By Jared Grellet
|The All Tournament Team Nikola Jankovic (Serbia), Dario Saric (Croatia), Nikola Radicevic (Serbia), Mikhail Kulagin (Russia) and Marius Grigonis (Lithuania)|
Soon after scoring 39 points to lead Croatia to victory in the gold medal game of the Samsung U18 European Championship, Dario Saric has been voted unanimously as tournament MVP, also heading All Tournament Team.
Not surprisingly, the head coaches of all 16 teams minus Croatia, voted overwhelmingly in favour of the Croatian wunderkind.
Ranked as the number one European prospect for his generation, Saric was in a league of his own throughout the tournament, averaging 23.7 points, 10 rebounds and 3.7 assists a night prior to the gold medal game.
The 2.08m forward leads the tournament in defensive rebounds, field goals made, points-per-game, double-doubles, and fouls drawn.
Even in his side's quarter-final game against Italy when he committed three fouls early in the opening quarter, Saric still managed to finish the game with 12 points and nine rebounds, narrowly missing out on what would have been his fifth double-double of the tournament.
This is the second time that the all around player has won the MVP award at a European Championship, also achieving the accomplishment at the U16 European Championship in Montenegro in 2010.
Saric is joined on the all-tournament team by Serbians Nikola Radicevic and Nikola Jankovic, Lithuania's Marius Grigonis and Russian Mikhail Kulagin.
Power forward Nikola Jankovic makes up an intimidating front court combination alongside Saric. Possessing a solid frame the Serb knows how to use it to his advantage and is powerful driving the lane, regularly dunking with astonishing force. Averaging 15.5 points and nine rebounds a night, Jankovic is the second most accurate shooter in the tournament, landing 58.8% of his shots from the field.
The ability of Jankovic to dominate inside the paint could be heavily attributed to the distribution skills of Serbian playmaker Nikola Radicevic. Averaging 5.1 assists a night, the benefactor of those assists was more often than not Jankovic under the hoop. However, far from being just a ball distributer, the guard showed himself to be more than capable of completing the plays as well, averaging 12.4 points a game.
It has been well-documented that Lithuania reached the gold medal game with a team devoid of any real stars, but rather with a solid roster one-through-12. However, this being said, when Lithuania needed the big plays there was one man that Arunas Visockas turned to, his 1.98m swingman Marius Grigonis. Rather than studying his stats, one should watch this clip of the final moments of Lithuania's semi-final win to properly understand the role Grigonis has played in assisting his team to the final.
By making the 2012 all-tournament team, Mikhail Kulagin has replicated the achievements of older brother Dmitry, who achieved the same feat on the same court in the same tournament back in 2010. Averaging 14.6 points and 8.1 boards a night, Mikhail was showing shades of his older brother who was an influence on the guard becoming involved in basketball. Shooting at a shade under 40% from the field throughout his time in Liepaja and Vilnius, there has only been one game when Mikhail has not scored in double figures.