Saturday, June 15, 2024

Rising stars: 10 players who impressed at #FIBAU18Europe

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NIS (Serbia) – The FIBA U18 European Championship has wrapped up in Serbia, with the home side winning the title and a number of players who left a long-lasting impression with their play in the competition.

Here’s a final look at 10 players who impressed during the tournament:

Nikola Topic – Serbia

Point Guard

Birth Date: August 10, 2005 (17 years old)
Height: 1.95m (6ft 5in)

Tournament Stats: 15.3 PPG, 5.1 APG, 3.7 RPG, 2.0 SPG

The MVP of the tournament, Topic saved the best for last, with a 24-point, 8-assist performance that led Serbia past Spain in the Final. Topic showed tremendous qualities as a lead initiator in Nis, possessing the right mix of poise and aggressiveness as a driver. His vision as a passer was also in full display, as he finished in the top three in assists in the tournament.

Topic will head into next season as the best international guard in the 2005 generation. If he can be as impactful as he was in Nis through the entirety of his 2023-24 campaign and address some potential concerns around his profile (namely, his shooting), he will be in a great position ahead of the 2024 NBA Draft.

In case you missed it, make sure to check out the Player Spotlight article on Serbia’s relentless MVP,

Aday Mara – Spain


Birth Date: April 7, 2005 (18 years old)
Height: 2.20m (7ft 3in)

Tournament Stats: 14.0 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 2.7 BPG, 2.3 APG

Mara was certainly one of the statistical standouts of the tournament, leading the entire competition in efficiency, while also ranking in the top three in both rebounds and blocks per game. His massive 2.20m size allowed him to affect the game in the paint on both ends of the floor, being nearly unstoppable as a post-scorer in the tournament, while providing a level of rim protection for Spain, especially during the first five games of the tournament.

Spain couldn’t complete the first U18 three-peat in nearly 40 years, but Mara’s performance certainly lived up to the hype. His outlier physical tools and offensive polish makes him one of the most interesting international prospects ahead of the 2024 NBA Draft.

Read more about Aday Mara’s performances in Nis in the Player Spotlight article on Spain’s next BIG thing.

Bogoljub Markovic – Serbia

Power Forward

Birth Date: July 12, 2005 (18 years old)
Height: 2.10m (6ft 11in)

Tournament Stats: 14.1 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 1.7 APG, 1.0 SPG, 1.0 BPG

Topic was not alone in leading Serbia to its third U18 title over the past five editions of the tournament, as Markovic was also the most impactful player for the eventual champions during a number of games. Standing at 2.10m, Markovic impressed with his versatility, being able to fill various roles for his team, whether it was by finishing plays at the rim, rebounding, putting the ball on the floor to attack closeouts and hit the occasional jumper.

Markovic’s elite size, fluidity and all-around game makes him one of the most interesting big prospects in Europe. He should be expected to make an impact at the professional level very soon.

Hugo Gonzalez – Spain


Birth Date: February 5, 2006 (17 years old)
Height: 1.93m (6ft 4in)

Tournament Stats: 14.3 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 1.7 APG, 1.3 BPG, 1.3 SPG

If Aday Mara was Spain’s anchor holding the paint, then Gonzalez was the team’s propeller, providing Spain with a much needed level of explosive playmaking. The Real Madrid wing was one of the most electric players in the competition, attacking the rim with tremendous speed and explosiveness, being efficient to finish drives, transition opportunities and cuts at the rim. He also contributed as a defender, floor-spacer and secondary playmaker.

Gonzalez came into the tournament as one of the most high-profile prospects in attendance and he more than lived up to the hype, earning an All-Star Five selection in the process. With his performance in Nis, you can expect Gonzalez to be in the mix as one of the top international prospects ahead of the 2025 NBA Draft.

Ivan Kharchenkov – Germany

Small Forward

Birth Date: September 20, 2006 (16 years old)
Height: 1.98m (6ft 6in)

Tournament Stats: 17.1 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.1 SPG

Kharchenkov’s heroics in a 27-point performance in the Quarter-Finals against Greece led Germany to its first-ever Semi-Finals berth, but the Bayern wing was a reliable scorer for Germany all throughout the tournament. Kharchenkov was a consistent threat to attack the rim due to his combination of 1.98m size, strong frame and speed with the ball in his hands, while also providing a level of versatile shooting from the perimeter.

At just 16 years old, Kharchenkov was selected for his second straight All-Star Five in a FIBA competition, as he had already earned the nod in last year’s FIBA U16 European Championship, Division B. He could make an even bigger impact, should he play at the U18 once again in 2024.

