|FIBA Europe Young Player of the Year Jan Vesely is closely following Radovan Kouril and his team's performances in Pardubice and Hradec Kralove|
After three games in the Preliminary Round and right before the kick off of the Qualifying Round, FIBA Europe takes a closer look at the players who've started well in the U16 European Championship Men.
The Czech Republic have started the U16 European Championship Men in great style, winning the first three games in front of their home fans.
Senior national team forward, Partizan Belgrade star and future NBA player Jan Vesely came to watch the youngsters play, and he was impressed with what he saw. "I actually came here to watch Radovan (Kouril), he's from the same city as me. He's playing with a lot of confidence out there, handling the ball well and running the team well."
Kouril is currently ranked third among scorers with 19.3 points per game. German coach Harald Stein has also been impressed with Kouril's maturity. "It's tough to play so confidently in front of your home fans," Stein said.
Stein's team knows the Czech team well, having recently played against them in two warm-up games for this tournament. He singled out big man Martin Peterka as a good prospect.
Peterka, who plays for the EuroChallenge outfit BK Pardubice currently leads the tournament in rebounding with 11.7 rpg, and Stein said, "He's smart for a big man, you can see he has a good understanding of the game."
Vesely agreed. "I know his brother, and it's the same, he's a good shooter too. And you can see Martin has worked hard on his rebounding."
|Pavel Sizov stood out for Russia so far with 15.3 points and 8 rebounds per game|
Germany were able to beat Russia in their first game, but coach Stein was impressed by another big man, Russian forward Pavel Sizov. "He has a great outside shot, and drives the ball hard."
Sizov currently ranks 10th in scoring, and 2nd in offensive rebounds with 4.0 per game.
When discussing the tournament's most impressive big men, Spain's Ilimane Diop must be considered too. The Spanish big man currently leads the tournament in field-goal percentage, offensive rebounds and blocked shots (13 in 3 games, including 7 against Poland).
Along with the Czech Republic and Germany, Croatia were the only other team to win all three games in their first round group, and center Karlo Zganec has contributed two double-doubles so far, one of only five players to achieve that (Diop and Peterka also have two double-doubles). Zganec ranks third in rebounds with 10.3 rpg.
Croatia have also been driven by floor-general Mario Hezonja.
Hezonja ranks 5th in the tournament in scoring with 18.7 ppg, and also 8th in assists with 4.0 per game.
When asked about the best shooters and slashers at the tournament, Stein said that one player stands out so far. "We were lucky to keep Viacheslav Fedorchenko quiet in our game, but you see he scored 30+ in the next two games. He's very intense, and strong when he goes to the basket."
Fedorchenko has so far been to the free-throw line more than any other player in the tournament (35 times) and ranks 2nd in the competition in scoring, behind Bulgarian forward Aleksandar Vezenkov.
Germany have been led by Ismet Akpinar, who is averaging 17.7 points per game, 7th in the tournament. Coach Stein said his own players have performed fantastically so far, and that a number of them could compete for the All-Tournament Team.
He was also quick to identify good players from the other squads Germany have played against. "I like the Serbian guard, Brano Djukanovic - he's someone we have to be careful of, a very good shooter." Djukanovic has made more three-pointers in the tournament than any other player (9).
Coach Stein also mentioned Czech guard Jiri Soula as someone to keep an eye on. "He plays with a lot of energy and if he gets bigger, he can be a good player in the future." Vesely too was impressed with his countryman: "He shoots the ball well and plays tough defense."
Vesely was certain about one thing - the best way for these players to improve is to work hard.
"Being selected for the national team at this age, they know already that they are good. But tournaments like this are a great inspiration to work harder and get better."