The 2010 OMNITEL U18 European Championship features a lot of great talents and future stars of European Basketball, yet the All-Tournament team can be divided only between five players and the Most Valuable Player award to just one.
The MVP title goes to the gold medalist from Lithuania Jonas Valanciunas who was already crowned as the MVP of the U16 European Championship two years ago when his team won gold.
With him on the starting line up of the competition are teammate Deividas Pukis, Russia's Dmitry Kulagin, Latvia's Davis Bertans and Serbia's Nikola Siladi.
|Dmitry Kulagin displayed great leadership throughout the tournament |
Point Guard - Dmitry Kulagin (Russia)
Stats: 12.4 ppg, 4.2 apg, 4.1 rpg, 2.6 spg
Kulagin occupies the Point Guard position and at the age of 18 he celebrates already two appearances in an All-Tournament team after making it as well two years ago in the U16 championship, only now it adds up to the much more important silver medal. He shared his minutes between both guard positions and used his great size at the point (1.95m) to run Russia's game and his handle to punish from the arc. His best performance was against Serbia when he posted his tournament high in points - 28, assists - eight, rebounds - seven and tied in steals - five. Kulagin is a humble fierce warrior that can create for himself and his teammates. His above average understanding of the game, on both ends of the floor, allowed him also to finish the championship as the best stealer with 2.6 per game. He's ranked also among the top 9 in minutes and fifth in assists.
Shooting Guard - Deividas Pukis (Lithuania)
Stats: 15.8 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 1.2 apg, 60.0% 2P FG, 46.7% 3P FG, 1.2 spg
Deividas Pukis as well was a member of the U16 team that won the gold medal two years ago but his performance here is a great example why it's so nice to follow FIBA Europe's youth competitions. The improvement in Pukis' game since 2008 was easy to spot, and while back then he averaged 8.6 ppg and only 26.5% from the arc, in this year his numbers made a huge jump to 15.8 ppg and no less than 46.7% in three points. One thing youngsters lack is consistency while Pukis was the only player in the entire tournament to write double-digits in points in every single game, keeping the best one to the title game with - 21. The hard nosed and very active guard - the classic Lithuanian style - was everywhere on court and the chants of the fans "Pukis, Pukis, Pukis" in the final round showed his talent isn't shy from the masses. He was ranked in the top seven in six different categories such as Points Per Game (#5), 3 Pts Field Goal Percentage (#5), 3 Pts Field Goal Made (#3) and Field Goal Percentage (#4).
Small Forward - Davis Bertans (Latvia)
Stats: 14.8 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 1.6 bpg, 37.9% 3P FG
Davis Bertans is walking in his older brother's shoes as in 2007 a young player by the name Dairis Bertans came out of nowhere and led the U18 team of Latvia to a bronze medal and got a spot in the All-Tournament team. Three years have passed and the young Bertans followed the exact same steps. The 2.06m talent stepped shinned from the start, and other than one bad performance was a pleasure to watch day in - day out. A very long athletic forward who can shoot it from long range in ease, but is just waiting for a small corridor to the rim to make two dribbles and finish with an in-your-face monster slam. Bertans is ranked top10 in eight statistical categories among them Points Per Game (#6), Defensive Rebounds (#9), Blocked Shots (#5) and 3 Pts Field Goals Made (#4).
Power Forward - Nikola Siladi (Serbia)
Stats: 8.4 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 1.2 spg
At the power forward position stands Nikola Siladi of Serbia who had a slow start to the tournament but stepped up when it mattered. He scored only 12 points in the entire Preliminary Round which makes his stat line looks a bit less impressive than the other four, but coming the Qualifying Round he played at a different level, registered two double-doubles with points and rebounds and two of his dunks against Italy could qualify to the Top 10 plays list of the championship. His great performance in the semi-final game gave a great reason for whoever doubted that his spot is among the starting line-up of the tournament. Siladi is an athletic and long forward who can take the ball to the rim, but still needs to improve his outside shooting. His fighting and fear of nothing attitude is a bliss to any coach. He's ranked top nine in two categories - Offensive Rebounds and Double-Doubles.
|Jonas Valanciunas already brought home his second MVP trohy of his young career|
Center - Jonas Valanciunas (Lithuania)
Stats: 19.4 ppg, 13.4 rpg, 2.7 bpg, 70% 2P FG
As mentioned already this isn't the first time Jonas Valanciunas wins the gold and the MVP award at a European Championship. In 2008 with the U16 team Lithuania and their upcoming star were at the exact same spot, and this year proves they maintain one of the most important things in basketball - continuity. Valanciunas dominated this championship from the first moment and posted no less than six double-doubles. His best performance came against France in the Qualifying Round when he left on the floor 34 points with only two missed shots, 13 rebounds and four blocks. In the title game he reached double-double already before the end of the first half before writing almost better figures with 31 points and 18 rebounds. Such combination of size, agility, instincts, length and athleticism isn't common in European Basketball and while his one-on-one offensive game is still under development his dominance under the boards was one of the most impressive seen in the last years in youth basketball. The MVP is ranked top six in no less than 14 different statistical categories and even more impressive in 12 of them he's ranked in the top two among them Total Rebounds (#1), Defensive Rebounds (#1), Blocked Shots (#2), Field Goal Percentage (#1), Free Throws Attempted (#1), Free Throws Made (#1) and 2 Pts Field Goal Percentage (#1).
Fair Play Award
|Marijo Pervan is awarded the Fair Play Award Trophy by Crew Chief Commissioner Walther Kaszelik |
An award that is sometimes overlooked is the Fair Play award, given for outstanding sportsmanlike behaviour on the court. This year it was Marijo Pervan, the Physio of the Croatian team that was awarded with this trophy. He acted like a true role model for any sportsman when he reacted immediately after a player got hurt. The really remarkable thing was that this player was not on the team he was working for. On Day two of the tournament in the game Croatia vs. Germany Mario Blessing of Germany went down with an ankle injury. He was immediately provided with help and assistance by Pervan who stayed with him for the remainder of the game.