Monday, June 17, 2024

The standout players that impressed at #FIBAU20Europe

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HERAKLION (Greece) – As the focus of European youth basketball starts to shift towards the upcoming FIBA U18 European Championship, we take one final look at the talented players who made an impact in Heraklion.

Here’s an outlook at 10 players who impressed at the FIBA U20 European Championship:

Ilias Kamardine – France

SHOOTING GUARD

Birth Date: October 1, 2003 (19 years old)
Height: 1.95m

Tournament Statistics: 14.0 PPG, 3.4 APG, 2.9 RPG, 2.6 SPG, 0.9 BPG

Kamardine capped off his career at the FIBA junior levels in spectacular fashion, leading France to the title and earning MVP honors with his efficient scoring ability – averaging a team-high 14.0 points per game while shooting 53.1 percent from the field and 48.3 percent from three-point range. The 19-year-old guard was able to make an impact on other aspects of the game as well, leading the tournament in steals and averaging 3.4 assists to just 1.9 turnovers per game. Beyond the stats, his run in Heraklion will also be remembered for many clutch moments, including his crucial 23-point, 7-assist performance to win the Final against Israel.

It was an incredible Championship performance for Kamardine who will carry his winning pedigree into the 2023-24 season, where he will look to replicate his success in the French LNB Pro B.

Noam Yaacov – Israel

Point Guard

Birth Date: October 20, 2004 (18 years old)
Height: 1.86m

Tournament Statistics: 16.1 PPG, 7.6 APG, 4.4 RPG, 1.0 SPG

Yaacov’s masterful performance against France – 31 points and 5 assists, shooting 11-for-16 from the field – was not enough for Israel to take the U20 title home but Yaacov certainly made his mark in Heraklion. The tournament’s leader in assists showed his profile as a floor general who is able to control the tempo of the game and consistently make the right decisions with the ball in his hands. Yaacov is also able to call his own number, being a creative ball-handler and crafty finisher at the rim.

The 18-year-old guard already made his senior national team debut earlier in 2023 and should be expected to be a valuable piece among the talented young core of the Israeli national team.

Nikola Saranovic – Serbia

SHOOTING GUARD

Birth Date: August 20, 2003 (19 years old)
Height: 1.98m

Tournament Statistics: 17.0 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 3.9 APG, 1.6 SPG

In their first year back from Division B, Serbia were led to a fifth-place finish by Saranovic as the team’s top scorer and rebounder, while leading the entire competition in free throws made. An athletic wing with good positional size and physical tools, Saranovic was extremely aggressive looking for his shot but also efficient, as he finished at 54.0 percent from the field and 50.0 from three-point range.

With his performances in Heraklion, you can expect Saranovic to make an impact in his next ABA league season, where he has already become an important piece for FMP – a team that, in Saranovic, has one of the most versatile and efficient young wings in Europe.

Orri Gunnarsson – Iceland

FORWARD

Birth Date: August 21, 2003 (19 years old)
Height: 1.94m

Tournament Statistics: 18.3 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 1.9 SPG, 1.4 APG

One of the leaders of Iceland’s silver-medal run in last year’s FIBA U20 European Championship, Division B, came back this year to lead his nation to a 12th place finish, while leading the tournament in scoring and three-points made. Gunnarsson is an absolute sniper who can convert jumpers with nearly limitless range, in part due to his compact and repeatable mechanics, while also being a strong driver who can take it to the rim against contact.

It was a good showing in Heraklion for Gunnarsson and for an Iceland team who reached an important goal by maintaining Division A status for next year.

Thijs De Ridder – Belgium

POWER FORWARD

Birth Date: January 31, 2003 (20 years old)
Height: 2.03m

Tournament Statistics: 16.9 PPG, 9.6 RPG, 2.7 APG, 1.4 SPG, 0.9 BPG

Belgium made the Semi-Finals of the FIBA U20 European Championship for the first time ever, but their historic run had a bitter end, as De Ridder had to leave their Semi-Finals game against Israel after just three minutes due to an injury. The 20-year-old forward was the Belgian Lions’ leader on nearly every aspect of the game, providing versatile scoring, rebounding, tough interior defense and playmaking for others.

De Ridder will be facing a new challenge in the 2023-24 season, as he signed with Bilbao Basket in the Spanish ACB. If he maintains the type of impact he had in Heraklion, it’s easy to envision him becoming one of the best young players in Europe and being selected in the 2024 NBA Draft.

