By David Hein
Fans of youth basketball can now truly start looking forward to another action-packed summer of international tournaments. Every spring, the Nike International Junior Tournament (NIJT) at the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Final Four more or less marks the end of the youth club basketball season and players look ahead to their national team summers.
Additionally, every two years, there is the Albert Schweitzer Tournament (AST) in Mannheim, Germany to also give fans the chance to see tomorrow's stars today.
Combine the two U18 tournaments, and the past six weeks have been a great chance for talent observers to see what the players can do against high-level opposition. With a number of the youngsters playing at the U18 European Championship this summer, here is a breakdown of some of the players who impressed during the tournaments.
| ||Aleksandar Aranitovic, 1998, G, Serbia |
Aranitovic showed he is a star of the future for Serbia, at times dominating the NIJT for Crvena Zvezda Telekom Belgrade despite only being 16 years old - two years younger than the rest of the competition. The bulldog 1.94m point guard got into the lane as he wished with his great physicality, shot 47% from long range and swiped 2.0 steals per game. After losing to Spain in the final of the 2013 U16 European Championship, Aranitovic showed that he has no problem with the spotlight with 15 points in the NIJT final victory over Real Madrid.
|Martynas Echodas, 1997, PF, Lithuania |
The Zalgiris Kaunas big man was selected on the NIJT All-Tournament Team as the 16-year-old showed off a complete game. The 2.04m power forward averaged 17.7 points, 8.3 rebounds (3.7 offensive rebounds) and 4.0 blocks per game. Echodas will likely play at the U18 European Championship Division A.
| ||Marc Garcia, 1996, F, Spain |
Garcia is a silky smooth shooter who can light up a scoreboard, finishing just behind his Barcelona team-mate Ludvig Hakanson in the scoring race at AST with 23.8 points per game to go with 3.8 assists. Garcia still needs to add some mass to his body but he is clearly an offensive weapon. Garcia will likely play at the U18 European Championship Division A.
|Egemen Güven, 1996, C, Turkey |
Güven was second in scoring for Turkey (14.3 points per game) while shooting 61% and grabbing 7.3 rebounds and blocking 1.1 shots a game at the AST. The 2.08m Güven did a bit of everything with solid low post moves, good rebounding, shot-blocking instincts and very good passing skills for a big man. Güven will likely play at the U18 European Championship Division A.
| ||Ludvig Hakanson, 1996, G, Sweden |
Hakanson is well-known in youth circles and even graduated to the Swedish national team at EuroBasket 2013. He did exactly what one would expect from a senior-level player at a junior tournament, dominating with a tournament high 25.5 points per game to go with 3.8 rebounds and six assists per game as well. Hakanson will likely be playing for Sweden in the EuroBasket 2015 2nd Qualification Round.
|Niklas Kiel, 1997, PF, Germany |
Kiel was outstanding at the AST for the home side with 12.7 points and 10.7 rebounds while dishing out 2.3 assists and blocking 1.3 shots per game - despite being a '97-born player. Teaming the 2.07m Kiel and 2.06m Mahir Agva (14.3 points per game and 8.0 rebounds per game) gave Germany a deadly one-two in the low post. Kiel will likely play at the U18 European Championship Division B.
| ||Stefan Lazarevic, 1996, G/F, Serbia |
Lazarevic is a tough-as-nails fighter and a winner - taking third place at the AST with Serbia and winning the NIJT with Crvena Zvezda Telekom Belgrade. The 1.98m wing can defend, rebound, drive and finish as well as pass though his outside shooting is still in the works. He was named to the AST All-Tournament Team. He was second in scoring (12.8) for Crvena Zvezda at the NIJT, first in rebounding (7.5) and second in assists (3.8). Lazarevic will likely play at the U18 European Championship Division A.
|Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, 1997, SG, Ukraine |
Mykhailiuk is a do-it-all shooting guard who can hurt teams in so many different ways. The 2.00m wing can drive to the basket, shoot from long range, rebound, play defence, hustle and be a leader. Mykhailiuk is considering heading to college for next season.
| ||Federico Mussini, 1996, PG, Italy |
Mussini is a fighter who plays big in big games, as evidenced by his leading Italy to the 2014 AST title. He led the Italians in scoring (20.3) and had a strong 3.4-1.9 assist-to-turnover ratio while shooting 52% from long range. At 1.90m and slender, he is a bit undersized but he has excellent quickness and a tough-as-nails approach. Mussini will likely play at the U18 European Championship Division A.
|Maksim Salash, 1996, C, Belarus |
The Cajasol Seville big man Salash showed at the NIJT that he has a bright future at the power forward position among the elite leagues in Europe. The 2.06m Belarus native has a good inside-outside game and does a good job rebounding and defending. Salash may play for Belarus in EuroBasket 2015 2nd Qualifying Round.
| ||Vojislav Stojanovic, 1997, G, Serbia |
The MVP of the NIJT showed his all-around game in Crvena Zvezda's final win over Real Madrid with nine points, seven rebounds, four assists, one steal and one block. That statline very much sums up his skillset - except that he's generally a more prolific scorer, averaging a team-high 13.5 points per game to go with 6.3 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.3 blocks. Stojanovic might not play at a European Championship this summer, electing instead to play at the 2014 FIBA U17 World Championship.
|Antoine Wallez, 1996, PF, France |
Wallez is physically intimidating with great size and mobility on his 2.05m frame. He led France in scoring (15.4 per game) and was second in rebounds (7.8 per game) at the AST. He was solid and effective around the basket and flashed the ability to stretch his range beyond the three-point stripe. Wallez will likely play at the U18 European Championship Division A.
Other players of note were Jules Dang Akodo, 1996, G, England; Edin Atic, 1997, G, Bosnia & Herzegovina; Diego Flaccadori, 1996, G, Italy; Francesc Iturria, 1996, G, Spain; Xabi Lopez, 1997, G, Spain; Andrej Magdevski, 1996, G, F.Y.R. of Macedonia; Zoran Nikolic, 1996, C, Montenegro; Ayberk Olmaz, 1996, C, Turkey; Yankuba Sima, 1996, C, Spain; Borisa Simanic, 1998, C, Serbia; Okben Ulubay, 1996, SF, Turkey; Santiago Yusta, 1997, F, Spain