The FIBA U20 European Championships were held in Heraklion, Greece from July 8-16, 2023. France celebrated an 89-79 victory to finish the tournament undefeated and earn the country’s second ever title in this age category. Historically this tournament does not include most of the top NBA draft prospects (top players usually are in the NBA by then). In fact since 2012 the list of NBA players who won MVP of this tournament are as follows: Cedi Osman (2014) and Deni Avidja (2019). However, this summer with NIL providing better financial opportunities than playing in Europe for many of these athletes, it became a great event for NCAA Division 1 programs to find older, more experienced players to plug holes on their teams. In this piece I discuss the top NBA prospects who stayed in Europe and some of the better players who should have an immediate impact on the college landscape.
The Known Prospects
Ivisic (pictured), after being a late withdrawal from the 2023 NBA Draft, was already on most Scouts radars prior to his performance at the U20’s. He immediately created strong social media buzz after just a few games with his display of skill and athleticism, earning him offers from the top NCAA division 1 programs, before settling on Kentucky. He has unfortunately not yet passed the admissions requirements at the school and may in the end play for another school or organization this season. Ivisic averaged 11.4 ppg on 53 FG%. in 19.4 minutes per game. At 7’2, he is a physically imposing presence and moves well up and down the floor for a man his size. A skilled big man, he is best facing the basket, either as the top man in a high low action, or on the perimeter setting screens for smalls and being a floor spreader as he has good range in catch and shoot situations. He went 11/32 from three (34%) and 7/10 from the free throw line for this event. He has good hands, allowing him to catch lobs with ease. While he spent some time dribbling as a press breaker outlet, he is best being confined to one. However, he attacks well with his one dribble with his long stride and attacks the basket with authority which he displayed on a few occasions in high low and wing opportunities. He can get into some trouble when he turns his back to the basket on a spin move or other. In fact, for a player of his skill, he still needs a lot of refinement in the post, which could hinder him some in college, but given the NBA incorporates so little post play, it’s probably not as big of a factor at that level. But he lacks any go to post moves and at times can be pushed out of the post on offense. This causes issues for him to score in the post but also to pass out of the post. He counters those weaknesses with his touch and his vision as a passer when he faces the basket. Defensively he averaged an event high 3.4 blocks which is equivalent to a whopping 7.1 blocks per 40 minutes. He intimidated offenses to stay away from the basket and is a good defensive rebounder (5.3 reb). He has good positional instinct on rebounds and unlike on offense in the post, he is able to match opponents physicality. His good hands also allows him to cleanly catch nearly every rebound. He displayed the best lateral quickness for any seven foot prospect in the FIBA youth circuit this summer but is currently a poor perimeter defender as his footwork needs development, opening his hips up too much and allowing opponents to take too easy of an angle on drives. At this level he was able to recover and alter or block the shot right at the rim but it is something he will need to work on as competition gets better and more athletic. A player his height, with his athleticism and shooting ability is what the NBA is always looking for and undoubtedly his name will be called when he enters the draft. His play and development will determine how high.
Kamaradine was already on NBA scout’s radar after playing in the Adidas Eurocamp and later withdrawing from the 2023 NBA Draft. The MVP of this event helped lead the French team to a championship and undefeated tournament. Averaging 14 ppg on 57% from the field, Kamardine displayed 3 level scoring ability at this event and looked too good for this level. The first thing you notice is his pace, he plays with a high motor at all times. At this event, he displayed the ability to self create and finish strong. In one instance he crossed over an opponent baseline and finished strong with a one handed jam, in another he shoots a floater over a 7 footer right inside the key. He displayed good shooting ability going 48.3% (14/29) from three while getting to the line 19 times and making 16 attempts (84%). He showed the ability to create for others on half court sets averaging 3.4 assists to 1.9 turnovers per game. He brought constant energy on the defensive end being a real pest to opposing guards, which allowed him to lead the event in steals at 2.6 per game. He also nearly averaged a block per game at 0.9. His intensity to win at this event was unparalleled, diving for loose balls and fighting to win, which he ultimately did. After having a relatively poor Eurocamp, this event did nothing but help him. There are a few things he can help answer this season to enhance his NBA chances. Can he truly be a combo guard or is he just a shooting guard? Is that energy and shooting prowess an anomaly or will it be sustainable especially coming off the bench as he displayed at times at this event? He does not have a crazy wingspan nor standout athleticism and is on the skinny side in terms of body structure. It will be important for him to show those intangibles for scouts throughout the season as those strengths are harder to quantify in NBA pre draft workouts.
