FIBA U18 European Championship: Nis, Serbia July 22 -30
Serbia defended their home court and won the FIBA U18 European Championship crown held in Nis, Serbia; defeating back-to-back winner Spain in an 81-71 Final. Germany defeated France for third place in the consolation game. This was an important event for scouts as many of the top 2005 and 2006 born Europeans were either playing in the FIBA U18 A or B event. Below is our evaluation of the top prospects that participated.
Gonzalez helped lead a strong Spanish team to the finals. Throughout the tournament he showed his ability as a three level scorer. He has a strong frame and good leaping ability which lead to highlight worthy dunks throughout the tournament. On fast breaks he runs the lanes well and finishes strong, has a strong euro step to extend drives and avoid charges, and reads defenses well where with strong cuts on half court sets will get a free lane for a dunk or lay in. A good mid range shooter, will make strong v cuts for catch and shoot opportunities or pump fake from three and hit the one dribble mid range shot. While he did not shoot the ball from 3 as well as in previous tournaments, (still went 7/23) he did shoot the ball well from the free throw line (23/27) and showed a nice fluid repeatable stroke. He is a menace on the offensive glass if he is not boxed out, often going in for tip ins and put back dunks. Overall he is a very efficient player on offense. On defense, he gets blocked shots, in particular as a weak side help defender. He gets his hands in the passing lanes for steals and is a good defensive rebounder. he plays with passion and fire that coaches love, but still got into foul trouble in several games at this event, as well as past FIBA events. Turnovers were also a bit of an issue for him at this event averaging more turnovers than assists. But he projects as a likely top 10 pick in the 2025 NBA Draft and a player that is already a household name to many. Voted to FIBA’s tournament top 5 for this event and averaged 14.3 ppg 50.7 FG% 6.6 rebs 1.3 stl 1.3 blk.
Sarr is another high potential prospect for the 2025 NBA Draft. Unlike with Hugo Gonzalez, the depth and strength of the Italian team is not on par with Spain’s forcing him into more of a playmaking role. In the group play in the tournament he had a huge dunk on top of 7’2 Aday Mara, an example of his strong athleticism and length. He can finish strong with either left or right hand and is a true menace on the fast break and on par with the more athletic wings in the NBA. He shot the ball well from 3 going 18/44 (41%) and showed a developing floater. There is some concern for him as a creator in half court sets. Both for Barcelona and here for Italy, he has shot the ball poorly from inside the three point line. Some of that is due to taking late bailout shots for the team but also due to his lack of consistency as a mid range jump shooter. Even from long distance, he is much better as a shooter on a set shot then off the dribble. In addition, while he has great ability to get to the foul line, he is routinely shooting in the mid 60/low 70s% at various events. Given those two factors, some scouts are going to question how well his 3 point shooting will translate to the NBA. On defense, he has a huge wingspan that allows him to get steals and block shots at a high rate. He has potential as a wing defender and if his shooting holds, he becomes a 3 and D wing that the NBA clearly covets and therefore a likely lotto pick for the 2025 NBA Draft. 17.3 ppg 1.3 stl 1.4 blk 41% from 3 on 6.3 shots per game.
Salaun and the rest of the talented French team played inconsistent and finished 4th in the event. At 6’9 with a reported 7’1 foot wingspan Salaun has shown some ability to play at either forward position at the next level. Salaun athleticism and strong finishes were demonstrated in the stats in this event with a very efficient 65% from inside the arc. He also consistently shows the ability to hit 3s from the corners and the top of the key (not as efficient from the wings) going 9/26 from 3 (34.6%) for the tournament and many of which were shot past NBA three point range. He is a very active player, both on the offensive glass and on defense getting many deflections and steals (1.9 per game). He moves very well laterally, making him intriguing as a defender. But he is still raw and is very much a work in progress. While he can dribble for a player his size, he’s inefficient with his ball handling, pounding the ball unnecessarily and at times dribbling into traffic. He still needs work on making a quick decision on what he does with the ball once it comes to his hands and there is no direct path to the basket or space for a quick set shot. He has not shown much of a mid range game, just a three and dunk sprinkled in with an occasional floater. He also was not much of a shot blocker at this event which was a bit of a disappointment, given his length and athleticism. But he can spread the floor and has great energy, and in conjunction with his measurables, has the ideal profile for an NBA role player and potentially a 3 and D forward. Stats: 12.9 ppg 52.4 FG% 4.6 rebs 1.9 stls.
