Looking around Europe this week, I noticed that Ernstes Kalve underwent arthroscopic knee surgery and it's questionable if the talent wing prospect will be available for the Latvian Basketball Federation this summer - either at EuroBasket 2007 or the U20 European Championship.
And it spurned a thought. Kalve was coming off a great summer at the 2006 U20 European Championship, where he averaged a tournament high 20.5 points per game to go along with 6.0 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.6 steals.
So that begged the question, how have the top talents from that tournament in Izmir, Turkey developed this season.
Nearing Star Status
ERSAN ILYASOVA - F - TURKEY: Ilyasova's 17.4 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.3 steals helped Turkey to the U20 silver medal. Then he added 9.6 points, 3.9 rebounds, 1.0 assists and 2.1 steals for Turkey's senior team
|Ersan Ilyasova is on the verge on becoming a star.|
CENK AKYOL - G - TURKEY: Akyol also played and excelled at both the U20 Euros and FIBA World Championship (16.1 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 2.1 apg, 2.0 spg in Turkey and 6.3 ppg 1.5 rpg in Japan). He started excellently in the Euroleague for Efes Pilsen, scoring at least 11 points in the first four games, before settling into a 5.5 point average as well as 2.6 rebounds and 0.9 steals. In the Turkish league, he had 7.9 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.3 assists. Those aren't necessarily star numbers, but he's done excellent in his time behind American scorers like Drew Nichols and Antonio Granger.
MANTAS KALNIETIS - G - LITHUANIA: Kalnietis followed up his excellent performance in Izmir (11.5 points, 3.9 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 1.8 steals) with a pleasantly surprising showing with the Senior National Team in Japan (6.0 points, 1.4 rebounds, 2.8 assists). Playing with Zalgiris, Kalnietis had five games of double-digit scoring in the Lithuanian league, including a 10-point, 15-assist game against Sakalai. Overall he is at 6.6 points to go with 1.5 rebounds and 3.1 assists. In the Euroleague, Kalnietis had three straight games of 10 points for 4.0 points, 1.2 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 0.8 steals.
MILENKO TEPIC - G - SERBIA: Tepic led Serbia to the U20 title with 12.1 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.9 assists. He then averaged 6.3 points, 2.6 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.2 steals in taking Partizan to the 2007 Adriatic League crown. Tepic's Euroleague averages of 4.8 points, 2.1 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.3 steals were excellent, but he had evaluation rankings of 16 and 15 against Olympiakos, 12 against DKV Joventut and 10 against CSKA Moscow in the Top 16.
Coming Along Very Well
EMIR PRELDZIC- F - SLOVENIA: After scoring over 20 points a game and averaging 9.4 rebounds in Izmir, Preldzic put together a fine season at Geoplin Slovan Ljubljana - collecting 10.3 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 2.9 apg and 1.4 spg in the Adriatic League. His season was highlighted by playing in the much-acclaimed Nike Hoop Summit on NCAA Final Four weekend in the United States - where he collected seven points, two rebounds and three assists in 16 minutes.
MICKAEL MOKONGO - G - FRANCE: This small guard (180cm) excelled all over the court in Turkey - 16.5 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 3.3 apg, 2.0 spg - and
|Michael Mokongo of France averaged 16.5 ppg at last year's U20 European Championship.|
OGUZ SAVAS - C - TURKEY: Since seeing Savas at the 2004 Albert Schweitzer Tournament, I've closely watched his development, which included a major change in his body. In Izmir, he put together an excellent showing of 11.8 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.1 assists for the silver medallists. For Fenerbahce, Savas he had 3.7 points and 2.3 rebounds in 13 minutes in the Euroleague.
NIKOLA PEKOVIC - C - SERBIA: Pekovic had 11.6 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in helping Serbia to the U20 crown. He then teamed with Serbia team-mate Milenko Tepic at Partizan in winning the Adriatic title with 9.0 rebounds and 2.7 rebounds. In the Euroleague, Pekovic averaged 4.8 points and 2.5 rebounds.
NENAD MIJATOVIC - G - SERBIA: Mijatovic's versatile game brought 9.1 points, 2.0 rebounds, .3.4 assists and 1.1 steals in helping Serbia to the U20 crown. For Buducnost Podgorica, Mijatovic averaged 11.6 points, 1.2 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.0 steals in the Adriatic League.
