2007 RBK Eurocamp: Day One

2007 RBK Eurocamp: Day One
Jun 10, 2007, 10:01 am
The 2007 edition of the Reebok Eurocamp taking place in Treviso, Italy, is on the march. Despite a good amount of players pulling out, the camp has still been able to gather a very nice bunch of prospects, either for the NBA or Europe. Nobody really made a superb impression in the first day. The top stories where French playmaker Rodrigue Beaubois impressing enough to get six NBA promises in the second round, Marco Belinelli in a somewhat disappointing performance, and the point guard duo Anton Ponkrashov and Rudy Mbemba showing some of the stuff that draw some buzz around them last year.

Reporting to Camp

We'll start by checking the guys that didn't make the camp.

Particularly disappointing has been the absence of Kyrylo Fesenko, reportedly due to visa troubles. Petteri Koponen wasn't really expected after impressing a number of NBA scouts in a private workout taken place in Houston, actually bumping up his draft stock closer to the first round. He preferred to stay in the States to continue the workout process rather than put his body through the gruelling trip once again. Also the whole Turkish crew pulled out, including Semih Erden and Hakan Demirel, due to Galatasaray's refusal to let them go.

Danilo Gallinari and Sergi Llull had conflicts with their team's schedules, as both the Italian and Spanish leagues are still running and their teams are still alive. As expected, Nenad Mijatovic is not here because of an injury; neither Nicolas Batum, who prefered to join the French team in the Douai Tournament rather than risk his draft stock with a poor performance. Mantas Kalnietis, Chavdar Kostov, Damjan Rudez, the list goes on and on.

Still, the Reebok EuroCamp has been able to put together a very nice list of players to make this a very interesting camp for everybody involved. The best part is clearly the fantastic amount of access the NBA scouts and us have to the players at all times, being able to step onto the court almost while we study the players.

Coming Out Of Nowhere

You feel something is missing in the draft process if there's not any unknown international guy coming out of nowhere. Rodrigue Beaubois fills the bill, even if we already saw him a couple of days ago in the Douai Tournament. As we pointed out yesterday, he looked very intriguing in the limited playing time he enjoyed.

Unlike Nicolas Batum, who remained with the French National team, Beaubois made a temporary detour to come to Treviso. He hasn't really performed at a great level in his first day in the camp, but by just putting on the table some of his superb characteristics, has drawn great attention from the NBA teams.

The potential is certainly there. He enjoys elite athleticism and an endless wingspan. He also shows excellent ball-handling skills with both either hands to dribble past his defender, a very solid stroke out to the three-point line, also in off-the-dribble mode, promising defense with very nice ability to come up with steals using his long arms, and he has already delivered some intriguing passes to think about solid court vision.

Beaubois is yet to prove to be a solid distributor and a good competitor. Actually he shows little emotion, sometimes even looking a bit passive. And of course, he's a completely unproven player if we talk about high-level competition in Europe. Indeed he barely has any experience in the National Team with his own peers.

Anyway, according to his agent Bill McCandless, up to six NBA teams have offered him a promise in the second round, nothing surprising giving how it usually works with "new guys" (remember Joel Freeland last year). Still, he will likely pull out and explore other options in future drafts, that's unless a first-round promise eventually arrives.

Seeking a First Round Spot

It went wrong from the very beginning for Marco Belinelli. Being probably the most expected player from the bunch that finally made it to the camp, he was the only one arriving late for the morning drills. And he's certainly not looking like the most enthusiastic guy out there, as if he doesn't really want to be here.

It's always surprising when a guy projected in the first round, or even on the bubble, shows up for a pre-draft camp. Not being a lock after a pretty disappointing season in Bologna (regardless of his scoring averages in the domestic competition), Belinelli still had very serious first round consideration. Actually his presence could be a nice indicator that he wasn't that much confident about his options of getting into the privileged round.

Yesterday's show couldn't have helped his cause, though. He had a horrible shooting day, reproducing his struggles during the season.

You can feel he's a special guy out there, like if he had a different status, a star status, from most of the players here (a bit like happens with Ponkrashov or Mbemba), and of course he doesn't shy away when it comes to shooting the ball regardless of his situation on the court. That was the biggest problem in yesterday's performance, his shot selection.

We already know Belinelli, he's capable of knocking down the wildest shots, but he's not consistent doing it, hasn't been all season long, and stubbornly continues trying off-the-dribble, unbalanced, one-legged impulsed fade-away attempts with little chances of success. Yesterday he only hit a couple of perimeter jumpers, not by coincidence two orthodox, balanced, and open shots.

Marco looked a lot better when he decided to put the ball on the floor to penetrate. He went a few times all the way to the basket, showing nice quickness and general athleticism, but also good ball-handling, footwork and ability to finish around the rim. Still, more often he settled for off-the-dribble passes, easily finding the open man, several times in the corner on the three-point line, greatly helping the offensive flow of his team.

You can see the great talent Belinelli enjoys, his excellent feel for the game, every time he attacks the basket. Actually he should be much more active in this area, even building his game from his slashing abilities and letting the perimeter shooting options come to him. Instead, he keeps shooting and shooting, regardless of his position, hurting his effectiveness on court.

Unless he dramatically improves in the remaining days of the camp, chances are he will opt to pull out and wait another year to increase his options of hitting the first round. If he decides to stay in, we were told that he has a $600,000 buyout in his contract.

Right Where We Left Them Last Year...

Two of the players that shined the most last year are back again for this edition of the camp, and for the most part, they continued right where they left off.

Rudy Mbemba and Anton Ponkrashov are both playmakers, but they could hardly be any more different. Rudy small, athletic, wild; Anton big, relatively heavy-footed and very smart.

We still don't like Mbemba's style of play, but it's hard not to pay attention to the stuff he's capable of doing. He's the same tough, strong, ultra-quick and very athletic guy. He explodes towards the basket easily, dribbling past most opponents and having the strength, hops and creativity to finish against bigger guys. He also shows very quick legs and hands on defense to come up with steals and easy fastbreak points, and from time to time he also stands out with some very nice passes. This year he's even knocking down his off-the-dribble jumpers more consistently than he did in the past.

On the downside, he's the same awful decision maker on the court. You have to wonder if you want a guy like him running your team, even if there's always a certain possibility that he can mature and settle down his game. Anyway, usual stuff out of him--overdribbling, wild penetrations where he forgets about his teammates and doesn't come up with any kind of solution, or ill-advised shots taken very early in the possession with no other player than him touching the ball.

While Mbemba shouldn't be prescribed for anyone suffering from heart problems, Ponkrashov is a much more heady guy, usually taking good decisions and getting the job done with significantly fewer mistakes.

He wasn't at his best in the first day he spent in the camp, but still delivered stretches of great basketball. A guy with his ball-handling skills, strength, size and court vision, always comes up with a solution, whether using his body to overpower smaller defenders in his drives, the court vision to find the open man, the size to easily pass over his match-ups and even his nice stroke to fire off-the-dribble whenever his defender doesn't stay honest.

It's interesting to note that Ponkrashov actually suffered a lot more to deliver his stuff when he was matched-up against forwards such as Giorgos Printezis and Kaloyan Ivanov, as he couldn't rely on his strength and size as easily. Actually, he eventually lost his cool and forced a few plays. Still nothing serious for a guy that is again proving to be the best playmaker in the camp.

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