U-19 World Championship Review: Forwards

U-19 World Championship Review: Forwards
Aug 23, 2007, 12:52 pm
It's time to take a look at the forwards in our player-by-player recap of the U-19 World Championship. Here we find some of the best prospects seen in Novi Sad, including Nicolas Batum, Michael Beasley or Víctor Claver.

1988, SF, 6-8, France; 11.7 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 4.3 apg, 2.6 spg


Despite all the criticism or blame he might have taken during the tournament, Batum was hands down one of the very best players of the championship, an orchestrator for France, working on every area of the game. Yes, he might have deferred in the scoring department and eventually shied away from the ball down the stretch, but there’s a lot more to talk about his performance, and always on a positive note.

He’s probably the most physically gifted player seen in Novi Sad. His combination of size for his position, smooth athleticism and NBA frame was unmatched. He’s slowly getting stronger, already showing an extremely intriguing body, and whenever he decides to put serious work in that department, he will quickly gain all the strength he will need for the next level.

Regardless of his relatively low scoring average, Batum was an extremely important piece on the offensive end, often the catalyst for his team --breaking defenses off the dribble to feed an open teammate. A very solid ball handler, enjoying an excellent first step and long strides, his opponents can barely keep him under control, so Nicolas forces continuous defensive rotations. At some point, his teammates might have been better off him attacking himself themselves, but it’s indisputable that he made things happen for France, showing a great basketball IQ in the process. Still struggling a little bit from long-range distances, his shooting production was inconsistent, but he shows excellent ability to create his own shot, as he can effortlessly pull up off the dribble to release a jumper over his defender with very low chances of being contested.

Leading France in assists and steals, second in rebounds, Batum was all over the court. His defensive display was really good. His combination of length and lateral quickness is a nightmare for most opponents. He could virtually match-up with any guy from the point guard position to the power forward spot. He’s also an excellent team defender, very active using his long arms in the passing lines, and a terrific rebounder, always alert to clean the glass and willing to use his athleticism.

Back to his mentality, he might not be able to become a real go-to player at the top level, but he could easily emerge into a superb team player that every coach would love to have on his team.

1989, PF, 6-9, USA; 12.8 ppg, 5.3 rpg


In terms of potential, very few players can compare with this super athletic forward. Beasley just enjoys a god-given body, very strong, ripped, perfectly built, and stands up to 6-9, which is great size for a three and, considering his awesome athleticism, decent for a power forward.

Right now Beasley is nothing but a four. He plays mostly in the paint, where he shows a great ability to find spaces and sneak through opponents. Left-handed, his go-to move is the turnaround jumper from the mid to low post. He can create a lot of separation from his match-up in the blink of an eye, as he delivers a pretty long step while being able elevate extremely well to shoot the ball. Although he's pretty consistent netting the ball in this fashion, he wasn't very accurate in the decisive games. He's also a solid mid-range shooter, although losing some accuracy as he goes further from the basket.

Anyway, the most impressive stuff usually comes when Beasley attacks the basket to finish around the rim. Although he can eventually put the ball on the floor to take advantage of his quickness with a couple of dribbles, he's not much of a ball-handler, and usually prefers to play off the ball looking for continuation moves from the elbow towards the basket. Once he receives the ball, he shows extremely solid footwork (for example, he's able to deliver quick reverse moves). He can hang in the air forever with terrific balance, and displays a staggering ability to finish his acrobatic layups with both hands, using counters to alter his shot and switching the ball from one hand to the other. More of a finisher than anything else, still he showed some nice effort in the rebounding department and also shared the ball reasonably well.

Beasley probably wasn't the most devoted and focused player on defense, but still he did a pretty decent job there. His tools are excellent, with great lateral quickness and the reactivity to answer any opponent's move. Only his relatively average size at the power forward position could hurt eventually him. On a different note, there might be some concerns about his character and attitude. He was rather integrated in this squad, but his body language is just awful, and he couldn't stay cool enough in the decisive games to be more useful for his team. Perhaps a small degree of maturity wouldn't hurt him.

1988, SF/PF, 6-10, Spain; 17.6 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 2.4 apg


What early into the tournament looked like a possible big-time outing, ended up as a rather inconsistent performance, very dependant on his perimeter accuracy, while opponent teams also adjusted on Victor to slow him down after those early impressive showings.

Still, there’s plenty to feel intrigued about regarding Claver’s game. Most of his best attributes have been showcased in this championship. Obviously beginning with his superb physical/athletic profile. You don’t see such a skilled guy standing 6-10 and enjoying that kind of quickness and leaping ability every day. However, it’s still an athletic issue that (perhaps momentarily) keeps him away from the perimeter, as his defensive lateral quickness struggles against real wings. Skill-wise, he’s all the way a perimeter player.

