Adidas NGT

2016 ANGT Recap: Top prospects at Europe’s premiere U18 Club tournament

Barcelona lifts the trophy at the 2016 ANGT in Berlin | Photo courtesy of AdidasNGT.com

Austin Green is an independent journalist and scout covering EuroLeague and NBA prospects in Europe. If you’d like to support LosCrossovers.com and see more articles like this, feel free to donate.

At the Adidas Next Generation Tournament in Berlin, an NBA scout used an analogy that I had to steal.

He was talking about a prospect – I won’t say who because the player is 17 and I don’t want to trash some poor kid on the internet – and he said:

“You look at him and it’s like looking at a really nice piece of fruit. And you’re like ‘Wow, I bet there’s a lot of juice here.’ And you squeeze and you squeeze, and there’s just no juice. There’s no juice! Where is it?! Where’s the juice?!”

That beautiful quote is the basis for my new system of analyzing prospects. Yeah, they might look good in warmups (shoutout 1st-Team All-Layup Line), but when the games are on, they gotta show us something. We — writers, scouts, fans — want to know: Where’s the juice?

I spent 4 days at the ANGT (formerly Nike International Junior Tournament). It’s the U18 European club championship and the new name looks like ANGST, which is fun because we’re talking about teenagers.

There were eight teams in attendance, split into two groups, and they each played three games in a round-robin format. The two best teams after the group stage – Barcelona and Crvena Zvezda from Belgrade – played in the final on Sunday.

Some of these kids I had watched in person before, others I had seen online, and some I hadn’t seen at all. The order of the prospects below is a loose ranking based on how much potential I think they have. I went with a detailed Top 5, then just listed some at the end because this thing started to look like a novel. If you want more info or think I left someone off (totally possible), hit me up and I’ll tweet some thoughts.

Full box scores, video highlights, etc

Rodions Kurucs (’98) – 6’8 SF/PF, Barcelona

Nationality: Latvian

I love Kurucs, and NBA scouts did too. He’s got it all. He’s long, athletic, he can handle, he can shoot, he can pass. He slides his feet on defense, he’s got good instincts. And my favorite thing: This kid is a killer.

Barca – who won the event just 1 week after winning the U18 Spanish Championships – brought him off the bench. He’s the most talented kid on the team, but they were loaded with long 3-4 combo guys and he was fresh off a knee injury. He missed six months, returning about three weeks before the tournament.

Whenever he entered the game, he was awesome. On Day 2 vs. Mega, he put on a personal dunk contest in the 2nd quarter: 1-hand jam on a baseline drive, two-hand dunk in traffic, another big two-hand slam. You can see two of the three in the video below (0:18 and 0:24)

In key moments late in games, he stepped up. In the final, he destroyed the next kid on this list, Zvezda’s 6’10” power forward Borisa Simanic (you can watch the entire championship game here).

Simanic loves to fake left, cross over right and drive to the rim for a right-hand finish. Kurucs knew this, so the first time Simanic tried to take him off the bounce, Kurucs slid with him, rose with perfect timing and swatted his dunk attempt. The second time, he stayed with Simanic again and stripped him before he could get the ball above his waist.

In the 2nd half, Kurucs took over offensively. First, he crossed up Simanic and dunked on him.

Next possession, he faked the drive and swished a step-back 3. A minute later, he drove right from the top of the key, cradled the ball with his right arm as a help defender swiped, and laid it in off the glass.

Kurucs finished the championship game with 14 points, most of them coming when the team needed him most. This kid is going to be really, really good.

Where’s the juice? Overflowing from the glass, spilling on the tablecloth and making everything all sticky and shit. He should be a lottery pick in the 2017 or 2018 Draft and a longtime NBA contributor.

Borisa Simanic (’98) – 6’10” PF, Crvena Zvezda

Nationality: Serbian

Simanic has all the physical tools. He’s a long-armed stretch-4 with good athleticism and a nice handle. He has a smooth 3-point shot and he often flies to the rim for thunderous dunks. He’s got good timing defensively, which is why he finished with 11 blocks in four games while altering a lot of other shots.

