2006 L’Hospitalet Tournament: the Top 5 prospects

2006 L’Hospitalet Tournament: the Top 5 prospects
Jan 11, 2006, 05:33 pm
This past week DraftExpress’ International Director of Scouting Luis Fernandez was on hand for another edition of the L’Hospitalet Tournament, one of the top junior competitions in all of Europe, which usually features some of the most promising basketball talents to be found on the continent. In past editions, the likes of Pau Gasol, Erazem Lorbek, Rudy Fernández, Sergio Rodríguez, Josh Smith, Rajon Rondo and Yaroslav Korolev showed their credentials here. It was here that the Russian small forward laid the ground work for being selected in the lottery by the Clippers 6 months later after an amazing run at L’Hospitalet.

In what might have been the weakest edition in several years, the L’Hospitalet Tournament nevertheless featured a nice group of very interesting international players that could make some noise in the future. All of them played for Spanish teams, while the four foreign squads didn’t bring that much excitement, although Alexey Shved came away with the MVP trophy thanks to his huge efficiency ratings. The Russian, a 6-5 skinny point guard with a good wingspan, some athletic ability and very raw offensive skills, missed our top-5 selections for the tournament that was picked, as always, based on potential.

On our list we find four well-known guys for the veteran DraftExpress readers. Among them, Víctor Claver had his comeback party after some forgettable summer performances, while Ricard Rubio keeps defying all logic considering his age. We also introduce you to African-Spanish sensation Mamadou Samb.

Read DraftExpress’ coverage of the 2005 L’Hospitalet Tournament last year.

Special thanks to R.Tomas of for the excellent photographs.

VICTOR CLAVER, Pamesa Valencia; SF; 6-9; 1988

13 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 1.3 apg, 4 spg


Claver has been doing his best Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde impersonation over the past few months. After an almost invisible performance at the European Junior Championships in Belgrade last summer, this time we saw Víctor Claver at his absolute best once again on his home soil. Back in Pamesa Valencia, where he’s the cut-clear leader, Víctor was easily the most impressive player seen in the tournament, even surpassing the excellent showing he delivered in last year’s edition. Just for the sake of comparison, we could say that Claver played at a similar level at this same tournament displayed by eventual lottery pick Yaroslav Korolev one year ago.

More clearly than in past occasions, Claver showed that he’s a pure small forward, the position where Pamesa is wisely developing and playing him. He enjoys most of the tools he needs to maximize his potential at that position, whether physical or technical.

His strengths and weaknesses remain rather constant from what we told you one year ago at the previous edition of the L’Hospitalet tournament. But let’s rehash for a quick reminder.

Claver is a gifted athlete, a 6-9 wing with a solid frame and excellent quickness for his size. He’s a very complete face-up offensive player, enjoying a surprisingly good jump-shot, with good fluid mechanics, being able to deliver it off the dribble, in turnaround fashion, or even with a fade-away movement. He’s far from being a pure shooter, but he’s rather skilled in this department and his size makes him hard to stop. Also a very nice slasher, Claver has an excellent first step and the ball-handling skills to get the job done. He feels more comfortable driving with his right hand, but can also change directions if he starts the movement with his left. On defense, he shows accurate lateral movement, although he perhaps lacks a bit of aggressiveness.

With the ups and downs that Víctor has showed in the past year, his consistency is an important question mark. In L’Hospitalet, he played only one real game. After a ridiculously easy debut against the Dominican Republic, where he was rested on the bench for the most part, Claver and Pamesa faced Real Madrid in a decisive contest. He dominated the game from the opening tip-off right until his teammates decided to go away from him, although Real’s off the ball defense also played a part in this. Víctor got frustrated at that point, making some questionable decisions when the game was already lost.

However, the final impression was excellent. He was extremely positive for his team whenever he had the ball in his hands, showing a great basketball IQ, a rather improved character and intensity and leaving everybody in L’Hospitalet drooling over his potential.

