Over the years, the Fiba U19 World Championship event has produced numerous players that went on to become first rounders and NBA stars. The 16 teams that participated in Riga, Latvia were on par with current NCAA players and first year pros, with a solid level of talent comprising most of the rosters. In fact, this year’s final most likely featured a match up of #1 overall picks for both 2022 and 2023, with Chet Holmgren and Victor Wembanyama squaring off. Team USA ultimately eked out a 2 point victory over Team France to take home Gold. USA had a tremendous tournament with their usual cast of future NBA players, The focus here is on the top international prospects and players that created some buzz for themselves at this event. Here is a look at the top 10 international prospects from the event.
1) Victor Wembanyama, France, ASVEL, 7’2, C, 2004 Born:
Before I get into my analysis of Victor here is what USA star Chet Homlgren had to say after facing him: “I don’t really give too many people credit, but I give credit to this guy right here. I thought I was tall, I thought I had long arms, but he takes it to a whole other level. He moves great. He’s got a shot. He’s got skills too. He’s gonna be a rich man one day. I know he’s gonna keep working. Hopefully I’ll be able to see him in the NBA and continue to play against him for a long time.” – (source: http://www.fiba.basketball/world/u19/2021/news/united-states-withstand-valiant-france-effort-to-win-2021crown-eighth-u19-world-cup-title)
Victor (pictured, photo: FIBA) was everything he was hyped to be and more averaging 14 ppg, 7.4 rebounds, 5.7 blocks. He was on every team’s radar getting routinely double and triple teamed in the post. On the offensive end he has soft hands, catching lobs on the pick and roll, he demonstrated extensive 3 point range, a la Kristpas Porzingis and has a nice soft touch for a big, vindicated with his 78% shooting percentage from the charity stripe. On the defensive end he showed good agility and lateral quickness and also the ability to use his length by altering and blocking shots without fouling. A good example of his defensive ability was in the quarterfinals game that went to overtime, where Lithuania attacked him defensively to try to foul him out of the game and he either blocked or altered their shots to help seal the victory. It will be interesting to see in the next 2 years as a pro how much some added strength will help his consistency from 3 and his overall ability to impact games. He clearly has good vision, shooting and feel for the game and looks like a prototype #1 option modern big.
2) Caleb Houstan, Canada, Michigan, 6’8, SF, 2003 Born:
Caleb is well known among the recruiting circles in the USA as he played his senior season at powerhouse Montverde Academy in Florida. He was one of the key offensive players for the Bronze medalist team. His mid-range shooting ability combined with his length is why many see him as a possible lottery pick for the 2022 NBA Draft. For the tournament, he averaged 17 ppg, 5.7 rebs, and 2.3 steals. This upcoming season at Michigan it will be interesting to see development from 3, where at times he took some ill advised attempts during this tournament ( shooting just 11/58, 19%) given his jump shooting ability is his bread and butter for the next level. He showed that he’s a smart decision maker on the fast break and was solid on the defensive end.
3) Bennedict Mathurin, Canada, Arizona, 6’6, SG, 2002 Born:
Ben had two 30+ point games in this tournament, one of which was the semifinal to earn the bronze vs Serbia. Like Caleb Houston, he is currently projected to be a first rounder in 2022. In this tournament, he displayed his athleticism and shot the 3 ball at a 34.5 % clip. Wildcat fans should expect big things from him this upcoming season.
4) Dyson Daniels, Australia, G-League Elite, 6’6, Combo Guard, 2003 Born
Averaged 14 ppg, 5.3 rebs, 4.6 assists. Good athlete, with excellent size and a solid build for a guard. He clearly has a favorite move driving to hole, jump stopping and taking a spin jump shot, looking Shaun Livingston-esque. Took just 7 free throws in the 8 games perhaps because of his aforementioned go to move, which does not initiate much contact. Shot 43 3s at a 30% clip. He was by far the top player on his team and because of groupings and record, he did not play many of the top teams in this tournament other than team USA. It will be interesting to watch his development as a point guard at the G League level.
5) Jayson Tchicamboud, France, SIG, 6’5,Combo Guard, 2002 Born:
One of the players who made a name for himself in this tournament. His play in the semi final game against Serbia while Wenbayama was in foul trouble was the key to the victory. Possessing a quick first step and an impressive wingspan, he is adept at going downhill and getting into the key. He also caused havoc for opposing guards on the defensive end with his long arms, getting steals and deflections. While he shot the ball at a solid clip from 3, this is still very much a question mark about his game. He made the step in 3 from well beyond the arc at times, but his free throw percentage and unwillingness to be more of an outside shooter, when given opportunities, indicates there are still some things to iron out for the next level.