But with Simanic, there’s something missing. He disappears too often. He gives you a little taste of what he can do – maybe a monster block on one end, then a crossover and pull-up 3 on the other. And then he vanishes.

In his 1st game of the tournament, he didn’t look like wanted to be there at all. He was emotionless, he didn’t play with any energy or motivation, and his team deservedly lost to a less-talented Lietuvos Rytas squad.

In the 2nd game, he picked it up a little bit. He had 25 points (8/18 shooting) and 8 boards against the hosts ALBA Berlin. In the 3rd game against Real Madrid, he was a beast. He played with passion, particularly on defense, and the result was 19 points, 8 rebounds, 7 blocks and some “holy shit” reactions from scouts.

But once again, it was just a tease.

Early in the championship vs. Barca, he was on the court but nowhere to be found. He drifted as Barca built a 16-point 1st quarter lead. He gradually became more engaged, and he gave a few of those tastes I mentioned above.

Then Kurucs started ballin’ on him and Barca won the title. His numbers look good — 19 points, 6 boards — but his impact didn’t match the box score. In a championship game against good competition, that’s concerning.

I’m not a psychologist. I’ve never talked to the kid or his family. But word around the gym was that people close to him push him too hard. It’s unfortunate, but not surprising – if you’re a 6’10” kid in Belgrade, Serbia, your fate is sealed: You will train to play basketball and you will do it all the damn time.

So is he burnt out? Is he under too much pressure to dominate? Does he lack passion? I’d love to know.

Where’s the juice? Sometimes the glass is overflowing, but all too often it’s like half-full. With his physical tools and skills, he should be a top 10 or 15 draft pick. But his inconsistency makes him risky.

Atoumane Diagne (’98) – 7’0″ C, Barcelona

Nationality: Senegalese

The stereotype with Africans in European tournaments is they’re not always as young as the roster sheet says they are. This is partly based on reason – birth certificates from African countries are sometimes forged or impossible to find – and partly on regional racism. People look at a muscular African player in a European youth game and make stupid jokes about his age. But if they were watching a similar looking kid in a Los Angeles AAU tournament, the issue probably wouldn’t come up.

Diagne’s birthday is listed as 31/12/98 and some people were skeptical. But I think it’s legit, and honestly, if he’s 19 or 20 instead of 17, I don’t really care. The dude is damn good, and you’re not drafting players outside the top 10 with the expectation that they’re going to be on your team for 10-15 years anyway.

Diagne is massive and mobile, but what sets him apart from other big men is his instincts, timing and awareness.

He is fantastic at blocking shots as a weak-side help defender, which is not an easy thing to master as a teenage center. He is very good at reading where the offensive player wants to go, stalking him through the paint and leaping with perfect timing to block the shot.

This also applies to rebounding. He times his jumps well to pluck the ball out of the air. Sometimes an opposing player will be right there with him and he can’t grab the ball with two hands, so he hits it off the backboard with one hand, lands, and jumps again to snatch it.

When he grabs offensive rebounds near the rim, he is quick to go up again, either finishing with a powerful dunk or soft jump hook. He has a nice free-throw stroke (10/13 for the tournament) and he knocked down a few 15-18-foot jumpers in rhythm.

He even threw some nice passes, hitting a cutter from the low post and feeding a teammate from the perimeter with a bounce pass on a backdoor cut (1:36 and 2:03).

He still needs to make some improvements, of course. He’s not comfortable putting the ball on the floor, and he turned it over a couple times in the final because Zvezda smothered him when he caught it on the perimeter.

Still, he’s definitely going to be a prospect to watch in the future. He’s ready for some ACB minutes right now, although he won’t get them if Barca’s senior head coach Xavi Pascual returns next year.

Where’s the juice? The glass is pretty full. He could for sure be a 1st-round pick if he continues on this trajectory.

