By Antonio Pernas
1. Luka Doncic (1999, 6-6, F, REAL MADRID, SLO)
The MVP standout of the event, and he’s two years younger than many of the kids participating. He can play each of the guard positions, showing very good dribbling skills with both hands. Good shooting skills from any range, especially making 3 pointers. He can both catch & shoot or create his own shots in ISO: midrange game, lay ups, floaters, three pointers are all effective parts of his offensive repertoire. He needs to improve upon his passing skills, as they are acceptable for his age but can get better. He has some problems when passing on the move. Has good defensive skills both in 1 on 1 and helping his teammates. He plays at his best when under pressure, being able to manage tempo and taking and making wining shots and plays. He loves having the basketball in his hands and getting out and running the court. For NBA, he likely needs to gain some height, as he lacks great footspeed.
2. Vojislav Stojanovic (1997, 6-7, F, Crvena Zvezda SER)
Player with a "priceless" talent. Has an enormous ability to score both creating off the dribble and in catch and shoot. Very good defender, showing the ability to defend both on the ball and help side, showing a great knowledge of the game. He’s very crafty in drawing fouls from his opponents. He’s also got very good rebounding ability on both sides of the court and 1 on 1 play in the low post. He must improve his execution speed in his shot to increase effectiveness, and his foot speed laterally to defend faster players.
3. Rodions Kurucs (1998, 6-8, F, U18 VEF RIGA, LAT)
Young wing forward with enormous potential, especially considering his physical gifts to play above the rim, often finishing in highlight fashion. Also a sharpshooter from three that draws defenders out to him and then blows by them to finish at the rim. During the event, he was the leader of the VEF Riga. He’s a player capable of contributing in all facets, but stands out most in scoring where his outside shot and strength when finishing are high level. This ability causes the defense to close out on him, allowing him to drive and dish easy shots for his teammates, not only on the perimeter but also around the basket. Grabs rebounds defensively, although he could improve his effort and technique on offensive rebounds. He must improve his execution speed and shooting mechanics to become more dangerous and also be a little more protective of the ball on drives.
4. Jonathan Jeanne (1997, 7-0, C, U18 INSEP PARIS, FRA)
Interior guy with great height and length. He has great fluidity, mobility and good shooting mechanics that force teams to take him into consideration defensively. During the game he’s smart, always looking for the pass that facilitates quality shots. And he can read game situations between interior (high post – low post). He lacks great strength to play around the basket, but his size gives him the edge as long as he’s not pushed out by stronger opponents. At this point he avoids contact, and his game is relatively soft for this reason, also reflected in his rebounding statistics. No doubt a player who if he develops physically, can have a very bright future.
5. Stephane Gombauld (1997, 6-9, F, U18 INSEP PARIS, FRA)
A forward with great rebounding ability due to his high level physical qualities and explosive jumping prowess. He shows the ability to play around the basket, which leads to many points in the paint as he is too long and athletic for most opponents to contain. He showed great footwork inside the paint with his athleticism allowing him to draw fouls and generate space for field goals. On defense it was one of the highlights, proving to be very active both in rebounding and is also intimidating when guarding the paint. Finally, his rebounding was key for his team.
Other Top Prospects
Santiago Yusta (1997, 6-7, F, REAL MADRID, ESP)
A strong guard with very good shooting skills, specifically in catch & shoot situations. He doesn’t have very good dribbling skills, but he dosen’t need more than two bounces to create a lay up from any place in the half court and finishes with both hands, where he creates most of his scoring opportunities. He has acceptable passing skills. Good defensive skills. He is a shooting guard with strong guard size but no skills as a playmaker. He’s got a real presence, always there when the team needs him scoring or making a defensive play.
Jonathan Barreiro (1997, 6-8, F, REAL MADRID, ESP)
He’s a shooting guard in a center’s body. He has slow feet both on offense and defense (possibly due to injuries and problems adapting to Madrid). He made lots of 3 pointers from catch & shoot situations, having more problems to create in 1 on 1. reasonable passing skills. He’s got trouble scoring from the dribble, even with his height. Anyway he’s got character and he loves to take the final shoot.
Andrea La Torre (1997, 6-7, G, STELLAZZURRA BASKETBALL ACADEMY, ITA)
Big lefty wing. Very good left hand dribble drive, with confidence under pressure showing great maturity and consistency. His ability to score off the dribble is solid for his height despite a lack of explosiveness. His ball handling is fantastic for his height, enabling him to drive with both left and right hand and change direction with a quick crossover in tight spaces, exploiting pick and roll situations. He is stronger when attacking with his natural left hand and his touch finishing inside the paint is good. Also there are situations where he tends to lose balance, plus he has to improve his shot selection. High quality vision, but must develop his passing skills to become a real asset in this department. On the defensive side, he shows great instincts to play the passing lanes, with quick hands.