Nikola Topic: 6’5 PG, 2005 Born Serbia
Topic led Serbia to the championship as he masterfully disposed of Spain and Mara in pick and roll action by either creating a shot for himself or setting up teammates. Scored a team high 24 points in the finals and winning MVP for the event. Topic reads pick and roll action better than any young international player not in the NBA. He is very Chris Paul like in his reading of the action as he can hit it right away or patiently wait for the play to develop, keeping the player picked behind his body before the play develops. He also has the uncanny ability to create secondary fast break opportunities for himself by having a slower defender pick his man and easily get a lay-in. He finished the tournament 3rd in assists with 5.1 per game. Typically a good shooter, he was abysmal from 3 at this event 2/21 and didn’t shoot the ball even as expected from the free throw line 75.6% (31/41). Typically he shoots free throws in the mid/high 80’s to low 90 range. He put more effort into defense at this event than some past events averaging 2 steals per game, showing good anticipation and reads but still was always assigned the weakest offensive player mixed with some zone to hide him. His NBA future more than anything will be determined by how he does on that side of the ball. Topic was voted in the top 5 for this event, averaging 15.3 ppg 5.1 ast 2.0 stls 61.2% from 2. Eligible for the 2024 NBA Draft, he is a player that will be in the mix as a second rounder.
Traore is the most athletic international PG/CG of the (2004, 2005, 2006 generation). His length and athleticism caused difficulties for opposing guards at this event. One of only two 2006 born players on the French squad, he grew both in confidence and playing time as the tournament progressed. He had nearly a 2 to 1 assist to turnover ratio with 3.1 assists to 1.6 turnovers and shared point guard duties with Pietrus. Traore has a quick first step that allows him to split the switch on pick and rolls or easily get around defenders for lay in and finishes. His length and athleticism allows him to make plays that no other guard at this event could. He is a good passer on the fast break and adept at avoiding charges, despite his elite speed. He also is a good alley oop passer. However, it appears that the consensus among scouts currently has him lower in rankings. Overall he’s raw and lacks efficiency despite the assist to turnover ratio. He fumbled the ball on several occasions, because he was focused on the play, post catch, instead of actually catching the ball. He looked very inexperienced with pick and roll situations, often not waiting for the pick to be fully set and just trying to blow by opponents with his athleticism. He is a better shooter off the dribble than in catch and shoot situations. And while he went 10/13 from the free throw line he was 4/23 from beyond the three point line. Many of his shots from 3 looked indecisive or were forced at the end of shot clock situations. As an NBA prospect, he is going to have to improve his feel in pick and roll half court offense but the tools are there to be a prospect for the 2025 NBA Draft. Averaged 8.6 points per game on 45.6% from twos
Mara, who is heading to UCLA, was the key front court player for Spain who ended up in second place. His size allows him to defend the rim and deter opponents from going to the cup. He finished second at the event with 2.7 blocks per game. He has some length to match his size and has some upper body strength to fight his way into position. He was 3rd at this event with 9.1 rebounds per game. On offense what makes him an interesting prospect is that he is very skilled. He’s a player you can run the offense through as he has excellent passing ability. Often operated at the top of the key to set a pick, and a good pick setter, he will find the open player on back door cuts or when in the post, he can find cutters on the other side of the key. On offense he has great touch, free throw line extended. When he shoots, he gets good backspin for a nice soft touch. He has a go-to drop step move where with his length usually gets him a dunk. He went 22/29 (76%) from the free throw line giving him some ability to extend his shot, as he matures. He projects well as a half court offensive player. On the flip side he is a plodder and has a hard time moving his