U-19 World Championship Review: Big Men
|by: Luis FernŠndez - Director of International Scouting
|August 29, 2007
|We finish our player-by-player recap of the U-19 World Championships with the big men, basically centers but also potentially power forwards that have evolved primarily as low-post players in this tournament. There was a nice group of interesting prospects here that will surely develop into competitive players in the future at the senior level. The list is opened by MVP-award winner Milan Macvan, who led Serbia to the title.
1989, PF, 6-9, Serbia; 15.4 ppg, 4.9 rpg
The MVP of the tournament, hands down, Macvan was a huge offensive force coming off the bench for Serbia. Tough, smart and skilled, he made up for his lack of size and athleticism just by delivering a lesson on how to play this game, the same way he has been doing for the entire past year in every single youth competition he has taken part in.
Macvan is a big guy, actually too big for his 6-9 body. He could try losing some weight (itís easy to realize thereís room for improvement when he takes his jersey off), although he will always be a pretty wide guy, unathletic and very strong. More focused playing a big man role than in past occasions, he was a monster in the paint. Heís very intelligent playing without the ball to gain good position, while he shows nice footwork and a perfect use of his body to find the way to the basket. Pretty skilled finishing with both hands around the rim, he could still improve his touch when it comes to releasing jump hooks.
He also faced the basket to attack his match-ups. Heís not particularly quick, but his ball-handling skills are very nice for his size and he knows how to protect the ball with his body. Enjoying range in his shot out to the three-point line, heís not the most reliable guy firing from the perimeter. Although he played more of a finishing role this time, heís also a very nice passer from the perimeter or the low post, something he showed on a few occasions.
Solid on defense, using his physical strength and showing nice lateral mobility considering his limited athleticism, he wasnít always effective rebounding the ball. Of course, getting position is not difficult for him at all, but his heavy feet are not very helpful. Heís certainly a guy with limited potential, but so far heís making the most out of his gifts, and not only keeps dominating as he grows older and advances categories, but to end up as the MVP of the tournament, having been born in November of 1989 against players mostly born in 1988, is nothing short of remarkable.
1988, C, 6-11, Australia; 22.3 ppg, 9.8 rpg, 2.3 bpg, 1.6 apg, 4.4 topg
The centerpiece of the Australian squad, very few players (if anybody) had a bigger influence on his own teamís offensive game. A great chunk of the Aussie offensive flow ran though him, usually with excellent results, as Ogilvy emerged as one of the best performers in the tournament.
Not the most athletic guy around, heís one of those extremely fundamentally sound big men that come as a blessing for any teamís game. Skilled, smart, aggressive--he just made things happen. Although Ogilvy enjoys solid shooting touch from mid-range, he basically made a living in the paint, consistently looking for the surroundings of the rim, either facing or with his back to the basket. Very solid from the low post, he doesnít enjoy fancy moves, but heís pretty effective with simple spins, aggressiveness looking for contact (heís a strong guy who easily plays off contact) and a nice ability to finish with either hand, even if he might eventually force the use of his good hand, the right one. Still itís perhaps more usual to see him facing the basket to attack his match-up off the dribble.
He doesnít need that much space to operate, showing nice ball-handling skills and a solid first step, being very difficult to contest for big-men opponents. He sometimes tries too hard, ignoring whether thereís too much traffic and eventually committing an offensive foul or turnover, but nothing really serious as its more of a sign of his aggressiveness on the offensive end. A very solid passer from both the high and low posts, heís just a smart kid with a very good understanding of the game.
Defensively, we find lights and shadows. He was exposed against the very first quality inside player he faced, Paulao Prestes from Brazil, in the quarterfinals. Ogilvy seems to be tougher on the offensive end than on defense. Heís not a very physical guy when it comes to his opponents, and a strong banger as Paulao did significant damage.
Still, he emerged as an excellent shot-blocker, making the most out of his athleticism by showcasing terrific timing and court awareness, always evaluating when to attack his rival and usually avoiding fakes, while being able to reject shots with both hands, actually a very useful skill to contest shots. However, he's not what you would call a great intimidator that consistently scares away opponents from the paint, as his activity on team defense shouldn't be labeled as outstanding, which is probably due to his limited athleticism. He did display solid lateral quickness for a guy his size, though, and the ability to use his long arms to eventually reach the ball when an opponent tried to attack him off the dribble.
All in all, Ogilvy might not be the most intriguing guy around given his limited athleticism, but you don't find guys with his size and abilities every day .
1988, C, 6-10, Brazil; 23 ppg, 14.7 rpg
Overcoming the loss of Vitor Faverani, Paulao Prestes emerged in this tournament as one of the most dominant inside players. A strong and physical big man, at this level Prestes is a dangerous weapon that his intensity and character on court takes care of promoting. Actually, he even took care of yelling his teammates whenever he was not happy about something they did.