Alexandros Samodurov – Greece


Birth Date: April 20, 2005 (18 years old)
Height: 2.11m (6ft 11in)

Tournament Stats: 13.1 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 3.1 APG, 2.3 BPG, 2.0 SPG

Samodurov stood out at the FIBA U18 European Championship for a second straight year. He had already been a key part of last year’s Greek squad playing one year up in age, and in 2023 he was able to lead the team to a seventh-place finish. The Panathinaikos forward stuffed the stat sheet by doing a bit of everything for Greece. Attacking the rim on drives, making passes on the move, shooting from the perimeter and, especially, contributing defensively, as he averaged 2.3 blocks and 2.0 steals per game.

Samodurov will go into the 2023-24 season as one of the most intriguing prospects ahead of next year’s NBA Draft due to his unique combination of 2.11m size, ball-handling ability and defensive production – all aspects which were on full display in Nis.

Tidjane Salaun – France

Power Forward

Birth Date: August 10, 2005 (17 years old)
Height: 2.05m (6ft 9in)

Tournament Stats: 12.9 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 1.9 SPG, 1.4 APG

It’s fair to say that France’s fourth-place finish was a team effort, as they had one of the most balanced rosters in the tournament, with important contributions from players like Illan Pietrus, Noa Essengue, Maxim Logue and Mohamed Diawara. Among them, Tidjane Salaun stood out not just by leading the team in points and steals, but also due to his combination of perimeter skillset and 2.05m size, which made him a mismatch for opposing perimeter defenders on drives and self-created jumpshots.

Salaun certainly had an auspicious performance at Nis, and he will enter the 2023-24 season as one of the most uniquely talented prospects in the 2005 generation.

Elhadji Dame Sarr – Italy


Birth Date: June 4, 2006 (17 years old)
Height: 1.96m (6ft 5in)

Tournament Stats: 17.3 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 2.1 APG, 1.4 BPG, 1.3 SPG

Despite playing one year up in age, Sarr was not just tremendously impactful in Italy’s ninth-place finish, he was also one of the best long-term prospects in the competition. The FC Barcelona wing cemented his place as one of the best shooters in the European junior ranks, converting 40.9 percent of his 44 three-point attempts during the tournament. Sarr was also able to make plays on both ends of the floor with his size, length and athleticism.

Sarr won’t be eligible for the NBA Draft until 2025, but his performance in Nis makes him an early candidate to be one of the first international players to get his name called two years from now.

Shachar Doron – Israel


Birth Date: May 22, 2005 (18 years old)
Height: 1.90m (6ft 3in)

Tournament Stats: 20.0 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 4.0 APG, 1.3 SPG

Israel’s sixth-place finish tied their best performance since 1992, and Doron had a tremendous impact, leading the entire tournament in scoring. Doron stands out due to his shooting ability, showing a great level of touch in difficult attempts off-the-dribble. He’s also a threat to get to the rim, as he’s able to beat defenders in the perimeter with a quick first step.

With 22-year-old Yam Madar making an impact at the highest levels of European basketball, 18-year-old Noam Yaacov being one of the standouts at the FIBA U20 European Championship and Doron having made an impact in Nis, it’s clear that the Israel senior national team should have tremendous depth at the guard position for years to come.

Mehmet Efe Demirel – Turkey


Birth Date: January 4, 2005 (18 years old)
Height: 2.14m (7ft 0in)

Tournament Stats: 15.0 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 2.6 BPG

Turkey couldn’t make the Final for a third straight tournament, but it certainly wasn’t due to Demirel’s efforts, who finished the tournament as the leading rebounder and ranking in the top three in blocks per game. Demirel stood out due to his massive 2.14m size and his impact around the basket on both ends of the floor, while also showing more creativity than you would expect at his size, as he was able to put the ball on the floor to create his own shot with his back to the basket.

The seven-footer made his debut for Anadolu Efes in the Turkish BSL last season, playing only 24 total minutes across 10 contests. With his size and the impact he made at Nis, it’s easy to envision his role and playing time growing exponentially in 2023-24.

Roberts Blums – Latvia


Birth Date: November 2, 2005 (17 years old)
Height: 1.88m (6ft 2in)

Tournament Stats: 20.0 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 1.6 SPG, 1.3 APG

Blums was named MVP of the FIBA U18 European Championship, Division B, where he led Latvia to the title. Blums was the second-leading scorer of the tournament, averaging 20.0 points per game, impressing with his tremendous shooting ability, as he connected on 38.7 percent of his three-pointers on tremendous volume at 8.9 attempts per game. Blums was also a threat in transition, where he was effective with his combination of ball-handling ability and strong frame.

With their win in Matosinhos, Latvia has secured promotion to Division A for the first time since 2019.


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