feet, either on the fast break or on defense in non zone situations. He is not a switchable defensive player at this level where opposing point guards were able to easily get to the rack and finish when put on an island. Topic and Traore did it extensively in the finals and semifinals matchup and this is despite playing in drop coverage and both the aforementioned players having consistency issues from outside at this event. When Spain went to a zone, he was more effective and even disruptive. Mara is a projected high draft pick in 2024, but with the NBA putting a premium on small ball bigs who are switchable, it will be interesting to see how they view a player who fits his profile. Adding strength to his legs may help him a little and perhaps his time at UCLA will help him incorporate more man to man defense. Averaged 14 points on 61% from the field
At 6’9 with a long wingspan, Essengue does most of his damage around the rim. He has a nice soft touch in the paint that allows him to finish plays even when he is in awkward positions near the rim and has nice soft hands that allow him to catch some tough passes and finish plays off. Quick and agile, he can surprise opponents with his length and quick bounce towards the rim on fast break opportunities. Averaged 10.6 points per game in 17 minutes per game. He has potential as a shooter, going 15/20 from the free throw line and showing some touch on long twos, but only took one three at this event. He is a good passer, particularly in the high post and should be a good pick and roll big once he becomes more proficient in setting the initial screen. On the defensive end his length caused issues for opponents by denying opponents the ball and getting his hands in the passing lanes. His deflections and steals (1.1 per game) led to some nice finishes on fast breaks and overall good decision making when on the run. He however has a lot of work left in terms of building strength and power. Both on offense and on defense his lack of strength was apparent at this event. He can get pushed around in the post on offense and on defense, causing him to miss some shots and rebounding opportunities. There are many players who have a wiry frame, like him, but they have a strong core that allows them to keep their balance when there is slight contact. Many of his misses were due to lack of stabilization strength in his body. Furthermore, he lacks ideal power. Just through the naked eye it appears he needs significant momentum to get power for a jump. His lack of no step power was clear on offensive rebounds, put back attempts and defensively with his lack of shot blocking ability. Being overpowered in the pro league is very different from being overpowered at this event, where the competition was either a year older or the same age as Essengue. To be fair, his body has not reached the maturation stage, like many of the other players at this event, but it is a glaring weakness. Overall, he is a gifted forward with good length who stood out on a team full of older forwards. He’s a very intriguing 2006 born player, but his body development and his improvement in shooting range in the next year will determine how he is viewed as a prospect for 2025.
Kharchenkov helped lead Germany to a 3rd place finish (best result ever for the country) while averaging 17.1 points per game on 53% from 2 point range. He has a nice fluid motion and high arc on his shot which helped him go 22/26 from the line (85%). He moves well without the ball and is a menace in catch and shoot situations. Creates space on mid range baseline shots by running hard around screens for catch and shoot opportunities and has the balance to finish plays off. He has a good, strong frame and a solid body which allows him to finish plays off with dunks and and ones. He is not the swiftest player, so he has some issues as a self creator which led to some ill advised 3 point shots that dropped his percentage some for this event (27.3%) but at a high volume (6.3 3 point shots per game). On defense he has good strength and works hard to keep players in front of him (averaged 1.1 steals and 4.9 rebounds). He’s a little short for a small forward (by an inch or two) and a little slow for a guard, but shooting is a great equalizer for players like him and he can really shoot it. He would be the equivalent to a top 30 prospect in the class of 2024.
