European Roundup: High Expectations for Vesely

European Roundup: High Expectations for Vesely
Nov 20, 2009, 11:04 pm
High expectations for Jan Vesely at Partizan..Cholet clearing room for Seraphin?...FIBA International youth calendar announced...Jaycee Carroll impressing in the ACB.

Vesely, the Next Omri Casspi?

Jonathan Givony

After a surprisingly strong debut season in the Euroleague, playing for possibly the biggest overachievers in European basketball—Partizan Belgrade-- expectations were always going to be extremely high for Czech teenager Jan Vesely going into this year.

While his minutes are up (24 per game on average compared with 18 last in both the Adriatic League and Euroleague) and his production has risen accordingly, it’s increasingly clear that this is not going to be the breakthrough season that some NBA scouts had hoped for.

Part of that might have to do with the very obvious fact that Partizan is sporting a much weaker squad this season, having lost arguably their three most important playmakers on both ends of the floor in Novica Velickovic (Real Madrid), Milenko Tepic (Panathinaikos) and Stephane Lasme (Maccabi Tel Aviv), as well as a double-digit scorer in Uros Tripkovic (DKV Joventut). In their place they brought a very athletic but extremely inexperienced and often-erratic American combo guard in Bo McCalebb as their main (lone?) facilitator, and a couple of blue collar but physically limited big men in the form of Lawrence Roberts and Aleks Maric. The team seems to be struggling a lot more this year in both the Euroleague and Adriatic League so far (5-6 record combined), but obviously it’s still extremely early, only 11 games into the season.

For someone who is clearly a hustling role-player and energy guy like Vesely, this change in team dynamics will have a much stronger effect. After all, it’s much easier to play that type of glue-guy role while being surrounded with great teammates and unselfish passers, as his limitations offensively are now becoming much more noticeable. Those who were expecting to see a big jump this season in his technical ability and the development of his skill-set might be a little disappointed.

Vesely is starting exclusively at the small forward position for Partizan, despite standing 6-11. This is clearly the position that head coach Dusko Vujosevic intends to develop him at, which will likely be very beneficial for him long-term. Vesely’s frame is slowly starting to fill out, although he still has a ways to go before reaching his full physical potential, particularly as far as his lower body strength is concerned. He’s still very much the same terrific athlete he’s known as, running the court like a deer and being very explosive getting off his feet to finish plays around the rim.

Offensively, Vesely’s role for Partizan is fairly simple. His job is to sprint the floor in transition any opportunity he can (something he does superbly), catch and finish around the basket, crash the offensive glass, and hang out in the corners waiting for spot-up jumpers. Occasionally he’ll get a chance to post-up smaller players taking advantage of his superior size and athleticism, but his average footwork and limited post-moves doesn’t make this option as appealing as you might hope.

As a shooter is where Vesely needs to continue to improve the most if he’s to make the full transition to playing out on the perimeter. He’s 5/12 on the season from beyond the arc, a solid percentage (42%) on an extremely limited amount of attempts (about one per game) that indicates that he clearly has to work to do on this part of his game. His mechanics remain a bit on the rigid side, not quite as fluid or natural as you might hope, but more than good enough to leave room for optimism that he’ll continue to develop this part of his game.

Vesely’s ball-handling ability is still very much a work in progress, he doesn’t show the skills or feel you look for to be trusted to create shots from the perimeter at his size. Judging by some of the decisions he makes with the ball, he’s obviously not the smartest or most naturally talented guy you’ll find around, as most of his game revolves around his energy and athleticism at the moment.

Defensively is where Vesely probably shows the best upside, as not only does he have a terrific physical profile for a small forward, he appears to have the lateral quickness to match. Its impressive to see the way he slides his feet and is able to stay in front of perimeter players, something that gives his team all kinds of options guarding the pick and roll. He plays extremely hard on top of that, trying to contest everything around the basket and closing out extremely well on the perimeter. Being such a big guy defending players much smaller than him, and being relatively inexperienced on top of that, he’s not immune to being beat off the dribble from time to time, but the potential he shows on this end of the floor remains considerable.