Caicedo is a well known player for international scouts, having gotten exposure at the youth level since U16s. Once a combo guard, he is strictly just a forward now. Caicedo shows good measurables as a wing at 6’7 with a long wingspan and above average athleticism. He led Spain in scoring at 12.1 ppg while shooting 52% from the field. Taking 5.3 3 pointers per game, he displayed his smooth and quick release throughout the event 17/37 (46%) from three. On half court sets, he is primarily seeking out corner 3’s or catch and shoot opportunities coming off screens. He no longer creates much for himself in half court sets other than on cuts, but will finish strong with dunks when the half court or full court opportunity arises. He is still a good passer for a wing and is a quick decision maker. He has potential offensively as a role player. Defensively he lacks focus and intensity often losing vision of both man and ball. Despite this he nearly averaged a steal per game, given his wingspan. He can move well laterally when focused. With his quick release and range he has potential, but he’s going to have to show some improvement on the defensive end for scouts to take notice.
Nunez had a very uneven FIBAU20, but this did not prevent him from getting a call up to the Spanish World Cup team and having a positive impact. At the top stage he flashed just enough shooting prowess to be dangerous and was extremely effective running the Spanish team’s offense, getting 26 assists to just 10 turnovers. Unfortunately in Greece he wasn’t quite as effective. While he undoubtedly has demonstrated that he’s a great floor general, at the U20’s he was second in assists at 5.3 per game but he also was second in turnovers at 4.3 per game, while playing 7 minutes less per game than the turnover leader. He tended to showcase flash at this event, instead of efficiency which in the end cost the team as they came in a disappointing 10th place. He also shot a disappointing 7/33 (21%) from the three point line where teams were defending him under screens. However, he makes great reads off pick and roll situations and has immaculate footwork on jump stops around the rim allowing him to create shooting opportunities despite his average size and athleticism. He averaged 10.3 points, while shooting 56% from two but his overall field goal percentage was just 39% from the field. Defensively, he has great hands and battles down the court on every possession. Post players have to be careful of his quick hands on help side defense which led to 2.3 steals which was third for the event. When faced versus the Ivisic twins and Croatia, he did not shoot it well from two. Therefore there are some questions going forward if he can be enough of an offensive threat to be an effective floor general at the NBA level as he did not shoot it well from three at Ulm last season nor at FIBAU20s. Going 3/8 from three at the World Cup was a start, but scouts would like to see if that was just a product of a small sample size or the beginning of a trend.
Less than a year ago Yaacov left ASVEL’s youth club to start a pro career at Hapoel. Six months later he will play for Tony Parker’s ASVEL pro level club. That is how quickly the stock of Yaacov has risen in the last year. Yacoov was the offensive force to lead Israel to the championship game. Averaging 16.1 ppg while shooting 46% from the field, Yaacov was almost unstoppable getting downhill in Crete. He showed a quick power crossover and/or a great change of pace dribble to get by opponents with ease. His ability to create contact on drives and then create space allowed him to finish plays off around the basket despite his height disadvantage. This allowed him to get to the free throw line nearly 6 times per contest. He led the event in assists at 7.6 per contest while turning it over 4 times. He’s not a consistent shooter from behind the line or behind the arc but made some big shots from the outside at opportunistic moments in the game. The best one on one player at the event, he held his own defensively averaging 4.4 rebounds and 1 steals per game. Odds are thin for 6’1/6’2 point guards to make the NBA these days without displaying elite athleticism. He will have to become a more consistent shooter to get more NBA scout’s attention. Was voted to the top 5 for the event.
The March Madness Prospects
Berke Buyuktuncel 6’9 Forward 2004 Born UCLA
Buyuktuncel might ultimately have the biggest impact of any newcomer international player in NCAA Division 1 basketball this season. The lefty had an uneven tournament overall but still averaged 13.3 ppg while shooting 54% from two. What makes him interesting as a prospect is his ability to play different roles on offense. He is a skilled power forward who can handle the ball on offense, facilitate to make the right pass or play, find angles to get to the hole and drive by defenders, and can take opponents on the block with his strong footwork and score on smaller defenders. A 79% free throw shooter (22/28) at this event and a deadly catch and shoot corner 3 point shooter. He has become a player who will create space by taking side step threes or extend his range with mixed results, 10/33 or 30% from long distance. He’s more crafty than fast and finds easy scores when he has momentum or with a change of pace move. He has displayed a fadeaway that he takes after backing down opponents in the post. He has good strength and uses his left handed dominance to his advantage. Given the roster of the UCLA Bruins, it will be imperative to their season if he can improve his shooting percentage from long distance for the team’s floor spacing. He averaged 5.3 rebounds and 1 block per game (11th in the tournament). He’s competitive and physical on defense but not particularly fast. Buyuktuncel’s play st FIBA U20, was very average at best, but he is a player scouts have and will continue to monitor for this upcoming draft as his skill tool and sheer size make him intriguing.
Motiejus Krivas 7’0 Center Lithuania 2004 Born University of Arizona
Krivas has good size and strength as he measured out with a 7’5 wingspan and 9’1.5 standing reach at BWB Salt Lake City. It was good to watch him play against players who were older and as tall as him to get a glimpse of what he might be for the Wildcats this season. Krivas was second in the tournament in blocked shots averaging 2.4 per game and was a true rim protector. He displayed a level of physicality and feistiness that will be helpful at Arizona, resulting in being 3rd at the event in rebounds at 9.7 per contest. His wingspan allowed him to be in the passing lanes and resulted in averaging 1 steal per game, which is impressive for a center. He attempted to guard smaller players on the perimeter on switches with marginal success as he can move well for a center laterally but guarding a guard is a little bit too much exposure for him at this time. Offensively he averaged 12.9 points on 54% from the field. Strong on the block, he works hard to get a good post entry. He can finish through contact with two handed dunks and will use a baseline drop step or counter with a baby hook in the key. He has a nice soft touch around the rim. He’s experienced enough to pass out of the double team or to make the right pass as the top man in a high low situation. A solid screener and a lob threat on the screen and dive. He has shown some willingness to expand his range but did not shoot it well from outside or from the free throw line (14/26), nor should he be expected to be a pick and pop option for Arizona in his first year.
A popular player in draft media, Raynaud has been on the scene ever since the viral video went out of him and Wembanyama playing two on two versus NBA players Poirier and Gobert 3 years ago. Raynaud was the starting center of the gold medal French team. He averaged 14 points while shooting 67% from the field while going 7/8 from three. While it is a small sample size, a seven footer with that kind of shooting potential is always of great intrigue. In addition he has filled out well and uses his strength to his advantage on the court. He is a great screen and pop option. He is a notch below athletically both in speed and vertical jumping ability than Krivas and has little chance switching out. Which led to some substitutions at times with more nimble defenders. He also has difficulty catching the ball cleanly, this is seen most when he is cutting on the run or on rebounds. An intelligent passer, he averaged 2.3 assists to 1.3 turnovers for the event. Averaged 5.3 rebounds and 1.1 blocks for the event.
The Santa Clara transfer showed why he was viewed as such a hot prospect two years ago and why he is transferring from a blue blood program to a mid-major. Ball possesses ideal positional size with a plus wingspan. A slashing wing, he averaged 11.7 points on 45% from the field, while shooting 13/35 from three (37%). He uses a high dribble but long strides to get to the hole, which leads to some turnovers and some surprising access to the cup. Defensively his long wingspan helped him average 1.3 steals per game. Overall he still seems like a work in progress, where he is still learning to make reads while staying under control.
