Saturday, June 15, 2024

Players to watch: 10 breakout candidates at #FIBAU16Europe in Skopje

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SKOPJE (North Macedonia) – The FIBA U16 European Championship is back and Skopje will be the backdrop once again as 16 teams will compete for the title and for one of five qualifying spots for the FIBA U17 Basketball World Cup in 2024.

Among the many talented players that will be in attendance, we selected a list of 10 players to follow closely. You can vote below for which player you think will make the biggest impact in this year’s competition.

Make sure to also check out the players to watch in the Division B tournament, which will be taking place in Pitesti, Romania. 

Maikcol Perez – Italy

Forward

Birth Date: December 1, 2007 (15 years old)
Height: 2.00m (6ft 7in)
Club: Orange 1 Basket Bassano (ITA)

At just 15 years old, Perez has been one of the top prospects in the Italian academy Orange 1 Basket Bassano for a number of years, putting up impressive performances in different invitational tournaments across Europe, including the latest ANGT. Perez displays an impressive level of athleticism which allows him to make an impact on both ends of the floor. On offense, he’s a powerful driver who possesses an excellent mix of size, length and fluidity, being able to get to the rim with consistency. Defensively, he can check multiple positions in the perimeter, covering drives and disrupting passes with his combination of size, length and lateral speed.

Italy has been one of the most consistent teams in this competition having participated in all but one FIBA U16 European Championship. The Azzurri will hope that Perez’s two-way impact can lead them to their first title since 1991.

Declan Duru – Germany

Small Forward

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

After a one-year stay in Division B, Germany is back on the top flight of the FIBA U16 European Championships and they will have one of the most experienced players in attendance in Declan Duru, who impressed playing two years up in age in the FIBA U16 European Challengers 2021 and then was an important piece in last year’s Germany winning run at the FIBA U16 European Championship, Division B.

Duru is a gifted athlete. Standing at 2.02m and possessing a strong frame for his age, the Real Madrid forward moves with a combination of speed and power which makes him a tough cover for perimeter defenders. His ball-handling ability and body control is also outstanding for his size, allowing him to get to the rim not just due to his physicality but also his creativity.

Efstratios Papastavrou – Greece

Forward

Birth Date: May 15, 2007 (16 years old)
Height: 2.00m (6ft 7in)
Club: Olympiacos (GRE)

Papastavrou will make his debut in FIBA competitions after recently earning an All-Tournament selection at the Greek junior championships playing for Olympiacos. Papastavrou is an all-around wing who stands out in transition, where he’s able to lead the break, advancing the ball with impressive speed. His length allows him to finish at the rim and he shows good vision to find teammates on the move. In the half-court, he’s also an impressive shooter, with fluid mechanics for his age.

While Greece hasn’t been a historically dominant team at the U16 level, having won their last title in 1993, the dynamic duo of Papastavrou and Peristeri’s Alexis Alexakis will turn Greece into a must-watch team at Skopje.

Mark Morano – Slovenia

Shooting Guard

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

Morano is a multi-level threat when catching the ball in the perimeter. His combination of 1.97m size and fluid ball-handling ability allow him to get to his spots on the floor and make him hard to contain for opposing defenders. His shooting ability, however, might be his biggest selling point, as he shows tremendous efficiency in tough shots off the dribble.

Morano’s performance at ANGT earlier this year, where he played against opponents two years older than him, put the 16-year-old wing on the radar as one of the most interesting prospects in his age group. His standing among the European youth basketball landscape should only grow if he’s able to lead Slovenia to its first-ever Semi-Finals berth at Skopje.

Dovydas Buika – Lithuania

Power Forward

Birth Date: January 3, 2007 (16 years old)
Height: 1.94m (6ft 4in)
Club:  SKM (LTU)

Buika will be returning to the FIBA U16 European Championship, after being an important piece for last year’s championship team, where he put up 7.6 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game. Buika is an impressive self-creator, being able to put the ball on the floor and generate scoring opportunities with his creative and fluid ball-handling ability. Buika is also able to contribute offensively with his ability to pass on the move.

Lithuania will defend its U16 title at Skopje and they will rely on Buika’s winning experience to lead the team back to victory.