Laurynas Beliauskas (1997, 6-2, PG, ZALGIRIS KAUNAS, LIT)
Not spectacular nor does he do anything exceptionally well, however it was he who ran the well organized Zalgiris offense and his numbers were superb at the end of the tournament. Excellent job in finding his inside players, especially Echodas and shooters. He is also very dangerous from outside where has a very quick shot. The PG does not force his own scoring options, but likes to take the big ones in the decisive moments. He does a good job in Pick and Roll situations where he can score from mid-range territory with the jump shot but he also likes to finish with a floater.
Martynas Varnas (1997, 6-5, SG, ZALGIRIS KAUNAS, LIT)
Athletic guard with good size for the position. He tends to be knocked around when attacking the basket, losing balance and touch on his shot. However he had the chance to show his athleticism and leaping abilities with some remarkable finishes in traffic. He prefers to create with the ball in his hands with a slashing style of game, showing the ability to involve teammates when the defense collapses on him. Very good player in transition, can get to the rim and he’s very smart offensively and defensively being a solid ball hawk.
Martynas Echodas (1997, 6-9, PF, ZALGIRIS KAUNAS, LIT)
Solid power forward with good athletic abilities and physical structure. Maybe a bit undersized for playing in the paint on the highest level, the Lithuanian Power Forward showed great explosiveness on both sides of the court to grab rebounds and score on the defense. He likes to finish at the rim and use his well developed body to overpower opponents. The 2m04 tall forward tries to get every offensive rebound and he has a good timing to create second chances for himself or his teammates. He goes up well off two feet but lacks maybe a bit of a second jump to finish strongly after a hard battle for a ball. Out of the low post, Echodas is using more his power and leaping abilities for the score than a polished back-to-the-basket game. He can score with the basic jump hook, mainly with his stronger right hand, both off two feet or as a running hook shot. Echodas can also face up to take the jump shot but it is not his main offensive weapon. With his superb energy level, the forward is really good in transition where he can come as a trailer to finish strong at the rim. With his limited size though, he might be a bit short for the top level as he lacks the necessary ball handling skills to become an effective player for the PF position. Nevertheless, his rebounding and strength should give him an opportunity on the professional level relatively soon and a lot depends on his technical skills improvements over the next years how high he can go.
Laurynas Birutis (1997, 6-11, C, ZALGIRIS KAUNAS, LIT)
Birutis was the second big guy for Zalgiris and he was a great complement to Echodas. Very long, but timid at moments. Birutis is more of a finesse player when it comes to scoring. He finds good positions in the paint and has a raw but diverse arsenal of moves to finish. He can go for the baseline dribble attack out of the low post but also finish with the jump hook from the right side. His shooting touch is good but he lacks the toughness and explosiveness to be a real dominator in the paint on the offensive end. On defense, Birutis was present as a shot blocker because of his length. Birutis, though, looks as the most interesting prospect in the long term from this team, as he has the size for the highest level and an improving skill set.
Luc Loubaki – (U18 INSEP PARIS, FRA)
Very athletic and strong player. Spectacular in finalizing his insights and counter attacks playing above the rim. His dominant left hand, allows him to surprise defenders and utilize his first step. However, he needs to gain maturity in his game as he strung consecutive errors at times during the event. Should also look to increase his rebounding ability on both ends of the court.
Bathiste Tchouaffe – (U18 INSEP PARIS, FRA)
Very smart player with good control of the tempo of the game. He is a constant threat with the three-point shot, also freeing his teammates space to operate. He is a player that stands out offensively utilizing two of his great virtues: his quickness, especially on the counter attack, and his outside shooting from the 3 point area. He is an effective 1 on 1 player, always looking to attack the defense from the weak side and makes strong penetration to the basket.
Killian Tillie – 6-9, PF, 1998, (U18 INSEP PARIS, FRA)
Utah and Gonzaga are in a recruiting battle over this kid. Didn’t play as much because France is stacked at the position, but is one of the top 1998 post player prospects in Europe. Was mobile and active when he saw time on the floor. Blocked some shots, rebounded the ball. Sort of a Sabonis-lite in terms of style.
Edin Atic – (U18 SPARS SARAJEVO, BOS)
Tremendous scorer. Capable of putting the ball on the floor. A very good athlete for a forward, having a full-court game. Explosive in transition, and a lethal shooter. It is causing many faults. He’s a good defender, very quick hands that contributes both in rebounding and intimidation by the shot block capacity. Must improve his maturity on the court and be more consistent in the game.
*Antonio Pernas is Head Coach of CREF Hola in Spain. Special thanks to Tim Shea for helping with this report.
Luka Doncic Highlights: