Young Men - The Candidates
Though Tony Parker is clearly the star for the French national team EuroBasket 2009 was a chance to see the future of the French game. One of the young stars in Poland was 1.90m point guard Antoine Diot who spelled Parker during the early rounds and went on to play significant minutes as the tournament progressed. After his team's Quarter-Final loss to eventual champions Spain, Diot averaged 27 minutes per contest and averaged 15.5 points.
Though Xavier Rabaseda stole the show on day one of the U20 European Championship Men in Rhodes, Greece last summer as mentioned above, he did have some competition in the form of Bojan Bogdanovic of Croatia. The 2.0m guard opened with 32 points against Germany and showed the rest of the way that his opening day flurry was no fluke. He averaged 17.3 points and 5.6 rebounds over the course of the tournament.
Dejan Musli first made a name for himself in 2007 when he helped Serbia storm to a gold medal at the U16 European Championship Men in Greece, where he was named MVP. Two years later Musli proved that his development has continued as he once again helped Serbia to the podium. Musli averaged a double-double of 14.8 points and 11.2 rebounds at the 2009 U18 European Championship Men where the Serbians once again won gold. For his efforts Musli was named to the All-Tournament Team.
France may have come away from the 2009 U20 European Championship Men with a silver medal but guard Edwin Jackson turned in a gold medal performance. Jackson torched hosts Greece for 32 points on 11 of 17 shooting from the field. For his efforts Jackson was awarded with a spot on the All Tournament Team, as he averaged 16 points and 3.3 rebounds per game.
Enes Kanter has become a legend on the youth basketball scene in Europe over the last several years, dominating nearly every tournament where he has competed. At the 2009 U18 European Championship Men Kanter averaged 18.6 points and 16.4 rebounds despite the fact that there were several games in which he hardly played. For his efforts Kanter earned a bronze medal and was named the MVP of the tournament. This coming season Kanter will play at U.S. high school powerhouse Findlay Prep.
Jan Vesely did not play as a youth competition in 2009, he was too busy suiting up for his national team and making waves at Euroleague side Partizan Belgrade. The 2.07m forward played in six games for the Czech Republic in 2009, averaging 11 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. For Partizan Belgrade he averaged 4.8 points and 3.4 rebounds per game for a team that would eventually lose out to CSKA Moscow in the Play Offs.
Jonas Valanciunas is one of many bright young stars in Lithuanian basketball, and may be ready to make a mark at the senior level by the time EuroBasket 2011 in held in his home country. The 2.09m center was one of the most dominant players at the U18 European Championship Men in France last summer, turning in four double-doubles on his way to averaging 19.3 points and 10.3 rebounds per contest.
The summer of 2009 was a successful one for Greek forward Konstantinos Papanikolaou who won a gold medal at the U20 European Championship Men and silver at the U19 World Championships in New Zealand. The 2.01m forward was a critical part of both successes averaging 14.3 points and 6.6 rebounds in New Zealand and 11.8 points and 6.4 rebounds on home soil just days later. At the U20 championships Papnikolaou was named the MVP of the tournament. Over the summer Papanikolaou made the move from Aris to legendary Greek side Olympiacos.
It was a year of transitions for Kosta Koufos who burst onto the European basketball scene in 2007 when he was the MVP of the U18 European Championship Men. After a year in the NCAA playing for Ohio State the 2.18m center made the move to the NBA in 2009 when he was drafted by the Utah Jazz with the 23rd overall pick. He struggled a bit with the Jazz, eventually being sent down to the Developmental League. In the summer he came back to Europe and won a bronze medal with Greece for whom he averaged 5.6 points and three rebounds per game.
For several years now Serbian Milan Macvan has been one of the most impressive players at the youth level. The 2.03m power forward made the move to the senior team in 2009, as a member of the young Serbian squad that made it all the way to final game at EuroBasket 2009 in Poland. Macvan came off the bench for the Serbians, averaging 2.8 points per game in 12.5 minutes per contest. For club side Hemofarm Macvan averaged 11.3 points and 4.2 rebounds in leading his side to the Eurocup Semi-Finals.
When the NBA draft rolled around in June of 2009 few players were getting more buzz then the two-time defending FIBA Europe Young Men's Player of the Year Ricky Rubio. Though Rubio would end up being selected by the Minnesota Timberwolves with the fifth overall pick the 1.90m guard decided to stay in Europe and so far the move has paid off. Before suiting up for Barcelona in the ACB, Rubio headed to Poland where he averaged 5.9 points and 3.9 assists per game in helping to lead the Spanish to their first ever EuroBasket gold medal.
German small forward Robin Benzing was without a doubt one of the players who made a name for himself at EuroBasket 2009 in Poland. The 2.09m Benzing was solid in Germany's run to the Qualifying Round, made without superstar Dirk Nowitzki. He averaged 5.5 points per contest over six games, including an impressive 16 points performance against giants Greece. At the youth level Benzing was outstanding, averaging 22.2 points and five rebounds at the U20 European Championship Men in Rhodes Greece.
Sead Sehovic joins the likes of Ricky Rubio and Milan Macvan as players on this list who played at both the youth and senior level for their national team in 2009. Sehovic first competed at the 2009 U20 European Championship Men where he averaged 17.6 points per contest, including a 36 point, six rebound performance against Ukraine. Then he suited up for the senior team where he scored 15 in a win over Iceland that helped propel Montenegro into Division A.
Prostran has been a known commodity among hardcore fans of basketball in Europe since his being named to the All-Tournament Team at the U16 Championships in Greece in 2007. In 2009 he added to his legacy, averaging 17.8 points, 5.8 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game for Croatia at the U19 World Championships in New Zealand, a tournament at which the Croatians would take home bronze. Back on his home continent Prostran competed at the U18 Championships in France where he led his team in scoring at nearly 21 points per contest.
Xavier Rabaseda opened the 2009 U20 European Championship Men with a bang. The 2.0m guard scored 36 points and hit five of seven three-point attempts in a win over a strong Russian team. Though he would fail to come close to those impressive numbers for the remainder of the tournament he was a key cog in the Spanish side that came away with a bronze medal. Rabaseda averaged 15.6 points and 2.8 steals on his way to being named to the All-Tournament Team.