A few weeks ago the fourth and last of the Nike Junior International Tournament qualification tournaments took place (Rome, L’Hospitalet and Kaunas the other venues). The winner was the home team of Red Star which dominated all the other teams with its full court zone press defense and deep roster. The final game against INSEP was the most challenging for the Serbians, due to the superior athleticism of the French players. Here is a list of the top prospects from the competition.
Vojislav Stojanovic (1997, 6’5”, SG, Red Star Belgrade, Serbia)
At 6’5” he has great size for the role, with a solid and robust body structure. He possesses quality athletic ability, though he is not an elite runner or jumper. Despite being one year under age, he was the floor general for Red Star. Displayed leadership skills, solid decision making and was always in control. Offensively, Stojanovic is able to use his strength in order to create the space for the jump shot. This same strength helps him post up weaker opponents, generating several free throw opportunities.
He showed remarkable body control and is really effective when using the spin move. Was also an elite offensive rebounder with a great post game for his position. Also, thanks to his game comprehension he is effective in off ball situations. His biggest flaw is a lack of consistency shooting. He needs to work on his long range game and their is no guarantee that others will not catch up to him physically.
Lovro Mazalin (1997, 6’8”, SF, Cedevita Zagreb, Croatia)
Mazalin was most definitely the most mature and best player in the tournament. He showed off his all-around offensive game and leadership skills. A standout skill of his is the midrange jump shot off the dribble. The ability to create his shot from the dribble allows him to be effective attacking the basket with a variety of moves, including a reliable floater. Furthermore, he showed more explosiveness than last year. While he may not be an elite leaper, his footwork is excellent and gives him another advantage over most prospects his age.
He has a nice handle with some reliable crossover moves, though he may struggle whenthe defense is pressing. He shows good effort on the defensive end, even showing timing as a shot blocker. The main shortcoming is a lack of consistency on his three point shot, as well as in catch and shoot situations. This may be due to a slow release, which allows recovery time for defenders. Starting next year he will play with the Cedevita senior team on a consistent basis, impressive for a player his age.
Stefan Lazarevic (1996, 6’7”, SF, Red Star Belgrade, Serbia)
Athletic and explosive wingman with good length and a solid body, though he still lacks ideal muscle definition. Offensively, Lazarevic showed a solid jump shot and good passing skills, giving him an active role on the execution of basically every scheme Red Star ran. Ball handling appears to be average, though he has a remarkable body control. His use of fakes and footwork also were instrumental throughout the tournament. Defensively, his length is quite advantageous and showed quick hands in the zone press defense Red Star used. Struggles were present in one-on-one defensive situations, where strength, lateral quickness and fundamentals are crucial. Lazarevic has great upside as a prospect if he works on his ability to create his own shot off of the dribble.
Stephane Gombauld (1997, 6’7”, PF, INSEP, France)
Gombauld has been the most consistent player on his team, living up to his status as top prospect on the INSEP roster. Smooth and fluid running the floor, he has remarkable mobility for a big man. In fact, he is starting to give indication he may possess an ability to play on the wing. He was much more confident and effective with his handle in Belgrade, though it still needs to be further refined. His shooting range is still limited, though it has improved, especially from a technical standpoint. Gombauld showed a good variety of offensive solutions, thanks to his body control, using basic post moves and a hook shot. His lack of leaping ability still does not stop him from contributing as a rebounder. He has good instincts and a sense of position below the boards.
Dragan Bender (1997, 6’10”, PF, Cedevita Zagreb, Croatia)
Bender showed his usual combination of mobility and size, along with some encouraging improvement on his handle. His frame is still frail, and he struggles when facing contact when attacking the basket. Trainers still need to be careful to work on bulking him up without his losing mobility. What makes him dangerous is the versatility to use his size, while still using speed to get past slower post players. Unfortunately, the lack of strength makes him a bit of a tweener and he needs to work on shooting mechanics if he hopes to stretch the floor.
His passing skills and court vision bring to mind Dario Saric, though he looks to be more front court oriented. He showed a good hook shot, though his post moves are not reliable yet and hopefully strength will bring more toughness. Definitely the prospect with the most potential from an NBA standpoint in Belgrade. It was recently announced that Bender will join the Maccabi Tel Aviv youth academy, with the senior team being a Euroleague staple.
Ante Zizic (1997, 6’10”, C, Cedevita Zagreb, Croatia)
Polished and mobile big man, he has a good frame though will still need to add upper body strength. Really effective in taking position in the paint, he struggled when facing bigger, stronger defenders. Zizic has good court awareness, sense of position and plays with a lot of energy, allowing him to be a great rebounder. Even though offensive skills are still raw, his soft hands and touch indicate potential as a mid-range threat. He showed encouraging improvement in this area since this past summer in Kiev. Has a high IQ as a defensive player, providing help weak side, on Pick and Roll and showing great timing for blocking shots. His offensive game still needs a lot of work, as he could do a lot more to exploit his technical proficiency.
Norbert Janicek (1996, 6’10”, C, Canaris Basketball Academy, Slovak Republic)
Janicek was one of the most intriguing big men in the tournament and was definitely the best prospect on Canaris. At 6’10”, he has good size for his position, combined with a solid frame, even though he definitely still needs to work on his body in the long run. His footwork and mobility stood out, he is very smooth when running the floor.Combined with a strong intensity, this made him a major threat in transition opportunities. He showed reliable post moves, especially a spin move before concluding with the hook shot in the middle of the key. What made this particular move dangerous was that he could use either hand, though his left still could still use some work. Was also effective in off the ball situations, showing great spacing, sense of position and timing for cuts. His biggest flaw is a lack of shooting range, as most of his game is based in the post. Ball handling ability should also be a focus towards his continuing development. He is already on the radar of several NCAA Division I teams, with this tournament only boosting his profile.
Radovan Dokovic (1996, 6’7”, PG, Mega Vizura, Serbia)
Dokovic was one of the biggest surprises of the tournament, leading Mega Vizura to the semifinals. Standing 6’7”, he has elite size for a guard and he might not be done growing. He is not an elite athlete or explosive off the jump, though he still has decent athleticism. His handle really stoof out, as did his combination of court vision and passing skills. This made him very dangerous in transition, where he showed impressive creativity. In the half-court game, he had the ability to exploit defenders while creating for either himself or teammates. His ability off of the drive also led to a high volume of trips to the foul line. A reliable shooter in catch and shoot situations, though he lacks a reliable midrange game. This was especially present in jump shots off the dribble in pick and roll scenarios. He is a good rebounder for a guard and would often start transition situations off of a defensive board. Dokovic is already practicing with Vizura’s senior team and should be getting consistent minutes in the ABA as of next season.
Milos Glisic (1998, 6’8”, SF, Partizan Belgrade, Serbia)
Glisic looked more or less like the same player as last year, showing great poise, sense of position and a high basketball IQ for his age. Even if he is skinny and a bit lanky, he has a solid frame. It looks like he will eventually add some good weight in the future, though it has not really happened yet. From a physical standpoint, his main shortcoming is still the lack of elite athleticism and leaping ability. This could be a red flag towards evaluating his future as a prospect. Still needs to work on his ball-handling skills and footwork, especially if he wants to play on the wing full time. These tools could allow him to be more effective in creating off the dribble, where he currently struggles the most. Overall, Glisic was still only 15-years old at the time of this tournament and still has time for a lot of physical and mental growth.
Cyrille Eliezer-Vanerot (1996, 6’7”, SG, INSEP, France)
Tremendous athlete with an amazing basketball body, with long arms and huge hands. He has the potential to become a solid shooter and he showed improvement on his shooting mechanics as compared to the previous season. Even though he showed some range, particularly in catch and shoot situations, his shot is still not overly consistent. The real strength in his game is attacking the basket and drawing contact. Much more adept as a cutter, he struggles off of the dribble and he does not have a particularly strong handle. Defensively, he is already a great presence, displaying astonishing athleticism and wingspan. This allows him to be a constant threat in passing lanes. His upside is tremendous, with work needing to come from focus and consistency over the course of an entire game.