Kaan Onat – Turkey

Point Guard

Birth Date: April 8, 2007 (16 years old)
Height: 1.95m (6ft 5in)
Club: Anadolu Efes SK (TUR)

One of the most talented point guard prospects in his generation, Onat had an outstanding performance at this year’s ANGT Belgrade, where he averaged 12.5 points and 4.5 assists per game for Anadolu Efes. Onat makes an impact with his passing ability, showing tremendous vision to read the floor and react to opposing defenders. He can also make an impact with his shooting, showing compact mechanics and a level of versatility to convert tough jumpers on the move.

Turkey has made the Quarter-Finals of the FIBA U16 European Championship every year since 1999. With Onat as their leader, Turkey will hope to keep the streak alive and win their first championship since 2012.

Adrians Andzevs – Latvia

Guard

Birth Date: February 23, 2007 (16 years old)
Height: 1.88m (6ft 2in)
Club: Real Madrid (ESP)

Andzevs had an impressive 2022-23 campaign as the floor general for Real Madrid’s U16 squad, as well as showing out for Latvia in the Baltic Sea Basketball Cup U16. Andzevs is a versatile scorer who shows impressive footwork and body control to get to the rim. His touch on multiple levels of the floor is outstanding, which allows him to convert tough shots inside the arc and jumpers off-the-dribble from beyond the three-point line. Despite his scoring ability, Andzevs has an unselfish approach to the game, being able to find open teammates with consistency.

In Skopje, Andzevs will have the opportunity to etch his name among the top guards of his generation, by leading a Latvian team that has become a staple of the FIBA U16 European Championship over the past two decades, having participated in every Division A tournament since 2004.

Alberto Blanco – Spain

Power Forward

Birth Date: January 20, 2007 (16 years old)
Height: 2.01m (6ft 7in)
Club: Coosur Real Betis (ESP)

Spain is a team that is expected to be consistently in the final stages of the FIBA U16 European Championship, as they have made the podium in six of the last eight editions of the tournament. This year, they will have one of the most important contributors from last year’s silver-medal team in Blanco, who made an impact for the team with his rebounding and interior scoring, including a 17-point, 7-rebound performance which led Spain past France in the Semi-Finals.

Blanco’s 2.01m size and tough frame for his age make him an effective interior target for Spain. Despite not possessing elite leaping ability, he’s really polished around the basket, utilizing both his physicality and his footwork to solve situations in the paint. He’s also a willing floor-spacer, having converted 37.5 percent of his three-point attempts in last year’s edition of the tournament.

Hugo Facorat – France

Power Forward

Birth Date: May 23, 2007 (16 years old)
Height: 2.08m (6ft 10in)
Club: Pau Orthez (FRA)

Coming out of the Pau Orthez junior squads, Facorat had a tremendous performance in the recent Villeneuve d’Ascq U16 International Tournament. Standing at 2.08m, Facorat has the height and length of a forward, but plays with the fluidity and speed of a guard, being able to put the ball on the floor to attack in transition and to create his own shot attempts in the half-court with drives and pull-up jumpers.

France will have an impressive collection of talent at Skopje. Both Yannis Allard and Jonas Boulefaa already made an impact in last year’s FIBA U16 European Championships and others like Kyllian Michee, Hugo Yimiga Moukouri and Facorat himself are coming from impressive 2022-23 campaigns at the junior levels. Les Bleus certainly have enough firepower to capture the U16 title for the first time since 2017.

Andrej Bjelic – Serbia

Guard

Birth Date: March 17, 2008 (15 years old)
Height: 1.90m (6ft 3in)
Club: Borac Cacak (SRB)

Bjelic will be making his debut in FIBA competitions in Skopje, but he has been considered as one of the best Serbian prospects in his generation for a number of years, as well as making an impact in recent invitational tournaments. Bjelic is an all-around offensive threat. He’s aggressive with his shot selection beyond the arc, being a versatile shooter who can convert shots from range with little time and space. Despite not being tremendously explosive, he does a good job of getting to the rim with his combination of creative ball-handling and body control. Bjelic can also operate as a traditional Point Guard, finding teammates in pick-and-roll situations.

Born in 2008, Bjelic will be playing one year up in age at Skopje, a good performance in the tournament can elevate his stock from local sensation to one of the best players in his age group in all of Europe.

FIBA

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