|25 July 2013|
By Robert White
From the eight teams that have qualified for the quarter-finals of the U18 European Championship (Latvia, France, Russia, Serbia, Lithuania, Croatia, Turkey and Spain), here are five players to keep an eye out for in Riga.
| || |
Alexander Martynov, RUSSIA
Viacheslav Fedorchenko may have taken over the scoring reigns for Russia in the Second Round, but Alexander Martynov is without doubt the team's most important player.
Martynov's Second Round heroics were nothing short of brilliant. With everything on the line in the final game against France, the 1.93m guard shook off a dreadful night from the field to drain two clutch threes in the dying stages, saving Russia from the unique situation of falling to fourth position and instead lifting them above the French into first place.
Martynov was one of the most impressive players in Ventspils and despite being big enough to play the small forward position full-time, he is Russia's number one option at point guard (playing 34.4 minutes-per-game) and switches expertly between the role of floor general and scoring option.
Kenan Sipahi, TURKEY
A nagging leg injury has meant that Kenan Sipahi has struggled to fully exert himself on a Turkish team that went 4-2 through the group stages, but he remains the player most vital to their success.
Prior to picking up the injury Sipahi showed his real potential in a 21-point, seven-rebound, six-assist night against Croatia, displaying a combination of talent, physical attributes and experience, reminding opponents and fans alike that should he be able shake of the injury he will present a real danger in the quarter-finals.
A giant 1.97m point guard in the same mould as Dimitris Diamantidis, Sipahi possesses a rare mix of skill, quickness and athleticism and uses his exceptional court vision to set up teammates (averaging a team-high 5.6 assists per game).
| || |
Anzejs Pasecniks and Kristaps Porzingis, LATVIA
The host nation dropped two heartbreaking losses by a combined three points on the road to the quarter-finals, but advanced anyway thanks in large part to the impressive frontcourt pairing of Anzejs Pasecniks and Kristaps Porzingis.
The two have been hard to separate and are as equally important to Latvia's cause. Through five games, Pasecniks has averaged an impressive 13.7 points and 9.2 rebounds in just 22 minutes-per-contest.
His dominance comes from his ability to use his impressive frame to outmuscle opponents in the paint.
On the other hand Porzingis possesses a more slender frame that moves more freely around the court and on more than one occasion every evening will attempt to defy gravity, flying high above the rim for highlight-reel alley-oops at one end and blocks at the other.
His development in the past 12 months in Spain at Cajasol has been noted with a three-shooting option also added to his repertoire.
Damien Inglis, FRANCE
Damien Inglis makes the U18 European Championship Players To Watch list, not because of what he has accomplished, but because of what he is capable of.
As one of the biggest talents in Ventspils, a variety of reasons have kept Inglis from displaying his full capabilities.
Inglis spent significant chunks on the bench in foul trouble throughout the tournament's first two rounds and coach Tahar Assed-Liegon was happy keeping him there as the French tested their depth with lesser used players.
The 2.04m swingman can do just about anything. He needs to be defended out to the three-point line, is deadly off the dribble or at the ring and can rebound and defend as well as anyone. Against Serbia, one of the Second Round's surprise teams, Inglis flirted with a triple-double in a 20-point, nine-rebound, eight-assist performance.
One can not help but feel Assed-Liegon has been keeping Inglis as his secret weapon ready to deploy when the games begin to matter. With tougher competition on the way, expect France to lean on the composure and skill of Inglis with special performances to follow.