Monday, June 24, 2024

10 players who stood out at #FIBAU16Europe

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SKOPJE (North Macedonia) – The FIBA U16 European Championship 2023 has come to an end, with Spain beating Italy in the Final in their way to their sixth U16 title.

Here’s a final look at 10 players who delivered incredible performances during the tournament: 

Guillermo Del Pino – Spain

Point Guard

Birth Date: January 12, 2007 (16 years old)
Height: 1.93m (6ft 4in)

Tournament Stats: 14.6 PPG, 2.9 APG, 1.9 SPG, 1.4 RPG,  0.1 BPG

The MVP of the tournament, Del Pino developed into a key piece for Spain as the competition went by, scoring 26 points in a close Quarter-Finals game against Slovenia and 22 points in the Final against Italy. The Unicaja wing made an impact for Spain with his sharpshooting ability, converting 45.5 percent of his three-point attempts. Del Pino also added value with his perimeter defense, his secondary playmaking and his ability to attack the rim, especially on closeouts and other advantageous situations.

Del Pino made his mark at Skopje and should be considered as one of the best shooters in his generation after his U16 performance.

Read more about Del Pino’s game in the Player Spotlight article.

Gildas Gimenez – Spain

Small Forward

Birth Date: January 12, 2007 (16 years old)
Height: 1.97m (6ft 6in)

Tournament Stats: 14.4 PPG, 6.6 RPG,  1.9 SPG, 1.6 APG, 0.7 BPG

Gimenez was extremely valuable for Spain, providing a much-needed level of defensive versatility, being a disruptive wing who was able to come up with steals, block shots, secure rebounds and stay in front of opponents in the perimeter. However, as evidenced by his 29-point Semi-Finals outburst against Lithuania, Gimenez also adds value on offense with his combination of size, fluid ball-handling ability and flashes of spot-up shooting and playmaking for others.

Gimenez is one of many exciting prospects to watch on Real Madrid’s junior squads. He should be expected to make an impact in next year’s FIBA U17 Basketball World Cup with his combination of size, athleticism and two-way impact. 

Maikcol Perez – Italy

Forward

Birth Date: December 1, 2007 (15 years old)
Height: 2.00m (6ft 7in)

Tournament Stats: 12.7 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 2.6 APG, 1.7 SPG, 0.9 BPG

Italy reached the Final for the first time since 1991 with a tremendously deep squad. Adrian Mathis and Achille Lonati provided scoring and playmaking from the perimeter while Diego Garavaglia was the interior presence. In this setting Maikcol Perez was the perfect connector piece between both zones.

The Bassano wing finished in the top five in rebounding at the tournament, but his impact extended beyond the boards. He shot extremely well, albeit on a small sample, from three-point range, and was able to put pressure on defenders with his combination of size and ball-handling. Defensively, he utilized his strong frame, long arms and overall athleticism to create defensive events and cover multiple positions.

Akram Naji – France

Point Guard

Birth Date: April 2, 2007 (16 years old)
Height: 1.93m (6ft 4in)

Tournament Stats: 15.0 PPG, 4.1 APG, 3.6 RPG, 2.1 SPG, 0.3 BPG

It was the fifth straight top-four finish for France, who found in Naji a steady playmaking and scoring presence in the perimeter. The Elan Chalon guard was an extremely tough cover for opponents. His combination of 1.93m size, strong frame, speed with the ball in his hands and aggressive mentality made him an absolute threat on drives. Naji also provided secondary playmaking, perimeter defense and shooting off-the-dribble for France.

With his performance at the FIBA U16 European Championship, Naji made his case as one of the top guards coming up in the pipeline of young French talent.

Read more about Naji’s game in the Player Spotlight article.

Arturas Butajevas – Lithuania

Center

Birth Date: March 27, 2007 (16 years old)
Height: 2.00m (6ft 7in)

Tournament Stats: 15.6 PPG, 9.9 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.3 BPG, 0.3 SPG

One of the top rebounders of the tournament, Butajevas’ strong play in the paint was a key factor for Lithuania’s fourth-place finish in Skopje. The 16-year-old center was efficient around the basket, converting 66.7 percent of his shots inside the arc while being absolutely dominant on the boards, averaging 9.9 rebounds per game.

Butajevas also showed some perimeter flashes: He’s fluid with the ball in his hands for his size and has the willingness to space the floor. Defensively, he was able to contribute as a rim protector, averaging 1.3 blocks per game, while also being a willing defender in the perimeter.

Read more about Butajevas’ game in the Player Spotlight article.

Mark Morano Mahmutovic – Slovenia

Shooting Guard

Birth Date: February 5, 2007 (16 years old)
Height: 1.97m (6ft 6in)

Tournament Stats: 20.6 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 1.7 APG, 1.0 SPG, 0.6 BPG

The leading scorer of the tournament, Morano exploded for a 36-point Quarter-Finals performance against Spain which, albeit incredible, wasn’t enough to beat the eventual championship team. The Cedevita wing does an impressive job of getting to the rim with a good combination of speed and power, which makes him extremely difficult to stop for opponents. Morano combines his gravity as a driver with his potential as a shooter, being a complete scoring threat for Slovenia.

With Morano and Ian Lazarevski forming one of the most electrifying duos to watch at Skopje, the future of basketball in Slovenia seems to be in good hands.

Declan Duru – Germany

Small Forward

Birth Date: January 12, 2007 (16 years old)
Height: 2.02m (6ft 8in)

Tournament Stats: 12.0 PPG, 9.9 RPG, 3.7 SPG, 3.3 APG, 0.4 BPG

Duru was instrumental in Germany’s run at Skopje, delivering some memorable performances, such as his 10-steal opening game against Finland and his 22 points, 15 rebounds and 5 steals in the final game against Slovenia, which helped Germany reach the fifth-place, qualifying for the FIBA U17 Basketball World Cup in 2024. The first time they did so since 2010.

Even if the scoring didn’t materialize for him at an efficient level (he shot just 40 percent from the field and didn’t convert a single three-pointer), he led the tournament in rebounds and steals, while also adding value with his playmaking for others.

Andrej Bjelic – Serbia

Guard

Birth Date: March 17, 2008 (15 years old)
Height: 1.93m (6ft 4in)

Tournament Stats: 12.1 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 1.7 APG, 1.6 SPG, 0.1 BPG

Bjelic played one year up in age at Skopje, but he was more than ready for the competition, being the leading scorer for Serbia. Bjelic is an impressive shooter for his age, not only due to the 35.3 percent he shot from beyond the arc, but also due to the volume (7.3 attempts per game) and the mechanics, an area in which he shows a lot of polish. The Borac Cacak guard also provided value for Serbia with his ball-handling ability and his secondary playmaking.

With his productivity at Skopje, Bjelic has an early lead as one of the top guards in the 2008 generation. It shouldn’t surprise anyone if he plays in next year’s FIBA U16 European Championship and earns an All-Star Five selection.

Alexandros Alexakis – Greece

Forward

Birth Date: May 25, 2007 (16 years old)
Height: 1.95m (6ft 5in)

Tournament Stats: 16.9 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 2.1 APG, 1.4 SPG,  0.4 BPG 

Greece started the tournament 4-0, before suffering three straight losses and finishing the tournament in the eighth place. Both in the losses and the wins, Alexakis made his mark, finishing in the top-three in scoring at the tournament. The Peristeri wing made an impact at Skopje with his offensive versatility, being able to convert jumpers, attack the rim with power and make plays for teammates on the move. Defensively, he utilized his size and length to create defensive events both in the perimeter and in the paint.

The future is bright for Alexakis, who proved to be one of the most interesting and versatile wing prospects of his generation at Skopje.

Jayden Hodge – Belgium

Small Forward

Birth Date: April 30, 2007 (16 years old)
Height: 1.95m (6ft 5in)

Tournament Stats: 17.4 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 2.9 SPG, 1.6 APG, 1.0 BPG

Belgium will play in Division B next year, but it certainly wasn’t because of Hodge, who did nearly everything on the court for his team, finishing the tournament in the top five in points, rebounds and steals.

Standing at 1.95m, Hodge was one of the biggest players for a Belgian roster that lacked the size of the top teams in the tournament. Despite playing outside of his natural position as a guard, Hodge did extremely well, averaging 8.7 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per game, while also providing an impressive level of perimeter production, both as a scorer and as a defender.

Borna Katanovic – Croatia

Small Forward

Birth Date: July 13, 2007 (16 years old)
Height: 1.97m (6ft 6in)

Tournament Stats: 18.1 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 2.8 APG, 2.5 SPG, 0.3 BPG

In their first-ever appearance in the FIBA U16 European Championship, Division B, Croatia simply ran through the competition, beating opponents by an average margin of 30.8 points on their way to a Division B title.

Katanovic earned MVP honors behind a tremendously efficient level of play, averaging 18.1 points on 61.0 percent from the field and 45.2 percent from three-point range. The Cibona wing showed a good level of size, strength and fluidity, which made him effective as a scorer both in the paint and in the perimeter.

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