While he’s a solid offensive rebounder--he’s just not afraid to throw his body around in the paint and has the tools to be a factor—Vesely seems to be a surprisingly average defensive rebounder at this point in time. He boxes out well and plays with big time energy on this end, but seems to lack the strength (and possibly the timing) to come away with many loose balls. Part of this likely has to do with the fact that his coaches want him getting out in transition as much as possible to take advantage of how well he runs the floor.

All in all, Vesely looks like an extremely useful player with plenty of upside to continue to develop. After all, he’s only 19-years old, and is somewhat of a late-bloomer on top of that. He may not have the offensive skills or natural talent NBA teams look for in a very high pick, and probably wouldn’t fit every team’s style of play, but there will be plenty of coaches who could fall in love with his physical attributes and the energy he brings to the table. The way Omri Casspi is playing thus far with the Kings surely has to be helping his cause, as the two have some clear-cut similarities in their style of play, although Vesely’s physical tools and upside are noticeably superior.

It will be interesting to see how Vesely’s agents, David Bauman and Aleksandar Raskovic, go about deciding whether or not to enter their client’s name in this year’s draft. Vesely is under contract with Partizan until 2013, but the team (like almost all clubs in former Yugoslavia) has fallen on hard times financially lately, and may be tempted to sell him to a bigger European team if they were able to cash in on a significant buyout. The NBA's meager 500,000 dollars (the maximum allowed under the CBA) likely won't interest them as much. Either way, Vesely could probably use another year in Europe to continue to polish up his skill-set.

Quick Hitters

Cholet Making Room for Seraphin?

Jonathan Givony

Interesting news out of France this week, which could have some definite NBA Draft implications. The top ranked team in Pro A, Cholet, decided to loan their highest paid player, big man Claude Marquis, to Italian league based Caserta.

The reason this move is interesting from our perspective is because of the playing time it should open up for 19-year old draft prospect Kevin Seraphin, who plays essentially the same position as Marquis. Seraphin is coming off a strong summer with the U-20 French national team and an excellent showing in the Nike Hoop Summit in Portland last April, and many NBA scouts were hoping to see him make a big step forward this season with increased playing time and production in Pro A.

That did not really materialize early in the season, as Seraphin disappointingly racked up a DNP-CD in Cholet’s first game in the French league and then saw sporadic playing time in the three following games. Things have been looking up for him since then, as he’s become a regular part of the rotation (albeit in a backup role), and this move should open up even more playing time for him as the year moves on.

Cholet will begin playing twice a week starting on the 24th of this month as they begin to compete in the group stage of the EuroCup, ironically with a very intriguing matchup (from a draft perspective at least) with Donatas Motiejunas and Benetton Treviso. We would expect a strong turnout of NBA scouts and decision makers on hand at this game.

Can Seraphin earn the trust of Turkish coach Erman Kunter the way former Cholet players and NBA draft picks Nando de Colo and Rodrigue Beaubois were able to last season? We’ll be monitoring this situation closely as the year moves on.

Euroleague announces 2010 Nike International Junior Classification Tournaments

-The Euroleague announced the dates and locations of the four international junior tournaments that will serve as qualifiers for the official annual tournament held at the Final Four, this year in Paris (May 7-9).

The first classification tournament will be the Torneo Citti Di Roma from December 27 to 29, 2009, in Rome, Italy. The second will be the Torneig de Basquet Junior “Ciutat de L'Hospitalet”, in L'Hospitalet, Spain from January 4 to 6, 2010. The third classification tournament will be the Euroleague Basketball Nike International Junior Classification Tournament Belgrade, organized by FMP in Belgrade, Serbia and running from February 12 to 14. The fourth and last will be followed by the Barking Abbey Academy Euroleague Basketball Junior Classification Tournament in London, from February 19 to 21.

The NIJT (and Euroleague Final Four) is an event we’ve attended for each of the last four years, and plan on covering once again this year. It’s given us an invaluable first glance at NBA prospects such as Donatas Motiejunas, Jonas Valanciunas, Milan Macvan, Alexey Shved, Tomislav Zubcic and many others.

