From January 4th to 6th C.B. L’Hospitalet held the second of the four qualification tournaments (Rome (Citta di Roma Tournament), Siaulai and Belgrade are the other venues), of the Nike Junior International Tournament. The winner was the Spanish team of Joventut Badalona in the final game against Real Madrid. Here is a list of the prospects that showed the best potential.
Mario Hezonja (1995, 6’6”, SG, FC Regal Barcelona, Croatia)
Everybody at l’Hospitalet was expecting a lot from the most talented prospect of the tournament and basically all of Europe. All of these huge expectations were only partially fulfilled, since a player of Hezonja’s talent should have easily dominated the tournament. He only showed glimpses, with his combination of athleticism, shooting and technical skills, but most of the time his gamed lacked consistency. Plus his shot selection was awful, leaving the impression of a player that was out of his element, which he was. We’re making excuses for him, but the main problem for Hezonja is the fact that he trains most of the time with FC Barcelona ACB team, but plays with LEB Gold team and sometimes with juniors. In order to develop as a player he absolutely needs to play and train in a stable context, in order to exploit his immense potential in a proper manner. He’s already developed enough from a physical and technical standpoint to play at the ACB and Euroleague level, where he would face opponents that would push him to the limit and force him to work on his shortcomings.
Emir Sulejmanovic (1995, 6’8”, PF, Oljmpija Ljubljana, Finland/Bosnia Herzegovina)
The MVP of 2013 L’Hospitalet Tournament become known at the 2011 Div B European championships in Strumica, where he was discovered by Dragan Janjic, scout of Ljubljana, while playing with the Finland national team. a power forward with a really solid frame and long arms, with the possibility to work on his physique since he’s still in the development stages. He’s really mobile and explosive, with the ability to score in many different ways. Even if he’s a bit undersized for the role at the moment, his athleticism and power allows him to physically dominate his peers at this level of competition. He plays with intensity and a blue collar style, even if he’s definitely a really skilled player from a technical standpoint. His main shortcoming is the lack of a consistent outside shot, since his offensive game is based in the painted area. Plus he struggles against quicker forwards on the defensive end. He has a terrific work ethic and will to improve, being the vocal leader of the team. A prospect with upside that is going to be on the radar of NBA scouts.
Itay Segev (1995, 6’8”, SF, Maccabi Tel Aviv, Israel)
Athletic wing with a solid frame and an intriguing wingspan. He has great mobility and good defensive instincts to play the passing lanes. Segev has good ball handling skills, with the ability to attack the basket from off the dribble. His game lacks consistency and he’s pretty raw from a technical standpoint, especially concerning shot mechanics and range. His combination of height and lateral speed allows him to be a great defender, basically on three roles. He’s a prospect with great upside.
Ludde Hakanson (1996, 6’4”, PG, FC Barcelona, Sweden)
Standing 6’4” he has a good height for the PG position, combined with great passing skills and creativity. He has good court vision, but he needs to improve the consistency of his playmaking, in fact he sometimes tends to lose his focus. He lacks elite explosiveness but he should be considered a good athlete even if he needs to bulk up. He needs to add consistency to his 3 point shot and to build a reliable midrange game, especially in pick and roll situations.
Milovan Draskovic (1995, 6’11”, PF, FC Barcelona, Montenegro)
Long and skinny power forward with a good wingspan. He definitely needs to bulk up in order to better withstand contact, plus he lacks explosiveness and toughness. He has good ball handling skills and mobility for his height. His athletic ability and sense of position make him a reliable rebounder. Most of his game is based in the painted area starting front or back to the basket. He needs to improve his shot mechanics and his range in order to evolve as a modern PF, which seems a feasible task since he has rather good hands. On the defensive side, he struggles against more powerful and athletic opponents.
Jonathan Kasibabu (1996, 6’8”, PF, Real Madrid, Congo)
Explosive and compact power forward, basically a grown man from a physical standpoint. His documents state that he was born in 1996, but there is skepticism about that. He’s really mobile and intense on the court with a great attitude and instincts. He’s really raw from the technical standpoint, he lacks touch and mechanics on his shot. He has at least one solid back to the basket move in which he usually finishes with a hook shot in the middle of the paint area. He has a good ball handling, being effective when he puts the ball on the floor with a rather quick first step. He’s undersized for the role and his ceiling seems rather limited.