6) Nikola Jovic, Serbia, Mega Bemax, 6’10, PF/SF, 2003 Born
Nikola was one of the most well rounded players in this tournament. He has some go to post moves and counter moves in his arsenal. He shot 49% from the floor and 36.4% from 3 while taking 33 3s in 7 games. Unfortunately for him the Serbian talent, in particular at the guard position, was not as good as it normally is. This did allow him to be more of a facilitator but it also caused him to look frustrated in both the semifinal and 3rd place game. At his height, he has good handles and feel for the game. He isn’t higher in the rankings because against forwards who matched his strength and were lengthy he had a hard time scoring. He couldn’t get down hill against them and instead reverted to step by 3s that he often missed. he showed some nice ability to finish on the break with dunks over smaller opponents. He may not be the quickest or most athletic forward, but there is reason to believe he can become a solid pro if he continues to work on his range and counter moves from the perimeter.
7) Ibou Dianko Badji, Senegal, FC Barcelona, 7’0, C, 2002 Born:
Badji only played 3 games in Riga as he’s an early entrant candidate for the upcoming draft and participated in the Minnesota Group Pre Draft workout from July 8-11. The players who usually participate in this workout are prospects who typically end up being second rounders or undrafted candidates, so this would be a reasonable barometer of where he’s seen by NBA personnel at the moment. In his 3 games he had one good and one bad game against quality opponents. Against Lithuania’s Azuolas Tubelis thoroughly outplayed the Wildcat but against Canada and Zach Edey he was marred with foul trouble and lost his one on one battle. Badji, with his 7’6 wingspan, averaged 14 ppg, 10.3 rebs, & 4.3 blocks. He is a good athlete with great length but his small sample size of games made it harder to evaluate him at this tournament. Certainly a player with a lot of upside, but he’ll need to land on a team with a very good player development staff.
8) Ruben Dominguez, Spain, Estudiantes, 6’6, SG/SF, 2003 Born
Dominguez was huge against Silver medalist France and really throughout the tournament. He made some big shots at key moments and was the second leading scorer of the event at 18.7 ppg while shooting 34.3 % from 3. He’s disciplined and a well rounded player. The question about him for the next level is does he have the athleticism necessary to defend in the NBA.
9) Ryan Nembhard, Canada, Creighton, 6’0, PG, 2003 Born
Ryan should be a known player for most of our audience having gone to Montverde Academy with Caleb and being a top 100 recruit by every scouting publication. He led the tournament in assists (6.7) and was a top 10 player in scoring. He had a great assist to turnover ratio and was probably the best pure pg in the entire tournament. His poor shooting efficiency combined with his diminutive size is what may hold him back at the next level.
10) Khalifa Diop, Senegal, Herba Life Gran Canaria, 6’11, 2002 Born
Diop, for the tournament, averaged 14 ppg, 9.4 reb, & 1.7 blocks. While his minutes didn’t fluctuate much, his performance was much better once Badji left for the NBA pre draft workouts. Like Badji he has NBA length and athleticism. He still is raw and has limitations in terms of scoring outside of the paint area but is a prospect to continue to monitor as he is a likely candidate to test the draft waters in 2022.
Zach Edey, Canada, Purdue, 7’3, C, 2002 Born:
A coordinated 7’3, Edey led the tournament in rebounds and at times looked dominant. He averaged a double double and helped Canada to a Bronze medal. Why he ranks outside the top 10 is mostly due to his fit in today’s NBA. Can he score or defend when he is outside the key, will be the key. That question makes his outlook more challenging and is why we don’t have him higher than some other players that he outperformed. In another era, he would be in the top handful of prospects.
Juan Nunez, Spain, Real Madrid, 6’3, PG, 2004 Born:
One of the youngest players in the entire tournament with good length for his position and understanding of how to run an offense. He will be a player to continue to track both at the national and club level.
Armel Traore, France, AS Monaco, 6’8, F, 2003 Born:
Athletically gifted with both strength and long arms and caused problems for Jovic when he was assigned to him defensively. He’s just a slasher at this stage of his career but has all the athletic ability to be an elite defender.
Jun Seok Yeo, South Korea, Yongsan High School, 6’8, F 2002 Born:
Led the tournament in scoring and second in rebounding (25.6 ppg, 10.6 rebs). Unknown prior to the tournament and now has some highlights against team USA’s best players. The expectation is that he will play pro in the Korean league but there are some NCAA schools that are kicking the tires as a late addition.
Ibu Yamazaki: Japan, Mesei HS, 6’5, SF, 2003 Born:
Shot 43.9% from 3 while averaging 14.6 ppg. He is currently attending the same high school that Rui Hachimura was at, and has some intrigue from D1 programs.