RICARD RUBIO, DKV Joventut; PG; 6-3; 1990

11 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 6.3 apg, 5.7 spg


Not everything was rosy about Ricky Rubio’s performance at L’Hospitalet, but you can’t feel anything but amazement considering what he showed and how he dominated for certain stretches despite being the youngest player at the tournament at the tender age of 15. Only a strange semi-final against Crvena Zvezda, where his coach inexplicitly left him on the bench for a large chunk of the fourth quarter stopped his run from a very expected appearance in the final.

Ricky’s biggest flaws, poor shooting and game direction, were effectively exploited by the Serbians who placed a closed zone defense to enable him from comfortably slashing into the lane to create offense, which is the foundation of his game right now. Rubio still needs to learn how to play the point guard role. He enjoys excellent court vision and delivers very good passes on a regular basis, but he’s not a good distributor when it comes to keeping an accurate offensive flow and involving his teammates, struggling to recognize the proper game rhythm that his team needs.

Still, he was able to keep Joventut in the game aggressively by attacking the zone with complicated penetrations using his quickness, excellent footwork and ball-handling skills (although he needs to work with his left), while trying to find the open man. He was almost as important on defense as well. Ricky is a nightmare for any rival when he’s focused and willing to defend (it wasn’t always the case during the tournament). His lateral quickness, great wingspan, quick hands and intelligence are the perfect recipe for being a fantastic ball-thief. He doesn’t lose that much effectiveness in this department when facing veteran competition either. That’s why benching him in the decisive moments came as a big surprise, as Ricard was virtually the only player capable of overcoming the situation.

Unlike what happened in León with the Under-16 National Team, Rubio played the point guard position full time at L’Hospitalet. That’s the position that Joventut is developing him at, where he has played in the ACB League and FIBA EuroCup and where he enjoys the best potential. Although at age 15 he’s very young and probably not done growing, Rubio is undersized for the shooting guard position, even perhaps when he reaches his maximum size. Besides, he’s not really a scorer, and chances are he will never be a great one. Ricky’s shot is still a work in progress. He hasn’t been prolific at all in this department, looking fairly erratic, but he did net a few long distance shots, although showing rather slow mechanics. He will improve for sure; for starters, he’s very reliable from the free-throw line. On the other hand, he doesn’t show a particularly soft touch finishing near the basket when it comes to anything much different than an orthodox layup.

All in all, Ricky Rubio keeps making strides way ahead of schedule; in an edition without huge dominators, nobody would have been surprised if he had been named MVP. It’s scary to think how good he could be in two years, when he will be a junior sophomore competing with kids his age at this tournament. That is, if he’s not a full-time pro in the ACB League by then.

MAMADOU SAMB, Winterthur FC Barcelona; PF/C; 6-10; 1989

14.7 ppg, 8 rpg, 2 spg, 3.3 bpg


The next big thing from Spain (Samb is Senegalese, but he will soon receive a Spanish passport) is Mamadou Samb. Him, with his elder brother Cheik Samb (born in 1984 and whom you’ll read about at DraftExpress in the near future), were taken from Senegal by Arona, a club from the Canary Islands, and were both signed by FC Barcelona about a year ago.

Exaggeratedly compared with a young Kevin Garnett by some media (typical stuff from the Spanish sports media), the truth is that Mamadou shows impressive potential even if he failed to dominate in a tournament that severely lacked size.

Samb is an athletic big standing 6-10 with an excellent wingspan, who might not be done growing yet (his brother is 7-1 tall). He’s very skinny, physically raw, and was regularly out-muscled in the tournament. His frame is not the worst you will find in international basketball, but much better suited for the power forward position rather than the center spot, while his athleticism should allow him to play there. Indeed Samb is not only about physical or athletic attributes. His skill set, especially considering that he’s a big, has been repeatedly praised (which is where the Garnett comparisons come from). However, according to some sources (our eventual Spanish collaborator Juan Antonio Hinojo among them), FC Barcelona is focused on playing him primarily in the paint over the last few months, and the kid every day shows less of a variety of skills. What we’ve seen here only reinforces that impression.

Of course, it’s very important for Samb to develop a reliable low post game to take advantage of his size and look for high-percentage shots. He still doesn’t look comfortable posting up his defenders, not only because of his lack of strength, but also because of poor footwork. He does enjoy nice foot-speed and a soft touch to finish around the basket with semi-hook shots, though. Anyway, it would be a big mistake to limit his potential offensive versatility to strictly being a back-to-the-basket threat.

