FIBA European U18s Championship Primer

NBA Draft season knows no rest. Young players are constantly being evaluated year around. Nike EYBL and Peach Jam, Adidas Nations Camp, college open practices, high school season, and Conference Play are mandatory year-round stops for scouts to complete their player reports. Beyond that, the level of basketball is so high and enjoyable that it makes for a great watch when possible live as well as on TV.

On the international level, FIBA holds youth tournaments year around that often aren’t promoted in North America because Canada or the US don’t necessarily participate in all of them. Outside of the FIBA World championship at U18, U19 and U20 level, you rarely hear of other competitions. If you want to learn more about the future international recruits or the next lottery pick non-US born player, you must tune-in to U18 Europe, U19 Asia and U20 Africa tournaments for example.

The FIBA U18 European Championship is December 16-22 in Samsun, Turkey and I am quite excited for it. I had the pleasure of chatting with my good friend Bronek Wawrzynchuk who is the director of New Basketball Generation Scouting. We dive into the tournament and all the key issues around it. He’s a great guy great person with tremendous knowledge of international basketball.

Make sure read his work and follow him on Twitter: @BronislawNBG

You can also watch EVERY SINGLE tournament game for free on YouTube

Q: This tournament is not well-known or publicize in North America, mainly because it only involves European National teams. Why should Canadians watch this tourney? What makes it so fun?                        

Bronek: Haha love the question. Simply put, it’s going to be played at a REALLY high level. This generation is loaded with great prospects and may be the best overall crop in years. It’s only a 6 day tournament, so there’s no place for mistakes and things get even more fascinating. Furthermore, here’s how I see it and why sometimes I love watching this caliber of play even though it’s not necessarily better than the NBA or the Euroleague. Basketball is a pretty simple game with just a few typical plays to execute, many commonly known teaching. However, the styles differ across teams, leagues and countries as far as spacing, communication and so on. That’s how you can constantly grow your knowledge about this game by watching all these different styles. In fact, that’s the key to basketball success. Find something new, apply it to your knowledge and to your vision, blend it all together and make it evolve.

Q: The Top 4 teams in this tournament in my opinion are Croatia, Germany, Lithuania, Spain. Do you agree?                        

Bronek: First of all, France and Serbia should be on this list as well. I can’t really picture Spain in the Final especially without 1998 generation Eric Villa. I’m expecting a breakout performance from Leo Cizmic to help Croatia succeed.

Q: How good is Turkey? Is this the year they win a major tournament, especially on home soil after falling short the last few years (namely at the FIBA European U20s this summer where they were favorites with C Omer Yurtseven currently at NC State)?                        

Bronek: Hmm…I don’t expect big things from them. For Turkey, it’s really an average generation since there is no Yurtseven. They have a good PG in Omer Al, but his frame is extremely tiny which really limits his possibilities in terms of creation. A great frontcourt prospect is Ragip Atar who is smooth and had a brilliant FIBA World U17 Tournament this summer. My prediction is that the home court advantage will allow them to finish in the middle of the pack.

Q: Who’s the Best Player in this tournament?                        

Bronek: Easy, Frank Ntilikina. He has made notable progress over the last couple of months, especially shooting wise. Every player can get better across the board over the course of their career. However, considering his status as high-level of player, such improvements usually don’t happen this fast. He has started to prove himself in professional basketball at Strasbourg this year and should dominate on the Turkish courts showing why he is best international player in his class across NBA mock drafts.

Q: Speaking of really good French players, Isaac Bonga will miss the tournament which REALLY depresses me. Give me a player on this french team to keep an eye on                        

Bronek: Yeah, Bonga missing the tournament is very unfortunate for big tournaments. In France you gotta keep an eye on Adam Mokoka – scoring little bit undersized combo. Also Bathiste Tchouaffe who is mature shooter with strong body and should be vocal leader of the team. Once more, make no mistake especially since there’s no Jaylen Hoard, it will be Ntikilina’s team and all scouts will have their eyes on him. A player like Sekou Doumbouya should draw tons of attention. He was just given french nationality and I bet he will be impactful you won’t notice he is a full 2 YEARS younger then the competition which is a huge difference physically. He is potential lottery pick in the class of 2019! Last name to remember is Abdoulaye Ndoye. He is a long guard with good overall skillset.

Q: Mock Draft experts will be familiar with Kostja Mushidi and Isaiah Hartenstein, both solidly in 1st rounds across mock drafts. What’s your forecast for them in this tournament?                        

Bronek: Hartenstein can cause a lot of damage inside at this stage and if Germany beats Serbia or France, he’ll be the main factor. His game is much more complete then simply an inside threat, but I think that’s how he will be used in this tourney. Along with Mushidi, they both are big ego guys and a lot of their individual performance will depend on how they fit with the team and how they react when things don’t go right. They also didn’t practice a lot with the team and that will raise questions about their performance either way.

EDITOR’S NOTE: It is quite common for international teams to lack meshing because having multiple guys play across multiple professional leagues makes it tougher to get them to practice together ahead of international tournaments. Egos can be bruised and coaching staffs have comfort zones and favorites leading sometimes to teams underperforming

Q: Interesting that you mention their character. Another player I’m very keen on watching his performance is Dzanan Musa from the draft class of 2018, currently rank as a top 5 player in the class of 2018. During summer league, someone in the league mentioned to me that he might not have the best character. What’s your thoughts on him?

Bronek: He is just outstanding scorer in the paint. There are players in this world that as much as you can game plan against their preferred tendencies, they score anyway because they have mastered some skills to the level beyond good defense. Musa deals with double teams perfectly and that makes him even harder to guard. A cliché to describe him is that he is versatile and can do multiple things. However, every part of his Dzanan’s skillset is slightly better than the usual guys described as versatile.

As far as character, I’m a big advocate of players with his type of mentality. Once you manage to embrace it and use it for your own good, you have big advantage and represent the prototype of a player that make others around him better. You do that by helping them to reach bigger achievements by demanding a higher level of effort and aggressiveness. He certainly does that.

Piece by Josué Sédjro – Twitter: @JoshuaHemsky

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