Inevitably nicknamed “Super Mario”, Saint Supery was one of only 3 players on the Spanish roster born in 2006. Saint Supery had the benefit of coming off the bench of an experienced team and not being the featured player that he was at the European U16 a year ago. Saint Supery has a little flash but played more like a traditional point guard at this event. Running the offense, and setting up teammates on half court and fast break opportunities were his focus. His most athletic play was on a missed dunk attempt in the fast break where he attempted to jam it on his Turkish opponent. He shot extremely well at this event (45% from the field, 44% from three, 93% from the free throw line). Most of his three point shooting opportunities at this event were catch and shoot opportunities, towards the end of the shot clock on half court sets (8/18). Saint Supery has a good change of pace that allows him to get to the rim on drives, but he had to adjust from a year ago as he no longer has the athletic advantage at the rim that he once did, finishing plays by creating contact and space or drawing fouls to get to the line (13/14). He had difficulties (1/6 3 points) versus the length and athleticism of the two french point guards (Pietrus & Traore) but has great court vision and understanding of pick and roll offense. He also was too turnover prone as a point guard, averaging more turnovers (1.9) than assists (1.6). He’s surely is a player on NCAA high major team’s radar to recruit, given his shooting ability and ability to run a team. He averaged 9.9 points in 18.5 minutes
Neoklis Avdalas: 6’5 CG 2006 Born Greece
Avdalas and Greece finished a disappointing 13 out of 16 teams in Nis. A combo guard who has emerged as the best prospect on the Greek team. He is an athletic player, who will finish plays off strong at the rim, with powerful dunks. He can create off the dribble both for himself with a quick first step, and for others as he averaged 4.2 assists (2.0 turnovers). What improved the most was his shooting efficiency. He shot 50% from the field (21/42) and 19/26 (73%) from the free throw line. On defense, he and his teammates had trouble keeping opponents from scoring, so it was difficult to evaluate him on that end of the court, but he did average a steal per game. While offensively he became much more efficient, he still lacks ideal range for a guard as he shot 2/5 from three. His improvement on shot selection is remarkable, but there will be a need to expand his range to increase his shot for the NBA level. He would have been considered higher in these rankings had he played the 7 game full schedule instead of just the first 5 games. Averaged 12.6 point per game
Bogoljub Markovic: 6’11 PF 2005 Born Serbia
Markovic is regarded as one the top 2005 born international prospects and helped lead Serbia to a 7-0 record and championship in front of the home crowd. At 6’11, he has good agility and loves to run the floor and beat opposing post players on fast breaks or delayed fast breaks. He has nice, soft touch around the rim and looks and seeks contact as he is a good free throw shooter for a post player (76% on 35/46 attempts). He averaged 14.1 points per game and was voted in the top 5 for this event. On the defensive end, he averaged 7 rebounds which was 8th best for this event and has good length, which helped him average 1 block per game. He can hit an occasional three (best from the corner) but is adept at using the pump fake and getting around opposing post players for a strong finish near the rim. He unfortunately has had a glaring weakness in past events and once again in this event. He tends to wilt against opposing top prospects that are taller or his height. He did so in ANGT versus Lazar Gacic and here against Spain and Aday Mara where he was 0/7 (2 points) and 3 rebounds in a win. But the question remains, can he produce at the NBA level talent when he will not be the tallest or the quickest at his height (Only produced a 23.5 standing vertical at BWB Salt Lake City in February). While he shows some potential as a pick and pop big, he will need to improve considerably from his 4/21 for this event. At this level they often play him as a 3/4, but he is clearly burdened when there is an imposing post presence guarding the rim. But he is a without a doubt an elite player at the youth level.
Alexandros Samodurov: 6’10 PF 2005 Born Greece
Samadurov averaged 13.1 points per game, 6.7 rebounds (10th for event), 2.3 blocks while posting 3.1 assists to 1.9 turnovers. While shooting 48% from the field and 75% from the free throw line (30/40). He continues to show ability as a forward that can use his quick first step to get around slower, bigger opponents or post up players who are shorter than him. He has good touch around the rim and is a great weak side shot blocker. 7 months ago he looked like the best long term prospect at the event and those numbers listed above would give good reason to think so. However, that simply is not the case and a lot can be attributed to his measurables taken at BWB in Salt Lake City. To start, his wingspan is shorter than his height (6’9), secondly he weighed in at 190 lbs, and lastly his standing vertical was 26 inches while his max vert was just 30.25 inches. Samadurov’s worst games were against opponents that are bigger and more importantly stronger than him. He has a tough time dealing with physicality and his lack of outside shooting efficiency (4/17 from three) allows opponents to play physical on his drives and to bump him away from the post. He seems to have the same level of strength and efficiency as a year ago with no significant improvement to his body or game. His negative wingspan makes him prone to blocks in the post and timid against bigger and more athletic defenders. Where does that leave him for the pro level? Samadurov will now have to demonstrate that he can succeed at the pro level in Greece to dispel those concerns.