Samb still left some hints of his face-up game in the form of a few jumpers, showing three-point range and even some off-the-dribble ability, although with slightly unorthodox mechanics, or a slashing movement with nice quickness while putting the ball on the floor decently.

For a player so hyped in advance, his performance was certainly a bit disappointing. He easily amassed stats, but didn’t dominate the way he was supposed to do, suffering the transition from cadets to junior category, where he faces relatively stronger rivals. Still the potential is there, making him one of the top 1989 prospects on the international scene.

BOJAN BOGDANOVIC, Real Madrid; SG; 6-7; 1989

14.75 ppg, 3.75 rpg, 2.25 spg


After his excellent performance at the Under-16 European Championships, Bojan Bogdanovic signed a multi-year deal with Real Madrid, although the Spanish team decided to loan him back to his former Bosnian team in order to let him gain experience. Real Madrid however called Bojan back to spend Christmas in Spain playing for the junior team. He took part in an Under-20 Tournament in late December as well as this tournament here.

We had heard echoes of a great season in Bosnia so far, but the truth is that we found a very similar Bogdanovic to the one we saw in the summer. He did suffer from a certain lack of understanding with his teammates, aggravated by the language barrier as he apparently speaks very limited English and no Spanish. Regardless, he enjoyed plenty of playing time and could show his stuff while decisively contributing to Real Madrid’s final victory.

A good but not great athlete, Bogdanovic is the type of player who is mostly about class and finesse. He’s a good shooter even if his mechanics doesn’t look the most orthodox. He can nail his jumpers from the mid-range area in off-the-dribble fashion and against opposition, looking to use the glass if he’s at the proper angle. From behind the three point line, he usually fires with his feet set and needs a bit of space, looking a bit erratic in his consistency. A nice ball-handler, Bojan enjoys a long first step and some serious footwork in penetration, although his quickness is not always the best. He never finishes with his left hand near the rim, unless he dunks the ball, which he curiously always does with his left.

On this occasion, we missed some of the off the dribble passing we saw from him in the summer, which virtually voided the assists part of his box-score. On defense he looked decent, perhaps still in need of some work on his lateral quickness. Regardless, he showed again his ability to get in the passing lanes with his long arms and quick hands.

There’s something about Bojan’s character. He’s a steady guy that is serious about the game, but he looks very cold. He’s not the kind of player that takes his team on his back. He sometimes goes a bit unnoticed, even surprising with larger than expected scoring production.

DANIEL CLARK, Adecco Estudiantes; PF/C; 6-10; 1988

22.25 ppg, 11.25 rpg


It seems like L’Hospitalet is not Clark’s favourite tournament. He already delivered a weak showing in the previous edition, and this time somehow disappointed again, despite his excellent statistical effort.

Besides his performance here, Daniel also left doubts about his potential beyond the international scene. In the end, he’s a power forward with a center’s athleticism to go along with a distinct lack of aggressiveness.

Clark’s game continues to revolve around his shooting touch. He enjoys good quick mechanics delivering his high-arched shot, while enjoying three-point range. Particularly interesting is his ability to perform turnaround jumpers even while fading-away from the mid-range area and also from the low post. Here, Daniel still shows improvable footwork, setting mostly for these types of shots or quick spins going baseline, but his footspeed looks good. He could also benefit from refining his hook shot from the middle of the paint.

He can also put the ball on the floor with both hands, but he’s not too much of a handler nor too prolific. When it comes to passing the ball, I guess we would have to settle for a ‘decent’ qualification. Clark mostly looked for scoring his points, which makes sense since he’s the best player on his team by a very large margin.

The biggest signs of concern arise in his effort, which is rather poor in the defensive area. Despite his size and good frame (he was one of the strongest bigs at the tournament), he barely intimidated his rivals, lacking activity to the point that you could eventually see him defending his matchup in the low post with his arms down. At least he was effective in the rebounding department, grabbing most of the balls that came to his area using the size and strength we already mentioned.

Still, we can’t forget about a 6-10 player as talented as the Englishman. He could make a very good international player in the long run.

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