by Dan Casey
|Mario Hezonja is presented his MVP award by legendary coach Svetislav Pesic|
Croatian do-it-all forward Mario Hezonja was voted MVP of the U16 European Championship Men after carrying his team all the way to the gold medal.
Hezonja showed his outstanding talent all through the tournament. Not only did he finish 4th in the overall rankings for scoring in the tournament with 20.0 points per game, but his all-round contributions were felt with 8.2 rebounds per game (rank 8th), 2.7 assists per game (rank 20th) and 2.2 steals per game (rank 6th).
Hezonja's best game came in the quarter-final against Russia with 30 points, 11 rebounds and 4 steals in a performance coach Ante Nazor described as "perfect". Hezonja followed this up with 24 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists in the semi-final win over Spain, and scored 21 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in the final win over the Czech Republic.
Alternating between point-guard and shooting-guard, Hezonja often ran the Croatian offense and provided 8 assists in the opening game against Italy. He hit two three-pointers per game and often connected at crucial periods of the game to stop opponents' momentum. Playing the passing lanes, it became common to see Hezonja swooping in to pick off a wayward pass and his eyes lighting up as he saw an opportunity for a thunderous break-away dunk.
Radovan Kouril was selected in the other guard spot of the All-Tournament team. The Czech captain, he averaged 15.4 points per game and 6.1 assists per game, with a personal-high 24 points coming in the opening win against the strong Spanish defense.
Alongside Kouril is forward Martin Peterka, who contributed six double-doubles in nine games. Peterka led the tournament in rebounding with 12.6 rebounds per game, and added 17.6 points per game (rank 6th). The big man provided a huge inspiration in the Semi-Final win over France with 25 points including five three-pointers.
France captain Damien Inglis took the other forward spot after leading his team to the Semi-Finals. Inglis had a huge double-double in the Quarter-Final win over Germany with 22 points and 14 rebounds, and averaged 14.9 points per game and 1.6 blocked shots per game.
Spain's center Ilimane Diop was voted to the All-Tournament Team after leading the tournament in blocked shots. Diop averaged 2.9 blocks per game including 7 against Poland and 5 against Serbia. He collected four double-doubles in the tournament, averaging 9.0 rebounds per game (rank 5th).
The Fair Play Award for extraordinary sportsmanlike behaviour was awarded to Poland.