2010 Youth Competition Calendar

-FIBA Europe announced the dates and locations of all their annual summer tournaments this week.

U20 European Championship, Division A, 8-18 July, Zadar, Croatia
U20 European Championship, Division B, 14-24 July, G?ssing/Oberwart, Austria
U18 European Championship, Division A, 22 Jul.-1 Aug., Vilnius, Lithuania
U18 European Championship, Division B, 22 Jul.-1 Aug., Tel Aviv, Israel
U16 European Championship, Division A, 5-15 Aug., Bar, Montenegro
U16 European Championship, Division B, 5-15 Aug., Tallinn, Estonia
U16 European Championship, Division C, T.B.D.

-In addition, we’ve also been informed of the dates of the Albert Schweitzer Tournament—April 3-10 in Mannheim, Germany--and participating teams, which you can find over at our friends at Surprising to see neither Serbia or Lithuania participating.

-One more notable date that should be added to the calendar is the FIBA U-17 World Championship, which will be held in Hamburg, Germany from July 2nd to 10th. The official site can be found here.

-We’ll inform you of the dates of the 2010 Reebok EuroCamp and Nike Hoop Summit as soon as they become known to us.

Looking Beyond the Draft

Jaycee Carroll making a name for himself in the ACB

Matt Williams

Around this time last year we identified Brad Oleson as a rising star in the ACB, and while Oleson has since left the shooter friendly atmosphere of Fuenlabrada to move to a bigger club (and paycheck) in Real Madrid and subsequently Tau Vitoria (now known as Caja Laboral), Jaycee Carroll appears to have succeeded him as the ACB’s most dangerous perimeter shooting threat, as evidenced by his recent 23 point outburtst against Real.

The former Utah State standout currently sits fourth in the extremely competitive ACB in points per game at 16.6 per-contest, while leading Gran Canaria to a 3-4 record. A threat to explode for a big game on any given night, Carroll is building a strong resume in one of the Europe’s strongest leagues, something NBA decision makers might need to take notice of.

Considering what Carroll accomplished last season as one of the top scorers in Serie A, this should come as no surprise. Finishing the season as the leading scorer for Banca Tercas Teramo, who ended last season in third place ahead of perennial powerhouses Benetton Treviso and Armani Jeans Milano before falling in the first round of the playoffs, Carroll emerged as a major offensive asset already in his rookie season. He spent last summer with the Hornets and their NBA Summer League entry, where he had a meager showing, shooting uncharacteristically poorly from the field in substantial playing time.

A gifted shooter who is lights out in catch and shoot situations who can make an impact running off of screens in half court sets and is not afraid to pull the trigger when he has space in transition, Carroll's jumper features a quick release and textbook form. Undersized for a shooting guard at 6’2 and lacking much in the way of point guard skills (he’s averaging nearly three times as many turnovers as assists), Carroll can score from essentially anywhere on the floor. Displaying a very quick first step and showing a knack for hitting shots off the bounce, Carroll’s jump shot is a constant threat. In addition to his shooting ability, Carroll displays some finishing ability, and does a good job picking and choosing his spots, but often struggles around the rim against NBA-level competition. Lacking the leaping and size to be a good finisher on the interior, Carroll’s athleticism is more conducive to playing a Rip Hamilton-esqe role, where he can use his quickness to create openings for his jump shot.

From an NBA perspective, Carroll’s lack of playmaking ability, below average size, skinny frame, and clear-cut defensive limitations certainly restrict the potential impact he could have against bigger and more athletic competition. However, his perimeter stroke, capacity for providing instant offense off the bench and impressive European resume could be attractive to any team looking for a Jannero Pargo or Daniel Gibson style shooting specialist. It’s extremely rare to see an American player producing in such impressive fashion right off the bat immediately upon arrival at this level of European competition, so there is certainly something to be said for that. Carroll’s physical profile may not project perfectly to the NBA, and at age 26 he isn’t as young as most second year pros, but at the rate he’s going, he’s destined to, at the very least, emerge as one of the more coveted American shooting guards in European basketball.

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