From December 27th to 29th in Stella Azzurra Rome the first of the four qualification tournaments took place (L’Hospitalet, Siaulai and Belgrade the other venues), of Nike International Junior Tournament. The winner of the event was the Spanish team of Cajasol Seville in the final game against the home team of Stella Azzurra Rome. Here is a list of the prospects that showed the best potential, in a tournament that lacked elite NBA prospects.
Richard Freudenberg (1998, 6’8”, SG, Bayern Munich, Germany)
Standing 6’8” with long arms, Freudenberg has an amazing body for a backcourt player, even if he’s still skinny and a little bit lanky. He has good ball handling skills for his height, but he tends to struggle when put under pressure from smaller guards. He has a smooth pull-up jumper from three point, showing the potential to become a great SG in his future thanks to his combination of size and mobility. He has to develop the ability to create from off the dribble, but he’s already effective in using screens and cuts to find the space for the shot. From this standpoint he has to improve the use of pivot feet after the reception of the ball since he had the tendency to commit travelling violations in those situations. On the defensive side he’s really versatile with the ability to guard both smaller and quicker opponents, plus, with his good leaping abilities he’s a reliable shot blocker and defensive intimidator. His biggest limitation is that he doesn’t use his size to post up opponents and he prefers to stop in the midrange for the pull up jumper instead of trying to attack the basket to draw contact, since he’s often pushed around by defenders. He was definitely the most intriguing NBA prospect among the participants in Rome.
Maksim Salash (1996, 6’9”, PF, Cajasol Seville, Belarus)
Salash moved from Belarus to Sevilla at the beginning of 2013 and began to improve from day 1. Standing at 6’9” he’s a little bit undersized for a pro power forward, but he’s solid and his muscular development has already reached a good level. He’s mobile for the position, with the ability to play inside/outside thanks to his reliable three point shot, plus with his solid ball handling skills, he’s capable of beating bigger opponents off the dribble. His favorite move is the hook shot both from the middle of the area or from the baseline, often after an effective spin move. Salash is also a good passer, and with good court vision he plays the role of distributor when his team is facing zone defense. Furthermore with his structure and sense of position he’s also a solid rebounder on both ends of the floor. He still needs to work on his post moves by adding variety and improving the use the pivot feet when taking position below the boards, plus he tends to struggle in P&R situations both offensively and defensively, due to a poor footwork. Overall he could be considered a really solid prospect which could reach the maximum level of European competitions. He closed the tournament in Rome with 20 points and 9 rebounds per game.
Andrea La Torre (1997, 6’6”, SG, Stella Azzurra Roma, Italy)
La Torre is one of standouts in his European class, thanks to his combination of size, maturity and skill level. During the competition he showed significant improvements in his shooting mechanics, which has always been one of his biggest deficiencies. Plus thanks to his work with a personal trainer he’s more explosive and quick, both starting from the dribble on the offense and on the defensive side, even if he still struggles with smaller guards. With his maturity, solid decision making and poise, he’s usually the most effective player on the court, and without any doubt ready to compete effectively at the senior level. He’s attacking the basket with more confidence, even if he tends to lose balance when bounced from opponents, and this affects the effectiveness of his finishes in the painted area. For La Torre there’s still work to do on shot consistency but the improvements are quite encouraging and he’ll probably destined to compete at high level once he becomes a pro.
Leon Tomic (1996, 6’6”, SF, Cibona Zagreb, Croatia)
Tomic moved from Cedevita Zagreb to Cibona this summer, and he was the prospect with the biggest upside among the ones on the Cibona roster in Rome (Arapovic and Zubac were absent). Standing at 6’6” he has intriguing size for a backcourt player, with long arms and huge hands, in an already well defined body from a muscular standpoint. He’s smooth and fluid in running the floor, showing good ball handling skills even if he should add some confidence under pressure. He has a superior game comprehension and basketball IQ, and with good passing skills he plays the role of offensive facilitator, plus with his size and sense of position he’s an elite rebounder for the position. His game is based on the painted area, where he exploits his athleticism and ability to draw contact. He needs to work on his jump shot and increase his range to the three point line in order to develop into a complete backcourt player.
