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The European Cadet Championship: Final Report
by: Luis FernŠndez - Director of International Scouting
August 9, 2005
All pictures courtesy of FIBAEurope.com.

The European Cadet Championship is over. It probably wasnít our best basketball experience ever, but it was always very interesting, being the first contact with many youngsters that will be part of the international scene in the future, as well as a reunion point for different people in the basketball world. And not even the awful organization could spoil it.

Itís Turkey!



Turkey surprised everyone and came up as the well-deserved winner of the European Cadet Championship. Perhaps lacking a big star in this category, the team used its deep roster, stacked with good players particularly in the perimeter, and strong defense. After three years of continuously falling one step short of the Continental title in different youth categories, the Euro-Asian country finally won its first European crown (in any category) in almost thirty years. France finishing second and Spain third, completed the podium.

Turkish Coach Mete-Levent Topsakal deserves special recognition, not only because of the way he tactically directed his team, but particularly because of how he deals with his pupils. Heís an extremely supportive coach, always encouraging his players, and not punishing them for a simple mistake (weíve seen in Leon some talented guys being continuously benched in these circumstances, leading them to frustration). You can feel the special relationship he has with his players, getting all their respect and confidence. Indeed, the first thing the Turkish kids did when the final ended was to take his coach and throw him in the air.

The Prospects, Our Particular Podium

We have kept our word about limiting the number of players featured here in this tournament, to the point that only three, all dealt in the two previous reports, make this detailed player-by player section. However, it wasnít our intention to keep it that short, but itís true that this championship just didnít feature a great deal of top talent.

Nevertheless, weíve seen various other intriguing kids that could evolve into legit prospects, but given their early stage of development combined with their young age, we donít feel comfortable talking about them at DraftExpress, which is after all, a draft-related site. Weíre sure many more names out of this crop will come up in the following years.

For the moment, letís try to remember these three guys. Keep in mind that they are all just teenagers without pro experience and feature glaring holes in their games. As always, work is the only word they should care about right now.

By the way, we arenít considering the assists in the stats. The number accounted doesnít show the reality at all, as many assists were just ignored in the overall tally.

Antoine Diot
(France; 1989; 6-4; PG; 30.4 mpg, 21.9 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 4.1 spg)




The MVP of the championship was honored with the award by being by far the most dominant player seen in Leon. Diot enjoys a physical set that made this possible, as heís a rather tall point guard, with a good wingspan, that is very quick and explosive for his age. However, what sets him apart from the rest of players in the tourney, and virtually from every guy you can see in youth competitions, is his mental strength and leadership. Itís amazing to see a 16 year old kid who is so aware of his leading star role and at the same time, so responsible exercising it. Always respectful, in defeat he looked even majestic. Weíve been told that heís a very good student, coming from an excellent family who are true educators that are worried about properly teaching and raising him. Watching Antoine, nobody could say otherwise.

Diotís winning character is just outstanding, taking over games when things get ugly for his team. You would think that he just waits until the coach simply asks him to win the game for his teams and then he executes. We told you about the exhibition he had against Latvia, entering the game with France down by 19 points and coming away with the victory. But his most brilliant moment came in the semifinals against Lithuania, where he scored 14 points in the last quarter, including various clutch plays such as a complicated layup and a huge steal, in a thrilling game that sent France to the final after coming back from a double-digit deficit.

Of course, Diot is not perfect. You can find his biggest flaws at this moment are in his array of skills. Heís an average ball-handler that enjoys a nice slashing game thanks to his physical set and footwork, while showing good resources to deliver complicated layups with opposition. However, these slashing situations come in transition or semi-transition plays. For him itís rather difficult to get by his man from a static position. His dribble, and overall game, is particularly concerning regarding his left hand, being seriously unpolished at the moment. When dribbling, he constantly looks for his right hand, using the left just in situations where itís completely impossible not to, while he keeps the ďrightĒ trend also in regards to his layups, even if the play asks for him to make it with his left.

On the other hand, Diot is a pretty nice shooter, with good range and consistent accuracy even firing off the dribble, where he gets up quickly with rather nice mechanics, although heís surprisingly erratic from the free-throw line.

Not a great passer, he distributes the ball rather well, although mostly looking for low-risk passes. We could say that heís more of a scoring type point guard (being the fourth best scorer of the championship), although he comes without the baggage that these kind of players tends to carry, featuring, on the contrary, awesome decision making. From time to time, we have seen him deliver some great assists, but as the tournament advanced, it became more infrequent. Heís particularly quick and effective throwing passes in transition, always releasing the ball as soon as possible if someone is in a good position to attack the basket.

Defensively, he has been an important player for France, especially regarding his team approach. In the individual setting, he might eventually suffer against small and quicker point guards, although he did a nice job in the final against his speedy matchup. Also, he tends to choose to go underneath screens rather than hedging and going over them. However, I think itís just part of his pattern of stressing team defense, being in a better position to help his teammates this way, while we also have to consider that there werenít many players in the tournament capable of shooting off the dribble with good range and accuracy. Perhaps his best characteristic here is his ability to steal the ball, not only thanks to his wingspan and quick hands, but also due to the way he reads the passing lines. He finished the championship first in this department. His rebounding also deserves mentioning: he showed very good positioning, and his athleticism did the rest.