Paulao is a very inside guy, who does most of the damage in the surroundings of the basket. He easily gains position down low and asks for the ball to play in the post. Not the most skilled guy there, still he shows effective moves where the good use of his strong body stands out. Prestes loves using contact to gain advantages against his weaker rivals. He does not enjoy a great soft touch around the basket, but can settle for right-handed hooks, short turnaround jumpers or just overpower his rivals on his way to a layup. He was the foundation of the Brazilian game as his sole presence balanced their inside-outside game, and provided more opportunities for his teammates. Actually, he did a pretty nice job finding the open man on the perimeter from the low post, even on the weak side.
Defensively, he is pretty physical down low, although he suffers against more mobile defenders. He is not particularly athletic, and his lateral quickness is just average. On the other hand, he is pretty effective gaining position for the rebound, and he showed a certain nose to grab it, gaining massive production as a result. Anyway, his potential seems limited by the fact that, at 6-10, with his athleticism and his center-oriented skills, he is an undersized guy.
1988, C, 7-1, France; 7.4 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 2.7 bpg
Promise, promise, promise. Itís always the same story for Ajinca, particularly if we talk about his offensive game and physical profile. The freakishly long French big man again wasnít able to show any kind of go-to scoring move, always falling short in terms of skills. He showed a bit of everything, either shooting, posting up or putting the ball on the floor, but never good enough to get the job done on a regular basis. Actually, perhaps he tried a bit too much. He missed every single three-pointer he took, although his accuracy noticeably improved a few steps into the arc. His mechanics donít look bad and itís important to stress the high point of release he uses, making his jumpers almost unstoppable.
His footwork in the low post still looks a bit unpolished, and he doesnít have the strength to make up for it with some banging and physical play. He can convert hook shots, but still not on a regular basis. When it came to putting the ball on the floor, he struggles surviving defensive helps, as his ball-handling skills are rather poor, his dribble pretty high, and it often takes him too much time to perform the moves he pursues. He was particularly abused in the semifinal game against the US, as the quick American perimeter players were always ready to throw a hand at his dribble. It looks like weíll have to keep waiting until he finally develops some reliable skills. For the moment, he was only really effective playing without the ball to get open looks near the basket, or scoring off offensive rebounds.
Things looked better defensively. Ajinca emerged as a very intimidating presence on the lane, blocking and changing shots. Itís unbelievable how high he can get with his length and athleticism. Heís also improving his positioning and defensive mobility, although his lateral quickness still remains pretty mediocre. He was also very helpful in the rebounding department. Despite often being outmuscled, nobody can get as high as him.
Patience and hard work, those are the right ingredients for him.
1988, C, 7-3, Serbia; 8.4 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 2.6 topg
Marjanovic has evolved from being the typical full-time bench player that makes the national team based only on potential, to now being a useful contributor, which considered alone is already a great success.
Heís huge, one of the biggest players in the championship, enjoys a nice frame, already some decent strength and runs the floor decently, particularly considering that heís a bit slow. That slowness was especially exposed playing against the quick USA players in the final, where things were going too fast for him most of the time. Actually, he might eventually become a defensive liability against big guy who can take him out of the paint with a mid-range jumper and then use their quickness to punish his lack of lateral mobility.
On the other hand, heís a very dangerous guy near the basket, as he can play off the ball and enjoys good hands to receive it and dunk it. Indeed he tries to dunk everything within 4-6 feet from the basket, sometimes even ignoring an eventual serious blocking menace. Heís also pretty intimidating guarding his own paint, using his excellent wingspan to contest short shots.
Anyway, heís a work in project. The best thing is the way heís improving and the fact that he tries different things, like a mid-range shot here (heís not particularly bad from the free-throw line), some dribbling there, a solid low post move or a hook shot. Everything looks pretty unpolished, but still somehow promising. On top of it, his positive attitude and passion for the game.
1988, C, 7-0, Serbia; 9.6 ppg, 5.3 rpg
Raduljica went rather unnoticed in this championship, which is not good news for a player that was supposed to stand amongst the best big men in Novi Sad. Indeed, when last summer he was the main low post reference for the Serbian junior squad, this time Milan Macvan completely stole the show for the Balkan team.
Being much less of an offensive catalyst for his team, Raduljica enjoyed a smaller share of the ball, and therefore less opportunities to shine. His low post game got a bit exposed, showing that he needs to work on his footwork and especially on his ability to finish against opposition down low to become an effective post player. Besides, a small injury he suffered against France didnít help him for the rest of the championship, perhaps lacking some certain aggressiveness. Still, he was a great contributor in the rebounding department.
Anyway, heís still an excellent prospect, a big guy with nice athleticism, a high basketball IQ and a very solid array of skills.
1988, C, 7-1, Nigeria; 9.2 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 2.8 bpg, 2 spg, 3.2 topg
Alabi made an impression among the audience with his incredible combination of length and athleticism. Standing 7-1, the Nigerian center is a skinny kid with an underdeveloped body, but shows a very decent frame to work with and enjoys an excellent wingspan.
Skill-wise, he's also a very raw player. His low post game shows some promise, but his footwork needs a lot of work. And still he tries and keeps a certain poise playing down low. Right handed, if he goes left from the post he primarily looks for a pass, actually showing a decent ability to find his teammates; going to the right, he can opt for a turnaround jumpshot, and also seems to have some ability to release a short hook, but looks extremely inconsistent. Still, the good news is that he's a pretty tough guy who doesn't avoid contact, although he's certainly limited by his skinny body.