Thiago Samba (1998, 6’9”, PF, Real Madrid, Senegal)
Like with Kasibabu there are some doubts about his age, in fact Samba is a big man with an uncommon muscular definition for a 14 year old kid. He’s a rather raw prospect, but his technical and physical base is intriguing, especially if his development continues. He prefers to take position with the back to the basket, where he shows a good sense of position and attitude to fight under the boards. On the defensive side he has good instincts and timing for the block, putting forth a good contribution of intimidation. He’s definitely a name worth tracking, with, depending on his true age, considerable unrealized potential.
Ivan Bender (1995, 6’8”, PF, KK Split, Croatia)
Slender power forward with great fundamentals and feel for the game. His frame is still skinny but he’s solid and able to fight below the boards effectively. He’s really athletic and able to finish above the rim easily. His mobility allows him to be really effective when receiving the ball after backdoor cuts or in pick and roll situations, where he shows a rather developed basketball IQ. He needs to improve the ball handling and the use of the left hand in order to add consistency to his offensive game. He prefers playing facing the basket but his hook shot starting from post position is rather solid, making him a complete offensive threat. He could develop into a small forward, but he needs to overcome his current ball handling limitations.
Marc Bauza (1996, 6’9”, C, Joventut Badalona, Spain)
Bauzà’s still not yet developed from a physical standpoint, especially in terms of his muscular definition. He’s a bit undersized to compete at center, but his mobility, soft hands and sense of position could help him to develop as a power forward. He has excellent instincts for rebounds even if he lacks toughness and explosiveness, probably his main shortcoming. He has a good shooting range and good fundamentals. Probably a prospect best suited for the European level.
Kristaps Porzingis (1995, 6’11”, PF, Cajasol Sevilla, Latvia)
He’s skinny but has good size for his position, with long arms and big hands, but not too athletic. He’s really fluid and mobile for his height, but he definitely needs to bulk up, even if he has had basically the same frame for 3 years. Despite his height, he prefers to play on the perimeter, showing amazing body control and ball handling skills, even if his frame causes loss of balance after contact. He shows the ability to put the ball on the floor with confidence, easily beating centers and power forwards off the dribble. He has good hands with good shooting range from outside, but he totally lacks an inside game, without any single moves from post position. On the defensive side he shows good intimidation skills, with timing for blocks. He’s a shooting guard in the body of a center, an intriguing prospect that needs to develop, a tweener at the moment.
Agusti Sans (1995, 6’4”, SG, Joventut Badalona, Spain)
Athletic shooting guard with great scoring instincts, remarkable rapidity and good height for the role. He has amazing body control leading the break with effectiveness and showing the ability to finish at the basket even when off balance. He has a slashing style of game, he can get to the basket basically at any time, thanks to a lighting quick first step. He has astonishing defensive instincts, with quick hands and good sense for the passing lanes. He’s definitely not a selfish player, with great passing instincts. His main shortcoming is his lack of a consistent jump shot, and a reliable 3 pointer.
Luka Kokol (1995, 6’3”, SG, Oljmpija Ljubljana, Slovenia)
Crafty combo guard with great scoring instincts. Standing 6’3”, he has a good frame even if his body structure is a bit skinny. He’s not a pass first player but he has good instincts as a passer, with astonishing game comprehension, a key player in the offense of his team with his ability to read situations. He’s a sharpshooter, especially in catch and shoot situations with huge range behind the three point line. He has a reliable jump shot from off the dribble, showing a complete midrange game. His lack of size and elite athleticism limits his overall potential, making him more suitable for European game.
There was a group of three players that showed intriguing potential an early stage of development. The first one was Dragan Bender (1997, 6’9”, PF, KK Split, Croatia), the younger brother of Ivan. He’s a slender and smooth wing with great upside and amazing passing skills. He could evolve into a SF becoming a mismatch nightmare. Stefan Peno (1997, 6’3”, PG, FC Barcelona, Serbia) is a really creative point guard with a great body structure, instincts and court vision. His playmaking lacks consistency and he needs to improve his shot selection but he has a terrific upside. Vasilije Vucetic (1996, 6’8”, C, Oljmpija Ljubljana, Serbia), is a really polished center with good fundamentals and sense of position. He has an old school style with limited athleticism but excellent game comprehension and soft hands. He clearly has a high ceiling since his physical growth is far from complete.