Vangelis Zougris – Greece

FORWARD

Birth Date: October 14, 2004 (18 years old)
Height: 2.02m

Tournament Statistics: 14.4 PPG, 11.1 RPG, 2.1 APG, 1.9 SPG, 1.0 BPG

Zougris set the tone early in the tournament, with a 24-point, 17-rebound performance against Poland in Greece’s opening game and was a force in the paint all through the competition. His interior presence was key in the run to the Semi-Finals, as his pick-and-roll finishing and rebounding were a perfect complement to the perimeter firepower of Lefteris Mantzoukas and Sotirios Oikonomopoulos.

It was a breakthrough tournament for the 18-year-old who earned an All-Star Five selection. Zougris will still be eligible to play in next year’s U20 tournament and is primed for a big 2023-24 season in the Greek Basket League.

Daniel Wolf – Israel

CENTER

Birth Date: May 5, 2004 (19 years old)
Height: 2.11m

Tournament Statistics: 17.7 PPG, 12.0 RPG, 2.4 APG, 1.6 SPG, 1.3 BPG

Wolf was the breakout performer of the tournament, finishing as the leading rebounder, second-leading scorer and being selected to the All-Star Five: all in his first-ever FIBA competition. The 19-year-old center stood out in Heraklion with his 2.11m size, which allowed him to dominate the glass and make an impact as a rim protector and interior finisher, but also with his impressive perimeter flashes for his size, being able to put the ball on the floor for drives and showing moments of shooting potential.

Wolf will be heading back to Yale for his sophomore season in the NCAA. If his performances are any indication, he should be making an impact for the Bulldogs in the 2023-24 season.

Maxime Raynaud – France

CENTER

Birth Date: April 7, 2003 (20 years old)
Height: 2.16m

Tournament Statistics: 14.0 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.1 BPG, 0.7 SPG

Raynaud saved the best for last. With his 26-point performance in the Final, France was able to edge out Israel and win their first title since 2010. Raynaud, however, was a steady presence for France all through the competition; being extremely efficient on offense, shooting 66.7 percent from the field and converting seven of his eight three-point attempts, while also providing rebounding and rim protection at a solid level.

The 20-year-old will enter his junior season at Stanford as one of the top big men in the NCAA and a potential selection in the 2024 NBA Draft, thanks to his unique combination of size and shooting potential.

Samet Yigitoglu – Turkey

CENTER

Birth Date: March 10, 2004 (19 years old)
Height: 2.16m

Tournament Statistics: 12.7 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 0.7 BPG, 0.7 SPG, 0.7 APG

Yigitoglu’s combination of 2.16m size, strength and leaping ability proved to be too much to handle for opposing defenders in the tournament, as he was a dominant interior finisher and rebounder for Turkey. Yigitoglu has been an integral part of Turkey’s recent success at the junior levels, having won a silver medal at the FIBA U18 European Championship 2022 and a bronze medal at the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup 2023.

The 19-year-old center will be eligible to play in next year’s edition of the U20 Championship; if he comes back, he should be expected to perform at a high level, just like he did in Heraklion.

Motiejus Krivas – Lithuania

CENTER

Birth Date: December 1, 2004 (18 years old)
Height: 2.12m

Tournament Statistics: 12.9 PPG, 9.7 RPG, 2.4 BPG, 2.0 APG, 1.0 SPG

Finishing the tournament in the top three in both blocks and rebounds, Krivas provided Lithuania with a much-needed interior presence. Krivas not only showed the ability to leverage his size in the paint, but also the fluidity and creativity with his back to the basket, being one of the better post scorers in the tournament.

We might see Krivas once again at next year’s U20 Championship, but for now, the 18-year-old center heads to the NCAA, where he will play in his freshman season for the Arizona Wildcats. If he can replicate the type of impact he had in the paint in this tournament, Krivas is headed for a successful professional career at a high-level of competition.

Division B

Ondrej Svec – Czech Republic

POINT GUARD

Birth Date: May 14, 2003 (20 years old)
Height: 1.97m

Tournament Statistics: 12.1 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 4.0 APG, 1.4 SPG

Svec helped lead Czech Republic to the Division B title with averages of 12.1 points, 6.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.4 steals in the tournament. The young playmaker did a bit of everything for the team on their way to securing promotion to Division A next summer.

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