Alabi can eventually face the basket to attack his opponents, always from short distances, where he doesn't need to dribble much, but shows a nice first step. He can also play off the ball and likes to explode for the dunk if he has the opportunity. Very active looking for the rebound, he tries to put back, again with a dunk, everything that falls in his lap on the offensive glass, which is sometimes a bad option since he often doesn't always enjoy the best position to do so. Actually you always have the feeling that part of his efforts are headed towards impressing the audience rather than being effective on the basketball court.
Intense and aggressive, Alabi is capable of diving for a loose ball. He's always alert to block any opponent's shot near the basket. He can get really high thanks to his combination of length and leaping ability. Alabi is pretty much all about physical gifts, and not so much about basketball IQ, but anyway, he's a player with nice potential to keep under the radar.
1988, C, 6-9, France; 8.7 ppg, 5.1 rpg
A complimentary player for France, Vaty primarily used his big strong body in the low post. His go-to move was the turnaround jumper off the low post, which he nicely executes with a fluid move and solid mechanics. His hook shots still donít look very reliable, although he shows increased poise evolving on the lane, showcasing better footwork. Anyway, his game keeps looking rather center oriented. Although capable of netting mid-range jumpers with decent consistency, he doesnít show great range. Besides, heís not much of a ball-handler, and heís only effective attacking his match-up if heís in the mid-range area and needs just one or two dribbles to get to the basket, actually showing nice quickness in the process. Solid on defense and rebounding, physically heís a pretty mature guy ready to challenge almost any level of competition. As always, in terms of NBA potential we still think heís a bit short and not that athletic for the kind of game he displays, although he still has good enough tools to eventually make it to the league as a role player.
1988, PF/C, 6-8, USA; 10 ppg, 6.1 rpg
Perhaps the steadiest inside player on the US Team, Thompson put on a good display of his fundamentally-sound post game to help his team make it to the Final. Too much of an inside player for his size, and not really greatly athletic, Thompson is not oozing with potential, but he was pretty effective in the low post, showing nice moves with solid footwork and footspeed, while enjoying a soft touch around the rim. He uses his strong body pretty well, looking for contact and gaining room in the process. At this level of competition, that's a pretty effective strategy, as there were not many players as strong as him in the tournament. Showing limited range, Thompson can shoot from the mid-range area, and a regular option for him is even to finish from the low post with a turnaround shot. But still, he's not the most consistent guy around, particularly as he tries to move further from the basket.
Enjoying good, strong hands, Thompson led the US Team in the rebounding department, while providing a nice defensive effort.
1989, PF/C, 6-10, Lithuania; 7 ppg, 6.4 rpg
The skinny Lithuanian big man didnít shine too bright in the championship, but still delivered a good rebounding effort. He showed the same old strengths and limitations in his game. He severely lacks versatility on the offensive end, as he basically sticks to mid-range jumpers and some eventual garbage points. With poor footwork and sub-par strength, heís completely ineffective in the low post, while he doesnít show any ball-handling skills worth mentioning.
Things look better if we talk about defense and rebounding. Heís a pretty solid guy, who uses his mobility and excellent wingspan well. His rebounding production per minute was just outstanding. Still, weíre eager to see some noticeable improvements in a guy who skill-wise looks exactly the same as he did two years ago, even if he's developing nicely physically.
1988, C, 6-10, USA; 5.3 ppg, 2.7 rpg
Although he came into the tournament with the credentials of a top-recruit, Jordan left a very underwhelming impression. Yes, he's big, he's strong and he's nicely athletic for an inside man. He enjoys a superb frame, a very good wingspan and in general, an excellent physical profile. But his game screams raw at this point. On a team that was thoughtfully built, he was one of the most unnecessary pieces. Primarily a low-post player, he was unable to produce there, looking very uncomfortable against the well-structured international defenses that rarely allow pure one-on-one match-ups in the low post. So whenever he needed to deliver quick and precise moves, his lack of polished footwork got visibly exposed, showing very mechanical execution and poor touch. In the end, many of his points came from dunking open looks near the rim. It's also interesting to note that he looked like a pure finisher, showing little passing skills and creativity. At this point, he seems mostly to be about potential.
1988, C, 6-11, Lithuania; 8.4 ppg, 5.9 rpg
Players with the size and athleticism Skurdauskas enjoys are certainly intriguing enough to keep an eye on. Pranas displays a very nice physical profile, as heís a long player, already rather strong, with a very good frame, and who gets off his feet very easily. Actually, he has developed his shot-blocking ability as one of his main strengths on the court. He enjoys very nice timing and the proper tools to get the job done, even if he wasnít very prolific in the championship.
Skill wise, heís a very limited player, who basically lives off the creativity of his teammates and his ability to crash the offensive board to get second chance points. Heís a nice player in pick-and-roll situations thanks to his athleticism and length, allowing him to easily finish around the rim. He can shoot jumpers with some range, but heís still not a consistent player in this regard.
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