Edin Atic (1997, 6’6”, SF, KK Spars Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina)
Atic is an athletic and smooth swingman, able to finish with effectiveness above the rim with a great variety of finishes and with amazing body control. He’s a little bit skinny and he needs to put some pounds of muscles, but he’s tough and explosive on both sides of the floor. With his remarkable ball handling skills he’s really effective in creating his own shot from the dribble, using a lightning crossover move. In the transition game he’s a killer, using his quickness and explosiveness to finish effectively with either hand, even when facing more than one opponent. He has a slasher style of game, and he has to develop his pull up jumper from midrange, since he’s more effective in catch and shoot situations. His three point shot lacks consistency, even if his mechanics shows a good base he has to work on the release and on trajectory. Despite being an elite scorer, he’s also a good passer with court vision, able to find teammates when the defense collapses on him. On the defensive side he shows quick hands and a good attitude, plus with his remarkable leaping ability and timing he’s a terrific shot blocker. Definitely one of the best scorers of his class in Europe.
Amar Gegic (1998, 6’3”, PG, KK Spars Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina)
Gegic has remarkable size and a robust body for the position, especially if you consider he’s just 15 years old. He’s crafty and athletic with solid playmaking skills and amazing maturity and poise for the age, making him probably the best point guard of his class in Europe. Always active on the court, he shows great instincts and feel for the game, with the ability to control the rhythm of the offense and to serve teammates, but he’s also able to create for himself, showing a reliable pull up jumper after the pick and roll. With his robust structure he’s not afraid of contact and he’s able to draw contact gaining trips to the free throw line. He still needs to work on the consistency of his shot, especially from three point, a key point of his evolution in the following years. On the defensive side he shows great attitude, putting tremendous pressure on opponents in one vs. one situations.
Malik Eichler (1997, C, 6’10”, Cajasol Seville, Germany)
Long and skinny big man, Eichler has an impressive combination of quickness and size, with a remarkable wingspan. He’s a lefty with good shot mechanics and solid percentages in the painted area, showing an interesting potential with his offensive repertoire. He could be considered a long term project since he still lacks reliable offensive moves, starting from positioning in the post area when he’s often bounced back from opponents shorter than him. At the moment he’s not effective on the offensive side, but also on defense he has to find the right timing and sense of position to become an effective intimidator. He has to work both from the technical and to the mental standpoint, finding confidence and adding toughness to his game.
Nik Slavica (1997, SG, 6’7”, Cibona Zagreb, Croatia)
Slavica was one of the most prolific scorers during the last U16 European championships in Kiev, thanks to his combination of size and strength. Standing at 6’7”, he already has a grown man’s body compared to the average player at this level of competition, in fact his game is based on physical domination. He has a slashing style of game and he’s more effective in transition, where he can exploit the momentum to draw contact when attacking the rim. In the half court game he struggles more, with a poor shot selection and more difficulties to find the basket. In order to evolve as a professional player he needs to work on his shot mechanics and game comprehension learning how to use spacing, cuts and screens.
Bruno Skokna (1997, PG/SG, 6’2”, Cibona Zagreb, Croatia)
Skokna is a crafty combo guard with a great combination of quickness and physicality, he puts forth a lot of energy and intensity on the court. He plays mostly as a primary ball handler, but he still lacks elite playmaking skills and most of his assists come from his ability to beat his direct defender and finding teammates after the defense collapses on him. He’s really effective in pick and roll situations both with a consistent jump shot from midrange or by attacking directly the rim. With his solid body and good athletic abilities he’s able to reach the rim quite easily, often drawing contacts. He’s also really effective in off the ball game, mastering the use of screens and cuts to find space for the shot. With his great motor he often changes the rhythm of the game, being a lethal weapon in transition. He needs to work on his three point shot, which already shows good mechanics and on his ability to guide the offense in the half court game, evolving as a true point guard.
Federico Mussini (1996, 5’11”, PG/SG, Stella Azzurra Roma, Italy)
Mussini is a Reggio Emilia player on loan to Stella Azzurra for the NIJT tournament. He’s skinny and really undersized but terribly quick and skilled from a technical standpoint. He has a really effective pull-up jumper, which he’s able to create from the dribble basically in every condition also with limited balance at this level of competition. He’s an elite scorer with good passing skills, but he lacks playmaking skills and the ability to guide the offense, especially in half court game. On the defensive side he has quick hands and a good attitude, but with his size he could be posted up by taller opponents. For his professional career he needs to add some muscle without losing quickness and explosiveness.