An integral part to Israel’s success at this event, Wolf was second in scoring at 17.7 points per game. Offensively he was proficient on the block, creating space with his body, pump faking, drop stepping and is continually fighting every inch for angle and space. Leading to getting to the free throw line 4.1 times per contest while shooting them at a proficient clip of 76%. Providing bruising screens, he displayed the ability to dive in pick and rolls (very proficient) or pick and pop (with marginal success). He needs to continue to work on his consistency from beyond the arc as he went 6/28 from downtown as he is not a great athlete. A smart player that typically has a huge impact for a mid-major in the NCAA tournament. Defensively he led the event in rebounds, 12 per game, and had 1.6 steals and 1.3 blocks. He was impactful on both ends of the court and was the team’s sole enforcer. He was voted to the tournament’s top 5 and should he graduate early and transfer, he is sure to be heavily coveted by power 5 conference teams.
Sasa Ciani 6’10 Center Slovenia 2003 Born Xavier
Ciani led his team in rebounding at 8.6 per game while averaging 12.3 points. Xavier fans can expect a player who shows some physicality and will play through contact. With a head of steam, he is dangerous finishing plays off strong with dunks. While he was an early withdrawal player in the 2023 NBA Draft, he isn’t on NBA scout’s radar at this time.
The Under The Radar Prospects
Bolanga played the least amount of minutes for the U20 champion French team which makes him the epitome of an under the radar prospect. Just taking a look at him during warm ups makes him interesting as a 6’8 wing he has great positional height. In addition, he possesses a plus wingspan and is an NBA level athlete. Despite playing 11.5 minutes per game, he was 8th in the competition with 2 steals per game while averaging an unheard of 7.0 steals per 40 minutes. He is the prototype switchable defender as he can defend any position 1 through 4. Offensively he showed the ability to finish plays hard with a dunk on the fast break. On half court sets, the southpaw seemed content with taking 3 pointers as he shot 41% on a small sample size (9/22). He is a bit passive as an offensive player which is probably part of the reason why he played the fewest minutes, but the tools as an NBA 3 and D player are there. He averaged 5.9 points per game.
Doumbia did not start for team France but he finished close games and was assigned as the defensive guard stopper resulting in being second in steals per game with 2.4. His body and defensive style is very Kyle Lowryesque wide and very physical. He uses his body to tire opponents up the court as he has surprisingly quite explosive vertically and has quick feet laterally. He is much of a work in progress in terms of shooting as he gets most of his points off turnover dunks and hustle points. Did not shoot the ball well from the outside. This is where he will have to improve at the pro level but when he, Bolanga, Dufeal, and Kamardine played together they completely wrecked opponents offenses.
The Undersized Power Forward
There are a slew of productive undersized power forwards who played at this event who due to lack of height would be required to compensate with additional athleticism or skill to be higher on NBA radar. Here are a few of the better players in that category from this event.
De Ridder averaged 16.9 ppg and 9.6 rebs over the event and would have led the event in scoring and averaged a double double had he not been hurt after the first four minutes in his semi finals matchup against Israel. De Ridder showed a refined skill set on pick and pop opportunities. Around the basket, he was adept at creating contact and getting to the foul line at a steady pace (36/45 or 80% in 6 games). He used the basket as a shield to score in the post against taller defenders and showed confidence and reliability when shooting on the perimeter. On defense he has good hands and works hard to get deflections and be disruptive, leading to 1.4 steals. He does not possess an ideal wingspan nor ideal athleticism for an undersized power forward, which is currently his most comfortable offensive position.
Zougiris helped lead Greece to a 3rd place finish. Averaging a double double with 14.4 point and 11.1 rebounds, Zougiris was most effective near the rim. He has good strength and vertical jump to finish strong around the rim. Has a great nose for the ball averaging more offensive rebounds than defensive rebounds. He runs the floor well looking to finish off plays on the fast break and as a result ended up shooting 56% from the field for the tournament. He needs to work on his shooting range as he was a poor free throw shooter and did not make a shot from three in 7 games. Defensively he was able to be top 12 in steals at 1.9 per game and 1 block per contest. He was voted into the tournament’s top 5.
