|07 August 2012|
Co-hosts Latvia and newly-promoted Bulgaria could have their work cut out in a Group C containing both France and Turkey, but the latter two won't be taking anything for granted.
|France's Mouhammadou Jaiteh averaged 11.7 points and 9.8 rebounds at last summer's U18 European Championship, as a 17-year-old|
Mouhammadou ‘Mam' Jaiteh may have been the youngest player on the French team in the U18 European Chamopionship last summer but he tore it up in a big way, finishing 0.2 rebounds per game short of a tournament double-double for Les Bleus.
This year he will be back to lead the charge once more.
Capable of being absolutely dominant at this level and having finished as the team's top scorer, rebounder and shot blocker last time out, his value to the French is huge.
If teams don't keep him away from the basket and stop him getting the ball down low, he can do some serious damage.
There will also be much expected of guard Boris Dallo, the other 1994-born player who achieved nice productivity last summer and his quality was recently underlined when he signed a three-year deal with Pro-A outfit Union Poitiers.
One often underrated player is Alexandre Chassang, a forward who can do the dirty work and a little bit of everything - including making an outside shot.
He is the player who might not get noticed as much as others but will probably take care of the intangibles for France.
Since 2004, Turkey has managed two silver and two bronze medals, the latest of which was last summer when they finished in third place at the U18 European Championship.
This year they can make another run since they have some excellent and talented players at their disposal.
Shooting guard Tayfun Erulku averaged over nine points per game last summer, as did backcourt partner and 1995-born point guard Kenan Sipahi.
Sipahi is one of the most promising guards to have come out of Turkey in a long time and there are big hopes he can show an even more mature performance this time around, utilising his excellent size and court vision.
There is also a buzz about Cedi Osman, a guard who won the Burkhard Wildermuth Award for the most talented player at the Albert Schweitzer Tournament earlier this year.
Swingman Metecan Birsen should also debut at this level and that will be hugely exciting since he is ranked by many as one of the best 1995-born players in Europe. He has serious firepower in his locker, with his athleticism allowing him to come off the wings and clean up on the glass too.
In the frontcourt, Burak Yildizli brings similar expectations having played at this tournament two years ago, despite being just sixteen at the time.
He averaged over six points and four rebounds per game but didn't shoot the ball well from outside.
There's little doubt the aggression Yildizli brings can inspire Turkey and he is a big talent who will be fun to watch - especially if he brings his perimeter game to the party.
|Tayfun Erülkü was one of the protagonists of Turkey's run to the bronze medal in the 2011 edition of the tournament |
Talat Altunbey is another forward also bring plenty of energy, he loves to block shots and is a hard worker who can help glue this team together.
After two bronze medals during the last four years co-hosts Latvia have really enjoyed the U18 European Championship of late.
All of last year's 1993-born dominated team who finished in tenth place have moved on, with Oskars Reinfelds the only eligible now.
His presence would have been welcomed but he will not be playing this summer.
Latvia will have a relatively inexperienced team as far as playing at this level is concerned,although they do have some talent which will get home fans excited, including 1995-born center Rolands Smits and 1994-born forward Ceslavs Mateikovics.
Both have proved at U16 European Championship level they can contribute points with each of them leading the scoring for their team during 2011 and 2010 and also doing some handy work on the boards too.
Shooting guard Davis Geks can also keep the scoreboard ticking and is a potent threat from downtown. He will be dangerous if Latvia can work to get him good looks during the tournament.
Having won the gold medal in Division B in the best possible way, by attaining promotion in front of their own fans in Varna, Bulgaria must now prove they can stay in the top flight, where they were almost an ever-present before their one summer in the second tier.
However, this will be made more difficult since 1993-born MVP Pavlin Ivanov will not be eligible to help accomplish this mission.
At least they can still rely on the playmaking skills of point guard Deyan Karamfilov who produced an excellent 4.4 assists per game last year.
If he can turn up his outside disappointing shooting percentages even just a little, then Bulgaria have someone that can play a big part in posting a reasonable performance.
He will be helped by small forward Nikolay Stoyanov who can shoot from long-range and score big on any given night, as well as crashing the boards to good effect. These two players can help nullify the loss of Ivanov.
The frontcourt may look a little more lightweight than others and this may well be an element of concern although center Velislav Galabov should find more production on his return with the experience of last year to call upon.
There will be a big responsibility on Galabov since the 1995 generation who suffered relegation from Division A at the U16 European Championship last summer were also a little under-sized.
Although at least the prolific and do-it-all Aleksandar Vezenkov brings added firepower to the wing position.