I personally think that heís a very promising player. He might raise serious doubts because of his skills, having dominated because of his physical set. Indeed thatís what happened up to a certain extent. But heís a player that is so focused on the game, so serious about what he does, that I think he will be able to sort out most of his skill limitations. At least, I trust him a lot more than other players who are more skilled but showed highly questionable attitudes.

Ricky Rubio
(Spain; 1990; 6-3; PG/SG; 30 mpg, 11.4 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 3.9 spg)




The hype might be out of control with this Spanish kid, but heís still a very intriguing basketball project. He was clearly the most interesting prospect born in 1990 seen here, regardless of the problems he faced delivering the premiere skill in basketball: to score.

Surprisingly for a player who seems as if heís born to play the game whenever he has the ball in his hands, Rubio right now shows a horrible stroke from anywhere on the court. The only way heís able to consistently add points is through open layups under the basket. Against the least opposition, he doesnít show a soft touch to net any of his unorthodox layups, while he can be fully open to fire a jumper that most likely wonít go in. Besides limiting his scoring production, this issue makes him much more predictable and easy to defend, as he usually looks for driving and dishing.

At this point someone could ask himself how in the world is this kid a top prospect. Well, as a matter of fact, Rubio can do many things on the court better than almost anyone his age.

Letís first state that heís a 6-3 guard who is extremely explosive for a 14 year old kid even if heís still very skinny. Just checking his rebounding numbers can give you an idea about this, as smart as he in positioning himself in these situations. He can play both guard positions, but his team Joventut Badalona is wisely playing him as a point during the season, a position for which he already has the size and the tools, and where he might become dominant. In the Spanish Cadet National Team, that sadly seems to worry first about winning rather than developing players, heís primary used as an off guard.

Back to his skills, Rubio is a terrific ball handler, which considering his quickness, excellent first step, footwork and ability to change gears, makes him really hard to stop whenever he decides to step into the lane. Heís also a great passer, enjoying excellent court vision and nice decision making. He can deliver from the perimeter, feeding cutters, but his most typical play is to dish after beating his matchup. He can be quite flashy.

Ricard has gifts not only for the offensive end, but also which are quite valuable on defense as well. Although he didnít always deliver his best effort, he has awesome potential as a defensive stopper. With quick legs, a good wingspan and quick hands, heís already an awesome ball-thief (second in the tourney only behind Diot), terrifying any rival here driving the ball.

In our first report from Astorga, we suggested that some of the hype might have gone to his head. Well, in spite of his improvable defensive effort, considering the tournament as a whole, it didnít seem that way, at least not as clearly. Rubio looks serious about the game, of course from his particular game style, and he's reportedly rather a mentally mature kid for his young age. Indeed he took over the leading role on the team, not only on the floor with his actions, but also vocally, despite being one year younger than most of his mates. All this looks extremely important right now, because if thereís something Ricard canít afford itís the luxury of being content with his game, particularly due to his scoring flaws. Right now he can do a lot of things on the court that simply wonít work against superior competition if he doesnít improve his shooting, even if he keeps developing the other parts of his game.

Bojan Bogdanovic
(Croatia; 1989; 6-7; SG/SF; 37.4 mpg, 21.9 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 2.9 spg)




Perhaps the best combination of height, athleticism and skills in the tourney, heís far from transmitting the same kind of feelings that both Antoine and Ricard produce. Heís a player who doesnít necessarily show up in the key moments of the game, nor is he a constant reference on the court, despite his offensive strengths (he finished as the third best scorer in the tournament). Anyway, heís really a fundamentally sound player, showing lots of finesse in his movements.

Being capable of filling both wing positions, his place on the court will solely depend on how much he grows, as he has the tools to play shooting guard if he doesnít add a single inch. Heís quite athletic, featuring very nice quickness and leaping ability at his age.

Guard or forward, he will likely be a shooter. Itís his natural instinct, and you can feel it even from the warm up. However, heís still not too consistent. He enjoys good range, and curious mechanics, with the elbow of his shooting arm being more open than usual. I donít think this characteristic has to necessarily affect his accuracy, but itís true that the movement is not always equally fluid.

He displays the ability to shoot off the dribble, but doesnít show it on a regular basis, which is another reason why he wasnít the real go-to guy on his team. He prefers to chase open looks, showing nice movement without the ball, including effective backdoor plays. He will likely rely much more on his off the dribble skills in the future given his remarkable ball-handling skills and coordination. Heís one of those players that usually seems balanced on the court. Those same ball-handling skills allow him to penetrate with fair success. Heís not too prolific here, instead preferring to fire from the perimeter, but he enjoys quite a nice first step and decent footwork. He feels noticeably more comfortable slashing and working with his right, although he curiously executes dunks and layups with his left every time heís alone in transition, which were numerous given how he loves to run the court.

On defense, again like Diot and Rubio, heís particularly good stealing the ball. His wingspan and quick hands are his weapons. His lateral movement still needs work, though. However, he usually faced smaller players, and it shouldnít be too much of a problem once he gains strength and some more explosiveness. In this tournament, he hasnít proved to be too much of a passer. He can dish off after beating his man, but anyway that wasnít a very common situation for him.

All in all, Bogdanovic is a player who raises less question marks regarding his skills, while apparently his attitude is good. Heís clearly a nice project who should pan out with the necessary effort.
 


Feedback for this article may be sent to luisfernandez@draftexpress.com .

 

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