Jack Kayil: 6’3 CG 2006 Born Germany
Kayil has gotten a lot of exposure these last 6 months through the ANGT program and now by leading Germany to their best finish ever in U18’s. Kayil has a well built body, which allows him to be highly efficient getting downhill and creating contact around the rim. He’s quick leading the break but also can use his strength to bully weaker guards in half court sets. He averaged 10 points and scored a scorching 68% from two for the event (17/25). He also was able to get to the free throw line 3.7 times per game while shooting it at an efficient 81% (21/26). He shared point guard duties with Oak Hill Academy;s Christian Anderson, averaging 2.7 assists while turning it over 2 times per game. He played well against France, spearheading their second half comeback and finishing with 14 points and 3 steals for the 3rd place victory. Offensively needs to expand his range as both at ANGT events and this event he has shot poorly from behind the 3 point line. He’s not quite tall enough or an elite enough athlete to be able to flourish at the next level without expanding his range. A good defender, he uses his strength and wingspan to get steals (2.7). He moves well laterally and rebounds the ball well for a player his size.
Diawara passes the eye test. He’s long, athletic, can handle the rock, hits the occasional three point shot, and is a willing passer. In half court sets, he likes to drive on slower defenders and back in shorter defenders in the post. He is a good outside shooter in catch and shoot situations and was 6/16 overall from behind the 3 point line (37.5%) and 7/10 from the free throw line. He likes to play the point forward position, running the offense through him which was helpful as an outlet from full court pressure on the French guards at this event. He looks to pass even on fast break opportunities. On defense his long arms allows him to guard players shorter and taller than him, making him a switchable player. In terms of weakness on the defensive end. He’s not as fluid laterally as Salaun, appearing to have some tightness in the hips, which allowed some opponents the ability to get to the hole on him that would not normally have been the case with Salaun. On offense he can frustrate lead guards as he tends to want to be the main facilitator and doesn’t have the experience or vision of a lead guard (although good vision for a forward). This caused some confusion and led to some break down in plays (same thing happened when he played for the ANGT select team). He is also a very poor on ball screener as he prefers to be an outlet option instead of setting a solid screen and when he does screen he rarely reads the play but opts to just be in a pick and pop situation. He tends to look to make the home run play for others, instead of making the simple pass/play and trust his teammates. He also needs to make quicker decisions when he receives the ball, instead of pounding it into the ground. At 6’8/6’9 and with an over 7’1 wingspan, Diawara has an athletic profile that is really intriguing in terms of potential development.
Kasparas Jakucionis: 6’4 CG 2006 Born Lithuania
Jakucionis and Lithuania finished a disappointing 11th for this event, despite having 3 guards who can really shoot the ball. Unfortunately those 3 players were all between 6’2-6’4 and didn’t have much else going for them. Of the three, Jakucionis is the more athletic. He averaged 13 points while shooting 10/26 from three and 35/38 (92% from the free throw line). He uses his ability as a shooter to get downhill and can easily finish plays off with a dunk or create contact to get to the line. He is also very good and patient in pick and roll offense to find the advantage to finish off plays. He has a scorer’s mentality but will make the open pass (3.9 to 2.6 turnovers). While improved, his handles are a little loose and pressure can get him into trouble with either missing open teammates or losing the ball. Lithuania as a team played quite porous defense, so it’s difficult to evaluate, but he was by no means helping on that end of the ball and statically speaking, only had 4 steals and 1 block in 7 games.