The starting power forward for the French team was still working himself back from the knee injury he sustained less that year ago. Once an elite athlete, he looked to have recovered in his vertical jump but looked stiffer moving laterally. With a long wingspan with a strong frame, Traore was the most physical of the French post players. Averaging 8.9 points and 6.3 rebounds in 18.6 minutes per contest. He isn’t much of a self creator and can get his blocked shot some in the post when he lacks momentum but has shown some flashes to shoot from three (small sample size for this event) and ability to take smaller opponents in the post. Defensively he can guard players who are taller than him due to his length and strength. He was an energy player on the French team, getting deflections, extra rebounds, and diving for loose balls for extra possessions. Prior to injury, he was a player who had the athletic ability to guard 2-4 and was a true hybrid Forward. It will be interesting to see if he can regain some of that mobility back. If so, he would be much more interesting as a 3 and D prospect.
Dufeal is a raw athlete who showed some potential to be a defensive stopper. Long wingspan, with great lateral movement leading to 1.9 blocks in just over 16 minutes per game. Playing the fewest minutes in the top 15 in blocks per game ( he was 5th). Offensively he finished the playoffs with athletic dunks but that is all you can expect from that end of the court. But defensively he is switchable 1-4 and is elite in getting deflections and protecting the rim. Skinny but should be able to add weight as he gets older. Strong intrigue as a defensive specialist.
Pablo Tamba 6’7 Power Forward Spain 2003 Born UC Davis
Tamba will be entering his first year at UC Davis after averaging 9.9 points at this event. The shortest on our undersized power forward list he was the best athlete of the group. Showing fluid moves, finishing plays with powerful dunks where on one particular play drove baseline and finished the play on the other side of the basket with a powerful reverse jam. Needs work as a shooter but stood out athletically.
Other International Prospects:
Liutauras Lelevicius 6’7 Small Forward Lithuania 2003 Born Zalgiris
Lelevicius tied for third in scoring at this event with 17.6 points per game while shooting 42% from the field. He showed some potential as a shooter going 33/35 (94%) from the free throw line and shooting 16/44 from three. If he can increase that long distance shooting percentage, it will benefit him a great deal. He isn’t much of a self creator and needs momentum to get past defenders. Has a high dribble and does not have great explosiveness around the rim. Listed as a shooting guard but has the handles of a small forward. Feisty but not a great defender. Lelevicius had NBA draft workouts with teams prior to withdrawing for the 2023 NBA draft. He is definitely on scouts radars but did not move the needle for most scouts in his performances from this event.
Samet Yigitoglu 7’1 Center Turkey 2003 Born Besiktas
Has a big body, good frame and likes to get physical with opponents. He averaged 12.7 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. His biggest game was against Lithuania, where he scored 33 points. He’s best around the rim where he tries to finish with authority or score on half hooks. He generally does not fumble the ball around the basket flashing good hands. Gives bone crushing screens and is a bit of an instigator. Defensively he pushes people away from the basket but does not block shots at a high rate.
Urban Klavzar 6’2 CG Slovenia 2003 Born UCam Murcia
Klavzar’s main intrigue as a prospect is his shooting ability. He was Slovenia’s main offensive force and the best creator on the team averaging 15.4 points per game. He displays good touch from beyond the arc and the ability to both catch and shoot and create from long distance. Given his below average size and lack of elite athleticism, his odds are long for the NBA but he did outplay more highly touted Juan Nunez in their head to head matchup.
Fedor Zugic 6’5 SG Montenegro 2003 Born Ratiopharm Ulm
Only played 5 of the 7 games and overall his performances were underwhelming. His NBA draft stock has steadily fallen in 2023. He did not show the ability to shoot it with good efficiency here, nor did he demonstrate any playmaking ability for his teammates. However, he has nearly a year to rebuild his draft brand but has some work to do. Averaged 12.2 points per game