The ACB teams continue their import policy, bringing players from all over the world to feed their youth programs that should provide the stars of tomorrow for the Spanish league. Thats why the LHospitalet Tournament, besides the fact that four foreign teams are brought every year, has become a global event in terms of participants. Besides the Balkans, we could see intriguing players coming from Africa, South America, Eastern Europe, or Spain itself, of course.
Although it ended up being an excellent edition of this tournament, the two non-Balkan foreign squads provided very little intrigue. CSKA lost every single game, even against the extremely limited hosting team. The Russian powerhouse seems to be forgetting lately about its junior program, buying instead older prospects such as they did with Anton Ponkrashov and Artem Zabelin. Perhaps they find more competition coming from other wealthy Russian clubs, but far gone it seems are the days where they featured virtually the entire Russian junior National Team core (like what happened with the 1986 and 1987 generations).
As for Pau Orthez, to bring any French team not named INSEP is likely bound to become a disappointment, since usually the best French talents play with the federal centre at the junior stage. This wasnt any exception.
Continuity has been the theme in the selection process for this edition, as only one team changed from last years (Pau Orthez for PAOK). Its surely an effective route to gain these teams fidelity, and both the Spanish teams involved and the likes of FMP, Cibona or CSKA are good long-term bets (we would love to see Zalgiris joining that group). Short-term wise, it obviously limits the ability to bring some squads that might provide more interest in a certain edition, like Gran Canaria this year.
Anyway, lets take a look at the most interesting players seen here not born in the former Yugoslavian countries. The crop is headed by the intriguing African duo Michel Diouff and Papa Abdoulaye, that teamed up in F.C.Barcelonas frontcourt.
1990, PF, 6-9, AXA F.C.Barcelona
Right now, hes more of a back-to-the-basket player, but Diouff looks in the process of adding some face-up skills. His ball-handling ability looks underwhelming at this point, but hes not shying away from trying to beat his opponents off the dribble. Most of his attempts came from beyond the three-point line, right in front of the basket, and also first putting the ball on the floor and later attacking his match-up, usually with bad results, as he doesnt handle the ball well enough to manage a decent first step.
1990, C, 6-10, AXA F.C.Barcelona
When it comes to offensive skills, theres not much to speak of, but enough to keep the intrigue high. Abdoulaye already enjoys a solid mid-range jump-shot that he gets off with a rather high release point, therefore not easy to block. He also shows a real soft touch around the basket, which combined with the good coordination he enjoys, should provide him with a solid low post game down the road. The tools are there for him to work and take advantage of. Besides, he seems to understand the game nicely, reading some passes, asking for the ball in the right place, flowing with the offense. As usual with African kids who come out of nowhere, his real age is a bit of a mystery, but even though his body is notably developed, his face doesnt look particularly mature.
1990, PG, 6-5, Pamesa Valencia
Although distributing the ball wasnt supposed to be one of his strengths, Avramov looked more focused in LHospitalet then he had in the past, taking better care of the ball, sharing it with his teammates, or working to create opportunities through the drive and dish. His beloved flashy (and risky) passes didnt show up often here, playing more of an orthodox game, but also more effective. Still, he needs to keep improving with the way he distributes the ball, sets the team tempo, and finds the right rhythm for the offense, but hes on the right path.
Hes probably more focused and comfortable running the point because his ball-handling skills also looked improved. He could regularly beat his opponents attacking both ways, and relying on his dribbling ability, nice quickness and body to protect the ball in order to advance past his defender. Not showing much of a mid-range game, Avramov either looks for the layup or the pass. He enjoys solid court vision and easily finds his open teammates. Another big source of scoring for him is his perimeter stroke. Although staying a bit more erratic than in the last summer, he did connect on a number of long-range shots, even in off-the-dribble mode. With his superior size, its certainly a comfortable option for him.
It was very nice to see Avramov always stay positive on the court. Hes reportedly a good kid, always willing to joke with his mates, and he was the one cheering the team on when things went wrong, trying to keep everybody mentally in the game, and showing some leadership skills in the process.
1991, PF, 6-9, Unicaja Malaga
Right now, Lima is basically an on-ball player, but he does a nice job moving without the ball to look for opportunities near the basket. Probably the most intriguing part about his scoring game is his excellent touch around the basket with his right hand. He can also connect on some mid-range jumpers with promising consistency. On the other hand, besides his right-handed jumphook, he still doesnt have any real post-up game, but his coordination, promising frame and effectiveness around the basket is an excellent building block for a productive low post package.
Although we never saw Lima attacking his rival off the dribble, he did put the ball on the floor a few times when completely open, suggesting a moderate optimism about his ability to develop some ball-handling skills. A decent passer, especially from the low post, he seems to enjoy a solid basketball IQ.
Everything in his game speaks promise and potential. Hes a very limited guy now, but with the tools to develop into a serious player. Well keep an eye on him.
1991, PG, 6-3, DKV Joventut
Another greatly interesting skill that Franch enjoys is a very solid mid-range jumper he can easily net, even in off-the-dribble mode. Not being very big and neither extremely athletic in order to consistently attack the basket, its very useful for him to be able to rely on a solid jumper. He has three-point range, but didnt look as reliable here. An able defender, he shows good lateral quickness.
Franch usually practices with Joventuts first team, and he kept reporting during the tournament, which likely hurt his level of performance to some degree. Anyway, his basketball talent is too obvious to hide, even under a shade of fatigue.
1990, SG, 6-4, DKV Joventut
Of course hes the same finesse and very fundamentally sound shooting guard, really skilled, elegant, always evolving with poise on the court. He showcased similar strengths as he did then, such as his very good ball-handling skills to attack his opponents, often with crossover dribbles, good touch out to the three-point line, the ability to finish around the basket with both hands creatively, or very nice passing ability that he actually took advantage of this time in drive-and-dish situations. Hes a very fluid player, fluid moving on the court, fluid on the dribble, fluid in the release of the ball, a delight for the senses.
Not a great athlete and playing the shooting guard position with his 6-4/6-5 size, he basically looks strictly a prospect for international basketball, but a very interesting one.
The LHospitalet Tournament has solidified its status as a top junior tournament in Europe with two key deals.
The tourney has been almost entirely broadcasted on national pay TV, which is a great achievement for any youth competition. Besides, its apparently a three-year deal that should provide TV coverage for the following two editions.
The second deal involves the Euroleague. Among other organizational details, the big news here is that the two teams reaching the final in LHospitalet are automatically granted an invitation for the junior tournament the Euroleague runs during the Final Four.
That means that both FMP Zeleznik and AXA F.C.Barcelona will be in Madrid early in May. That is excellent news for the Euroleague, as both were the most interesting teams seen in LHospitalet, and probably the top two European junior squads this year.