Lucas Langarita 6’5 CG 2005 Born Spain
Langarita, a true combo guard, was the player Spain entrusted to self create in end of shot clock situations. He averaged 12.7 points and 4.9 assist (2 to 1 Assist to turnover ratio) for the event. He demonstrated the ability to get to the hole quite effectively when he had momentum. A good mid range (52%) and free throw shooter (89%), he has a good hesitation and change of pace move that helps him get to spots on the floor. He will finish plays off with dunks on occasion but overall does not possess elite athleticism. He has a go to crossover side step outside jumper and is very efficient in catch and shoot situations. He needs space and time to get shot off which is why he only went 9/34 from three. Not a strong defender as he has trouble staying in front of opponents laterally, but a smart player and a good help side defender which led to his 1.1 steals. Has a strong will to win and hit some big shots for Spain throughout the event.
Melih Tunca: 6’5 CG 2005 Born Turkey
Tunca, at 6’5, has good size for a combo guard. He uses his strength and height to get downhill and loves finding fast break opportunities averaging 15.7 points per game for the event (8th). He also was able to be 5th in assists with 4.7 and rebounds the ball well for a guard with 4.3 per game. He shot nearly 60% from 2 and 75% from the free throw line (18/24) and was adept in slashing and finding ways to score near the bucket. He needs to work on his jumper while on the move and from distance (2/13 from three). This is not an isolated issue as he shot poorly from long distance during this last ANGT season as well.
Vit Hrabar 6’8 Forward 2006 Born Slovenia
The Baskonia youth player, Hrabar, showed some intriguing athleticism and good length. Finishing plays off with two handed dunks. His best game was versus Italy where he scored a tournament high 16 while averaging 10.5 points per game for this event. What makes him intriguing as a prospect is that he does have bit of an outside touch, going 11/29 from three and 6/8 at the charity stripe. He needs work in adding strength and on his handles. Currently is not a good rebounder, despite his vertical ability nor much of a shot blocker.
Demir Dogan: 6’9 SF 2006 Born Turkey
Dogan has good height and length as a small forward. On offense, he is a good passer averaging 3.3 assists to 1.6 turnovers and has the ability to face up and put it on the floor. He is best around the rim finishing plays off drives or put backs at this stage. Not an efficient outside shooter or free throw shooter. Hhe is very raw at this stage but still just a 2006 born and has intrigue as a pro prospect. Averaged 9.7 points
Johann Grunloh 6’10 C 2005 Born Germany
Grunloh led the event in blocked shots averaging 3.9 per game. A little undersized for a center at 6’10, but currently is much better offensively posting up than facing the basket. He is a good screen setter on pick and rolls and will finish off plays with dunks. Moves up and down the floor well and has decent leaping ability. Was 6th in the tournament with 7.6 rebounds per game. He needs work as a shooter and facing the basket. Did not attempt a three at this event and only shot 9/16 from the free throw line. But he is an elite shot blocker as he led ANGT in blocks as well this season. Averaged 9.9 points
Mehmet Efe Demirel 7’0 C 2005 Born Turkey
Averaged 15ppg 9.3 rebs 2.6 blks. Demirel led the tournament in rebounds and actually outscored Mara in a matchup of 7 footers. Finished 3rd in the tournament with 2.6 blocks per game. Strong build and efficient scorer around the rim. shot 31/45 from the Free throw line and 2/6 from three. Had 4 double doubles in 7 games played. Is he quick enough for the NBA? Will need to continue to expand his range in games.
Top 5 Underrated::
Toni Bilic 6’7 Forward 2005 Born Croatia 18.3 ppg (3rd) 6.2 rebs 38% from three
Francesco Ferrari 6’5 Forward 2005 Born Italy 16.9 ppg 9.3 rebs (led event in rebounds) 40.1% from 3 Had 5 double doubles in 7 games played
Andreas Holst 6’11 Forward 2005 Born Denmark 8.9 ppg 11/37 from three
Samuel Obenjo: 6’9 Forward 2006 Born Sweden 8.1 ppg 6.1 rebs
Milan Stranel: 6’8 Forward 2005 Born Czech Republic 11.9 points 8.7 rebs (4th) 1.9 blks 46.2% from 3 (6/13) 21/27 from FT