Making Good Strides
CARLOS SUAREZ - F - SPAIN: The U20 tournament's leading rebounder, Suarez continued his strong development with EuroCup semi-finalists Club Estudiantes, averaging 6.9 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.1 assists in Europe. Suarez's playing time dwindled down the stretch, but he more than showed his talent when he got adequate playing time - scoring 20 points against Ironi Iscar Nahariya and 19 against CSU Asesoft Ploiesti.
EDGARS JEROMANOVS - G - LATVIA: Jeromanovs, who led the championships with 6.3 assists per game while also adding 11.6 points and 7.5 rebounds per contest, stayed in his home land and played for BC Barons Riga. Despite the club going 0-6 in the EuroCup, Jeromanovs showed his ability against Dynamo Moscow Region with 17 points, seven rebounds and an assist.
KALOYAN IVANOV - F - BULGARIA: Ivanov used an impressive showing at the U20 event (19.1. points, 9.0 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.3 steal) to land a deal with Spanish ACB club Vive Menorca. And Ivanov has taken advantage of his playing time, collecting 4.0 points and 1.5 rebounds in 10 minutes per game in Spanish top flight.
DEYAN IVANOV - C - BULGARIA: Kaloyan's twin brother Deyan was nearly as good in Izmir with 17.4 points, 8.8 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.1 steals per contest. That landed him a deal with Spanish third division LEB2 side Caja San Fernando Sevilla II, where he had 13.6 points and 6.5 rebounds and 1.1 assists. LEB club Drac Inca Mallorca saw enough to sign him last week for their late season run.
JOSÉ ANGEL ANTELO - F - SPAIN: A positive U20 showing - 17.0 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 1.8 bpg - led to LEB side CAI Zaragoza loaning Antelo to Lagun Aro Bilbao of the ACB. He didn't get much playing time - just nine minutes a game - but he did plenty in that time with 2.4 points, 2.4 rebounds and 1.7 fouls committed, showing great energy while on the court.
JAKA KLOBUCAR - G - SLOVENIA: Klobucar's 44-point, 11-rebound, 3-steal game against Lithuania at the U20 raised plenty of eyebrows. His averages were 17.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.0 assist and 1.8 steals. Teaming up with Preldzic at Geoplin Slovan Ljubljana, Klobucar has been excellent in the Adriatic league with 8.6 points, 2.4 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 1.3 steals.
Blocked In A Great Team
|Martynas Pocius saw limited action with Duke University.|
DUSAN SAKOTA - F - GREECE: The son of Serbian coach Dragan Sakota, Dusan shined again at the Greek youth level with 17.5 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.3 steals in Izmir. The Belgrade native collected 12.7 minutes a game for the Euroleague semi-finalists Panathinaikos in the Greek league, averaging 3.9 points and 1.9 rebounds. In the Euroleauge, he had 3.2 points and 1.0 rebounds in nine minutes over 10 games.
ANTON PONKRASHOV - G - RUSSIA: A true point guard at 200cm, Ponkrashov is an all-around talent with 7.6 points, 3.1 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 1.9 steals at the U20s. Fortunately and unfortunately for him, he plays for Russian powers and reigning Euroleague champions and 2007 semi-finalists CSKA Moscow. Ponkrashov has taken advantage of his limited playing time of 13 minutes in the Euroleague with 3.9 points, 1.5 rebounds and 1.4 assists.
SOURATA CISSÉ - G - FRANCE: After 18.4 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.9 steals at the U20s, Cissé moved from Euroleague side Pau Orthez to Paris Basket Racing with hopes of taking over a bigger role. But he has only played in just 18 games and averaged 0.7 points, 0.4 rebounds and 0.2 assists.
HAKAN DEMIREL - G - TURKEY: Like Ilyasova and Akyol, Demirel also played at both the U20 tournament and in Japan (8.6 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 3.7 apg, 1.7 spg and 2.4 ppg, 1.2 rpg, 1.7 apg). But he took a step back with Fenerbahce this season, averaging 3.7 points, 1.0 rebound and 2.2 assists in Turkey and 1.6 points, 0.8 rebounds and 0.2 assists compared to 0.8 turnovers in five Euroleague games.
ERNSTES KALVE - F - LATVIA: Kalve collected 20.5 points (top scorer), 6.0 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.6 steals at the U20 - following up his tournament-high 22.5 points, 5.4 rebounds, 1.0 assists 1.5 steals and 1.0 blocks at the 2005 U18 European Championship. Benetton Treviso loaned Kalve to German side Giessen 46ers with all expectations that he would get loads of playing time to develop. But Kalve brought with him to Germany a knee injury from the U20s and he's played all of 64 minutes in six games for Giessen, collecting 17 points, eight rebounds, three assists and one steal.