The best proof was yesterdays game against Croatia. With their U-20 team (kids born in 1986 and 1987) they rolled over a significantly older squad put together by the organization that included the likes of Halperin, Marquinhos, Freeland and Traore. With an excellent performance on both ends of the court, the Balkan team didnt have any problem despite lacking the presence of their top player Ante Tomic. They also exposed the logically poor chemistry of the Camp squad that contrasted with the very well oiled Croatian engine.
Which brings us back to his slashing game; it does look improved, but simply ineffective. As a sample, yesterday he delivered an impressive move, attacking his rival and performing an excellent direction change in traffic that left him in a relatively easy position to score. He executed the move with remarkable quickness, showing a very good first step, footwork and general coordination. But when it was time to go for the layup, left-handed in this case with some weak opposition coming from his right side, he clearly missed, showing once again that he has very little ability in these kinds of shots.
Its a problem weve voiced since his days in Italy, and he still hasnt managed to sort it out. Considering that hes not much of a high-flyer to comfortably finish with dunks, Marquinhos has a problem with trying to hide by passing the ball in most occasions. In the end, you have to wonder who is going to bet in the first round for a player whos still not ready and already 22 years old.
Were also starting to question the purpose of his whole season, and the reasoning behind showing up here in the Eurocamp. Marquinhos went from playing in the Italian second division, which happens to be quite a good league, stronger than most first European divisions and easily traceable by scouts, to lead a very weak team in a regional Brazilian league for a few months, and then focus on individual work, meaning that he hasnt played competitive five on five basketball for several months.
If the purpose was to hide the player, as some might think considering the facts, why expose him in Treviso? Shouldnt he have stuck to private workouts, for which apparently he had been preparing himself for in the last months? Otherwise, wouldnt it have been better for the players development and maturation process just to find a good spot for him in Europe, in a more competitive environment than he has enjoyed in Brazil?
Draft day will judge.
As serious as Marquihnos shooting woes might look, theres another player here doing even worse, always considering his (well-earned) reputation as a shooter.
One of our candidates for the player of the day was Mantas Kalnietis, who keeps impressing with his physical tools (size, athleticism, quickness), but also looked much more effective running plays and shooting the ball. He seems like a naturally talented kid, and if he gets a spectacular dunk in transition and then an impressive block on the other end of the floor, its hard not to feel intrigued.
Even if they are not NBA prospects, its always refreshing to see some players doing well who we knew in the past and have been out of the spotlight in the meantime. Just like Fabricio Vay, a 6-9 (in shoes) small forward born in 1986 who we had seen in the LHospitalet Tournament in 2004. He looked then seriously skilled but pretty unathletic. His athleticism is certainly improved now, and he has emerged as one of the most fundamentally sound players featured here. Shooting, dribbling, passing, hes extremely smart to know what to do every time and how to do it.
A similar feeling weve got with Mihail Anasimov (originally Ukranian and also known, with the Lithuanian suffixes, as Mihailas Anasimovas). We started tracking him in the 2004/05 season, when he was playing for Siauliai. According to our Lithuanian scout Almantas Kiveris, he was showing major improvements, as he wasnt anything else than a stiff the previous year. Anyway, he was a big guy (7-1 on shoes, although with average wingspan), with nice mobility and a certain feel for the game in general, in the low post in particular, even if his effectiveness was very limited. This season he played, and disappointed, in the Latvian team Barons Riga. But in this camp hes showing again that post intuition, especially surprising with his passing ability off the post. If he learns how to consistently put the ball on the net from down low, he should become a useful player in Europe.
Milenko Tepic left the camp yesterday. His knees where bothering him a little (nothing serious though), and he will now join the Serbian U-20 National Team for the Global Games, a competition that will serve them as a preparation for the U-20 European Championships, where Serbia should be one of the big favourites. Nemanja Aleksandrov, perhaps still not ready for the action, and Uros Tripkovic, who will get an invite for the senior team, are not expected to join them.
Another player who has left the camp, after a very good showing, is Ernests Kalve, who is joining Benetton Treviso for the Italian League Finals that start today. He wont probably see any action, contrary to what Andrea Bargnani is expected to enjoy. DraftExpress will attend the second game, to be played on Friday, live in the PalaVerde here in Treviso. Its now or never for Andrea after a somewhat disappointing playoffs, and it will be also a great chance to keep an eye on the hero of the semifinals for Climamio: Marco Belinelli.
The Player Of The Day: Rudy Mbemba
Mbemba is a tiny point guard who hardly reaches six feet, despite what the official measurements might say. He is impressively quick, athletic and quite tough. Hes a wild guy who has found in this wild setting at the Eurocamp the perfect scenario to display his natural game and shine.
Mbemba is a player that loves the up-tempo game, playing in the open court, pushing the ball, dominating it, attacking his rivals relentlessly, being very hard to keep him under control, and enjoying exhibiting his leaping ability, although I would personally prefer that he focused more on distributing the ball and take better decisions.
Yesterday, he succeeded in numerous situations. He was brilliant delivering some assists off the dribble. Hes not a bad passer, but hes not steady and looks for the flashy one. He also made a few shots, showing once again that he can put the ball in the net with nice range and some (but still improvable) consistency.
Mbemba has been really active on defense, staying close to his man (perhaps too much in certain situations), and successfully gambling for the steal on the defensive help, which has fuelled his transition vocation.
Still, were talking about a very undersized player who needs to mature (mentally, as physically he shows quite a strong and ripped body for a 1987 kid) and learn the ropes of playmaking.