very well, even with the ball in his hands. He has a reliable hook shot which he usually utilizes from the post position. He has good hands even if he should improve the use of his left hand. In order to complete his offensive game he should add some range to his shot.
Simone Fontecchio (1995, 6’7”, SF, Virtus Bologna, Italy)
Solid and athletic wing with a good frame and foot speed. He’s really effective with his first step for his height, with the ability to beat opponents off the dribble. He has a complete offensive skillset, both inside and outside dimension, playing with great intensity and effort on both sides of the floor. He has good shooting range from outside 3 point line, especially in catch and shoot situations. Possesses a good defensive attitude, with good instincts but he tends to suffer against quicker and smaller opponents, and needs to improve upon his lateral speed. On the offensive side he’s mostly a scorer, he should become a little less selfish, involving his teammates better.
Andrea La Torre (1997, 6’6”, SG, Stella Azzurra Roma, Italy)
La Torre is a lefty big guard, already well developed from the physical standpoint despite his young age and has a good wingspan. He has good ball handling skills, with confidence under pressure. His offensive game is based on the perimeter, with good hands and a reliable shot, even from three point range. He needs to add some consistency when attacking the basket, as there are situations when he tends to lose balance, plus he has to improve his shot selection. in his 1997 age group, he’s definitely a prospect with a great potential, probably a top 3 in his International class.
Pierfrancesco Oliva (1996, SF, 6’7”, Virtus Siena, Italy)
Oliva is a point forward that loves to create with the ball in his hands, both for him and his teammates, showing great passing instincts. He’s long with a good wing span, and even if he’s skinny he shows a good ability to withstand contact or change direction in the air, often drawing fouls. He’s really athletic, with the ability to attack the basket using multiple moves, and a good use of the pivot foot. He needs to work on his ball handling, in order to add confidence and effectiveness to his offensive game, but his first quick step allows him to beat slower opponents. He has a strong offensive feel with the ability to properly read situations. His main technical flaw is the lack of consistency on his shot, especially from the three point range. He has also to work on his attitude, he’s shown a tendency to argue with opponents or complain with teammates and the referees.