At some point, we could see the complete package. Shooting, ball-handling, passing, shot-blocking, rebounding, activity on the court, basketball IQ... His perimeter stroke looked extremely intriguing at times. If he manages to gain consistency with his off-the-dribble long-range attempts, he would become next-to unstoppable. The way he puts the ball on the floor to get his match-up off-balance and go up for a shot--using his length and nice elevation-- makes those jumpers extremely difficult to contest at any level. He was also productive with turnaround jumpers from the mid-post, usually from near the baseline. For a guy with his ability to light his opponent up off the dribble, it would be extremely useful to work on his skills finishing around the basket. He struggles using his left hands in layups, and it’s not like he can make magic with his right. He could probably use a bit of body control while in the air and better footwork in the slashing department.

Defensively, he suffers from his lack of clear position, as besides his struggles facing perimeter opponents, he’s not strong and physical enough to deal with some inside players. We’ll see how things turn out for him, but expect Claver to play the power forward position full time next season in Pamesa Valencia.

1988, SF, 6-5, USA; 8.8 ppg, 3.9 rpg


Amongst the number of players that eventually filled the small forward position on the US Team, Lighty was probably the most consistent one. Still, he's not a pure three, but more of a swingman, pretty smooth in his moves and rather effective in his efforts. Nicely athletic and strong as virtually all his teammates, he was a very reliable piece in a squad that successfully tried to play as a real team.

Even if his 6-5 size should point towards a shooting guard (he might be closer to 6-6, though), he's not your typical creative ball-handling perimeter player, but more of a guy who tries to take advantage of the opportunities created within the game flow. Not a great shot-creator, he can still consistently put the ball on the floor to attack his match-ups looking for his elegant lay-ups, effective even against opposition. Actually, his combination of athleticism and balance in the air provides some very esthetic moves. Lighty also emerged as a very solid shooter, particularly in spot-up fashion, sometimes coming off a cutter that he nicely transforms in a jumper move. He can remain decently effective out to the three point line, although his mechanics are slower here and he was not particularly prolific. Solid in the rebounding area, he was particularly active on the offensive glass, getting scoring production off put-backs. He also delivered on defense, being part of the excellent perimeter line of the US Team, where he could use his solid lateral quickness and strength.

Anyway, Lighty doesn't look like a big-time talent, but more of a nice role player that gets the job done on a regular basis. His ability to develop his guard skills will likely determine his future NBA draft stock.

1988, SF/PF, 6-10, Serbia; 6.7 ppg, 1.8 rpg


After his very poor showing in Treviso and an entire season riding the bench in Spain, nothing much was expected out of Keselj. But even if his performance was very inconsistent, he had a few nice moments before falling injured, displaying some of his main strengths. The most intriguing part about his game is the fact that he’s a nicely athletic 6-10 forward with skills to play on the perimeter. Still rusty and streaky with his long-range shot, he shows nice mechanics even in off-the-dribble fashion, looking more reliable from the mid-range area. He’s capable of putting the ball on the floor, although his ball-handling skills are limited so he’s not very effective unless he finds a direct line to the basket. Defensively, he’s quick enough to match-up against wings, as he showed defending Nicolas Batum in the game versus France. All in all, what Keselj needs is heavy minutes of playing time next season to settle down his game. He might now get that, as it was recently announced that he’s being loaned by ACB squad Girona to the more appropriate level of the German league, where he’ll play with Koln. That has to be considered a smart move by all parties involved.

1988, SF/PF, 6-7, Nigeria; 17.2 ppg, 8.6 rpg


We didn't have the chance to catch too much action of Negedu, as his team soon ended the competition in one of the bottom four spots. Still, eventually emerging as the go-to guy for Nigeria, we did have the chance to witness Negedu taking advantage of his greatly superior physical strength and athleticism to deliver in the paint. He’s a sort of combo-forward who filled the four position in this tournament full-time, but might be suitable for the three spot down the road. He looked rather skilled finishing around the basket, showing a nice soft touch and a decent mid-to-short-range jumper. His range extends out to the three-point line, but he loses accuracy in the process. He can eventually put the ball on the floor, but he doesn't particularly stand out with his ball-handling skills. He's aggressive going for rebounds and blocks, showing great reactivity. If he manages to polish his perimeter skills-- such as his shooting and ball-handling-- enabling him to be a effective face-up player from the perimeter, he could emerge as a very interesting prospect. Negedu goes to school at Brewster Academy and is committed to playing at Arizona in 2008.

1988, PF, 6-9, France; 4.1 ppg, 3.1 rpg


Despite not having played a great tournament and still looking somewhat raw, Tillie has shown intriguing abilities, particularly looking very active handling the ball. Displaying nice length and a solid frame (still in need of some work), he’s an athletic and reactive power forward. He gets off his feet very easily, enjoying excellent quickness bouncing off the ground. Tillie doesn’t particularly stand out with his basketball IQ and feel for the game, but he seems to be a hard worker. His best weapon is a nice mid-range jumper with a high release point thanks to the elevation provided by his leaping ability. Still somewhat clumsy in the low post, he looks for the turnaround jumper there. As mentioned, he can put the ball on the floor, and actually did so quite often. Showing improved ball-handling skills, he’s still not very effective creating for himself off the dribble. He can beat opposing power forwards thanks to his quickness, but he’s not smart and skilled enough to cash in off the advantages he generates. Only hard work will allow Tillie to make up to a certain extent for his lack of pure natural talent.

