By Jeff Taylor
|FIBA Europe President Olafur Rafnsson presents Przemyslaw Karnowski with the U18 All Star Game MVP trophy|
The U18 All Star Game has been staged on the penultimate day of the last two EuroBaskets.
Rest assured, it's going to be a part of the tournament for years to come.
Just before the long, dramatic few weeks of national team basketball came to an end in Lithuania, the world caught its breath and observed many of the finest young basketball talents in Europe.
Spectators jammed into the Kauno Arena on Saturday and marveled at the slick ball-handling and precision passing of guards, forwards that spotted up to hit jump shots or dunked, and centers that showed plenty of skill both in the paint and out.
The play of Przemyslaw Karnowski caused a stir.
The 2.13m Polish center, who had wowed audiences at the U18 European Championship in Wroclaw earlier this summer where he averaged 11 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.8 blocks, led all scorers with 13 points in the All Star Game and was named MVP.
In Kaunas, the 18-year-old showed power, but also a deft shooting touch from three to four-five meters.
He buried six of his nine shots and sank his only free-throw.
Karnowski knows he has a lot of work to do to reach the next level.
"I have to work on low post moves, on how to use the screen, how to play pick-and-roll, how to box out and rebound.
"There are a lot of things you have to do."
Karnowski says it helps that there is a fellow Pole to draw inspiration from.
"(Phoenix Suns center) Marcin Gortat, our only player in the NBA," he said.
|Przemyslaw Karnowski - U18 All Star Game|
"He shows how you have to train hard and believe in yourself.
"It's every player's dream to play for their country and in the NBA, but you have to believe in your skills, yourself."
Another of the players on show at the U18 All Star Game in Kaunas was Alejandro Abrines Redondo of Spain.
The 1.98m shooting guard was the MVP of the U18 European Championship in Poland.
Abrines, who plays with Unicaja Malaga's second team, has plenty of flair, something he demonstrated while taking part in the dunking contest at half-time of the U18 All Star Game.
On one dunk attempt, Abrines approached the free-throw line and threw a behind-the-back pass off the glass.
He then attempted to catch the ball in flight before flushing it with two hands but wasn't able to pull it off.
Nevertheless, his creativity didn't go unnoticed as both the crowd and the judges - including Russia coach David Blatt - smiled and clapped.
Abrines is similar to Karnowski in that he wants to reach the top of the sport.
"I've got a lot of dreams, to play for the first team of Unicaja and to be here with Spain," he said to fibaeurope.com.
Abrines saw a player with plenty of panache on Friday, when Spain played in the Semi-Finals of the EuroBasket.
He watched as Juan Carlos Navarro exploded for 35 points in a 92-80 semi-final win over F.Y.R. of Macedonia.
"Juan Carlos Navarro," Abrines said with a look of wonder.
"I believe that one day, I can be like him.
"But you have to work hard every day."