U18 European Championships: Final Report

U18 European Championships: Final Report
Jul 29, 2006, 12:13 pm
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You can find all the boxscores and recaps from the entire tournament at the official website



It was the most talented team in the championships, perhaps the best French generation of all-time. These very same guys had won the U-16 European Championship two years ago here in Amaliada, as well as the prestigious Mannheim tournament last April. Their erratic play during the tournament raised serious doubts about their real competitiveness, but an excellent run to the finals showcasing their physical dominance and overall quality worked well enough in the form of the Continental Junior throne.

It’s a fair reward, despite having lost more games than Lithuania, Spain, Serbia and Montenegro or Russia; France has shown its dominance in the games that mattered the most, getting their revenge in the semifinals and finals versus Spain and Lithuania after having lost to both them in previous games.

It’s an extremely athletic team, also very deep, that loves to push the game tempo, but also with awesome individual talent, making very difficult for its rivals to keep up for an entire game. We’ve heard rumours about problems concerning the coaching stuff, players and their parents, which might partially explain the three consecutive losses the team suffered. Anyway, it was pretty obvious that the French squad significantly raised its defensive intensity for the crucial last games.

It’s time for dreaming now. It’s scary to think what France could achieve as a National Team whenever this great generation joins an already incredibly talented young squad that also might be able to add the NCAA sensation Joakim Noah in the near future. Glorious days might be waiting for les bleus.


It couldn’t be any other way.

It’s debatable whether he’s even the most important guy on his own team. Indeed, in my opinion, Antoine Diot is the heart and soul of this French squad, and as much as he might have struggled in some games with his shooting or set-offense distribution, he’s always necessary on the court for this team. He’s the personality that gels the squad and pushes it to the victory.

Still, it’s Batum. Why?

He has enjoyed the best playing level on the winning team despite his initial struggles. Nicolas came back in the quarterfinals round, making up for his unnoticed performance in those first games. But he really erupted in the semifinals, showcasing some really amazing stuff with astonishing proficiency, also delivering some impressive pearls in the final (those 4 blocks he had are quite significant).


Batum just needs to deliver some more consistent action during the games, to be a more visible and felt presence, because he sometimes disappears too easily. Of course, I’m not meaning to necessarily take more shots, but to take more decisions.

Anyway, he has confirmed his status of best NBA prospect seen in this tournament, arguably even the best international prospect for the upcoming years. We’ve spoken to Jeremy Medjana, from the agency that represents the player, and he doesn’t rule out that Nicolas will declare for the next draft. Right now the hype couldn’t be any better, and this player is for real. Still, he’s very young (born in December, meaning almost a first-year junior), and we’ll see how much playing time is given next season in Le Mans, the current French champion and therefore in the Euroleague for the next campaign, and how well he fares. 2008 probably sounds like a more natural draft class for him.


Zygimantas Janavicius solidified his status as the best point guard in the championship, leading his team to the finals. He has been a consistent creative force for Lithuania, a court leader that has regularly broken defenses and dished good passes almost at will, indeed leading the tournament in assists. He’s the only first-year junior in the all-tournament five, and he’s not the mature-type of player who shines early only to dilute in senior stages, which speak volumes about his bright potential.


If Janavicius was the best playmaker, there’s no doubt that his backcourt teammate Martynas Gecevicius was the best pure shooter. He’s a short guy, even for European standards, who doesn’t share the potential of the other four nominees, but it’s hard not to love every bit of his game considering the skills and basketball knowledge he brings to the table.

An old school shooter, his mechanics are perfect, starting with his footwork, continuing with the way he elevates, always balanced, and finishing with a quick and smooth release of the ball. He’s excellent coming off screens, moving without the ball, but he’s equally effective shooting off the dribble, showing nice ball-handling skills, or even passing the ball, with a good read of the situations and spaces he creates as a shooting menace. Did I mention that he’s Lithuanian?

Moving to the frontcourt, Víctor Claver sees finally recognized, not only his talent, but also his effort on the court. He’s a player we’ve been praising for the last couple of years given his intriguing showings in the L’Hospitalet tournament, and this championship has only confirmed that we’re dealing with major upside here.


For a player that had been accused of lacking character, he has made a huge statement with his consistency, even completely taking over a key and complicated game against Turkey in the quarterfinal round when things got ugly for Spain. Not even in the semifinal, having a horrible shooting day, he gave up trying stuff and playing hard on the court. Some of the credit has to go to the Spanish coaching staff, that has done a terrific job working mentally with the team, especially with Claver.

The last player, Miroslav Raduljica, has been the cornerstone of the strong Serbian squad. He has tyrannized the game in the paint with a very solid array of skills while showing a nice basketball IQ. However, the poor competition he has faced when it comes to big men made things a lot easier for him.


There are two very intriguing prospects that haven’t been able to make these European Junior Championships.

Particularly, we really miss Danilo Gallinari, arguably the best player of this age group in all of Europe. The 6-9 small forward has been out for a few months now due to a foot injury, after shining in the rather tough Italian Lega Due (second division). He would have likely taken Italy, already a solid team that was able to make the quarterfinal stage, to another level, perhaps making them medal contenders.

The other guy is not as well known, but he’s truly an intriguing prospect. His name is Marko Keselj, another 6-9 small forward who has played for Mega Ishrana in the Serbian League this last season. He’s a long and athletic youngster with a good feel for the game and some nice skills, particularly an excellent perimeter stroke and a very nice ability to put the ball on the floor. His presence would have provided Serbia a ridiculously big frontcourt, although he likely wouldn’t have been anything close to the difference maker that Gallinari might have been.


As much as we have complained about the location and misleading advertising of the venues, we have to give our best accolades to the organization of the event, to both FIBA and the local people. They have been always willing and helpful, making our job a lot easier.

So we can only give big thanks and congratulations for an excellent tournament.


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