1988, PF, 6-10, Brazil; 7.6 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 2.8 topg


One of the nicest surprises of the championship was this Brazilian forward (full name: Rafael Ferreira de Souza), not really outstanding in the competition, but who dropped some glimpses of his remarkable characteristics. He’s a long guy with a very nice combination of size and athleticism. Standing 6-10, he has the frame and mobility of a small forward. Not that he’s super-skinny, and actually still having the physical tools to grow into a power forward, but his build seems better suited for the perimeter. Indeed, although playing as a four, he was basically a full-time face-up offensive player.

The single most impressive part about Rafael’s game is the superb quickness he displays attacking his rival off the dribble. He enjoys a terrific first step, and although his ball-handling skills are pretty average, he can light up his opponent with that first impulse and his nice strides. Still, he often doesn’t know how to take advantage of this ability. He can dunk the ball or leave a layup without opposition, but he struggles whenever a defensive rotation comes in time. He’s neither a gifted passer or shows a great basketball IQ to come up with a creative solution. He certainly needs to work on gaining productivity in his slashing efforts. Rafael’s offensive game is completed by his shooting ability. Not a specialist, he can knock down some spot-up jumpers out to the three-point line, although his mechanics don't look particularly fluid.

1988, PF, 6-11, Puerto Rico; 13.8 ppg, 7.8 rpg

Anytime you see a near seven-footer comfortably netting shots from well beyond the NBA three-point line, it’s impossible not to pay attention. Angel Luis or just Angel Garcia is a very unorthodox guy, built like a center (for his age) but who also enjoys nice athleticism and loves to hang around the three-point line. Besides the crazy range on his shots, he can put the ball on the floor with both hands, showing surprising ball-handling skills for a player of his size and strength. However, he's not the smartest guy around to take decisions off the dribble, and therefore his effectiveness for the team is limited. He basically looks for the basket and goes up for a shot whenever someone steps in his way. He's not particularly productive in these situations, as his jumpers off slashing moves are usually rather unbalanced. Able to finish with both hands, for a right-handed player his left hand looks pretty skilled. Actually he looks like a player who has over-done himself in certain aspects of the game but who lacks solid basketball fundamentals to properly take advantage of those strengths. His basketball IQ looks average and he's not a creative player for his team. Garcia is virtually a full-time face-up player, and it's extremely difficult to see him taking advantage of his size in the low post. On defense he's not as physical as he should be, while his defensive rotations are somehow inconsistent. Garcia also goes to high school in the States, and is being recruited heavily by Florida, Louisville, Memphis and Indiana in particular.

1989, PF, 6-8, Korea; 14.6 ppg, 10.8 rpg, 2.6 bpg


On the crazy Korean team, a fun squad to watch, restlessly running the court, shooting, slashing and passing the ball, Jin Soo Kim emerges as the player with the biggest potential. Curiously, he did not play on the day South Korea upset Turkey, as he was injured, but he delivered in the games he could step into the court.

Jin Soo is a very skinny forward with decent athleticism and a very solid array of skills. He is an excellent long-range shooter, particularly in catch-and-shoot fashion, eventually capable of netting off-the-dribble attempts. Also, he can nicely put the ball on the floor with both hands, even if not enjoying great ball-handling skills, at least attacking the basket with nice quickness and determination. His physical limitations probably scare him away from the low post. He amassed a large amount of rebounds thanks to his positioning and timing, but also given the lack of size of his teammates. On defense, he is pretty active, helping his teammates with his nice shot-blocking ability (showing again nice timing), although his lateral quickness might be questionable for a perimeter player.

Actually, his position on the court is the biggest challenge he faces. It is not clear at all that he will be able to play the small forward position. His skills seem more suited for the PF spot, just as his athleticism, but physically he is extremely weak and it remains to be seen how much stronger he will get. Size chimes in also as he stands somewhere between 6-8 and 6-9, and will not make up for other shortcomings with his length.

Kim is yet another American high school product, this time from South Kent, although being part of the 2009 class he still has two more years left before he decides on what college he wants to attend.


Sharing a bit of a similar profile and duties with Donte Green, Raymar Morgan was one of the small forwards that the US Team used in a combo-forward role during the tournament. Standing around 6-7, strong, showing solid athleticism, he's not a greatly talented player, but he can do the basics, such as shoot the ball out to the three-point line (not always consistently), put the ball on the floor, play good defense and stay strong in the rebounding area. Nothing spectacular, but still useful for his team.

Playing for a rather disappointing Turkish team, Can Ozcan was one of the most interesting players. Born in 1989, this 6-8 small forward with a past at the power forward position, brings to the table a very nice perimeter stroke, even in off-the-dribble mode. Also able to put the ball on the floor, if not a great one-on-one player, he can take advantage of unbalanced defenses to attack the rim.

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