Sekou Dombouya (’00) – 6’7″ SF/PF, INSEP Paris

Nationality – French

I didn’t get to see Dombouya as much as I wanted — they kept putting INSEP games at 9am — but there will be plenty of opportunities. Born on Dec. 23, 2000, Dombouya was the 3rd-youngest player at the tournament, playing up two years in age.

He was incredibly advanced for a 15-year-old. He is a big kid with long arms, and he has some really nice skills. His outside shot wasn’t falling (4/15 on 3s), but his form looked ok and he was shooting with confidence.

When he slashed to the rim, he was basically unstoppable, converting 65% (13/20) inside the arc and averaging 14 points per game. He also played some good defense, dished three assists per game and soared for a couple rebounds that really impressed scouts in attendance.

He’s got some work to do, obviously. He was turnover prone (4.3 per game) and he still has to figure out some nuances of the game. But he plays with an encouraging mean streak, and he looks like he’s going to develop into a fantastic player.

Where’s the juice? For a 15-year-old kid, the glass is about as full as it can be. It will be interesting to see what he adds to his game over the next couple years.

Felipe Dos Anjos (’98) – 7’1” C, Real Madrid

Nationality: Brazilian

Scouts were really happy with how much Dos Anjos improved from last year, when he was a gangly 7-footer who wasn’t doing much except being very tall.

Over the course of a year, he looks a lot more comfortable in his frame, although he’s still a bit clumsy. But he can run the floor with more fluidity and he led the tournament in rebounds per 40 minutes, just ahead of Diagne (15.9 to 15.1).  He’s making real basketball moves in the post, using shoulder fakes to get defenders going one way, then hitting turn hooks going the other. He also had a couple powerful dunks, which is nice to see from him since he is still pretty thin.

He’s starting to step out and shoot 3s, which is really intriguing from a 7’1″ kid. He made 1/4 in 3 games, shooting it with confidence and good form. He can put the ball on the floor a little bit, and although you don’t want him doing that often, it is a good sign at this stage of his development.

Where’s the juice? The glass is pretty full, like Diagne. Unless he suffers a major injury (his posture worries me some), he will no doubt be drafted in the next couple years, and probably closer to 30 than 60. It will just depend on how much he improves his coordination and strength.

Honorable Mentions

These kids may or may not be future NBA players, but they stuck out to me for one reason or another. At the very least, they should definitely have good-to-great Euro careers. They are listed in no particular order. I missed most the Mega Leks games, so they aren’t as well represented here as they should be.

Sergi Martinez (’99) – SF/PF, Barcelona

Dino Radoncic (’99) – SF, Real Madrid

Jaylen Hoard (’99) – SF, INSEP Paris

Eric Vila – (’98) – SF/PF, Barcelona

Aleix Font – (’98) – SF, Barcelona

Maxim Esteban (’98) – SF, Barcelona

Aleksa Radanov (’98) – SF, Crvena Zvezda

Marko Pecarski (’00) – SG/SF, Mega

Novak Music (’98) – C, Mega

Luka Vasic (”98) – G, Mega

Gytas Masiulis (’98) – PF, Zalgiris Kaunas

Arnas Velicka (’99) – PG, Zalgiris Kaunas

Lukas Uleckas (’99) – Zalgiris Kaunas

Ignas Sargiunas (’99) – PG, Zalgiris Kaunas

Ferdinand Zylka (98) – PG, ALBA Berlin

Louis Olinde (’98) – PF, ALBA Berlin

Olivier Sarr (’99) – PF, INSEP Paris

Thimotee Bazille (’99) – C, INSEP Paris

Acoydan McCarthy (’99) – SF, Real Madrid

Samba Ndiaye (’98) – PF, Real Madrid

Francisco Salvador (’99) – PF/C, Real Madrid

Austin Green is an independent journalist and scout covering EuroLeague and NBA prospects in Europe. If you’d like to support LosCrossovers.com and see more articles like this, feel free to donate.

Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: