2009 U-20 European Championship Review: Wings

2009 U-20 European Championship Review: Wings
Sep 30, 2009, 09:22 pm
Nico Van den Bogaerd

We take a look back at the U-18 European Championships celebrated in July in Rhodes to individually check on the best players seen in the competition, continuing with the wing players.

ROBIN BENZING, SF (PF), 6’10”, Germany, 1989
22.2 PPG; 5.0 RPG; 2.0 APG

German standout Robin Benzing emerged as the tournament’s leading scorer, averaging nearly five points more than the second-ranked player in that category. When he was on the court, he was the clear go-to-guy and driving force for his squad. Benzing runs the floor really well, showing good hands, long arms and great size for the small forward position where his coach (former senior national team member Hendrik Rödl) played him.

He’s quite agile and has good mobility, even if he lacks strength and better athleticism to be a more effective finisher inside, especially with his left hand. Although an okay passer with good court vision, his mind is mostly set on scoring himself, which, to his credit, he did very effectively throughout the tournament. He has the ability to make very quick decisions once he receives the ball. Whether it is to make use of his quick first step to drive or shoot a three. He attempted more than seven 3-point shots per game, more than his 2-point attempts for that matter, but made them at a sizzling 40% rate. Benzing doesn’t have the nicest looking stroke and doesn’t show the highest release point either, but his size and quick release enable him to get it off anyway. He was fairly successful with his slashing as, getting to the free throw line 8 times per game.

Overall he understands the game pretty well, showing good awareness on both offense and defense, giving a confident impression and providing instructions to teammates. He seems to be pretty consistent with his play as well, which is not always the case at this age group.

Defensively he’s not much of a force at all, as he’s not a very tough or intense player, and thus has many difficulties staying in front of his man. He gets beaten too easily both defending on the interior and against perimeter oriented matchups. In four of his five games he actually ended up with four plus fouls. It’s possible that he will need to move to the power forward at the professional level for this reason,

SEAD SEHOVIC, SF, 6’7”, Montenegro, 1989
17.6 PPG; 4.9 RPG; 4.0 APG

Montenegro’s Sead Sehovic was the tournament’s second leading scorer with 17.6 points per game. Although not the quickest or most athletic player around, his very solid and strong body frame gives him an edge at this level.

Sehovic is able to handle the ball, even taking it up court on several occasions. He’s quite effective slashing decisively to the basket, while still keeping an eye out for open teammates to dish the ball too. He forced a fair share of fouls thanks to his aggressiveness. He can finish with both hands near the rim, but he does show a strong preference to initiate penetration towards his better right side. He’s a player with a good basketball IQ and awareness on the court, as he’s confident and creative playing the game.

Sehovic’s outside shooting on the other hand still needs a lot of work. He shot the ball more from long range with worse shot selection, and thus his percentages went down from 36% to 26% in 3 point field goals compared to last year in Riga. He is quite a good passer, though, both from his drives or from static positions. He’s also an excellent rebounder, possessing great positioning and timing. He makes sure to box out his matchup and often goes for offensive boards too.

Sehovic plays with intensity and is a pretty reliable defensive presence. He’s a good hustler, shows decent lateral speed and always gives a consistent effort. As a player to lead a team on offense he will most probably not be the best choice. Nonetheless as a versatile glue guy, he’ll have a nice career in Europe. If he can become more reliable as a shooter, he can probably play at a very high level there.

PERE TOMAS, SF, 6’7”, Spain, 1989
14.9 PPG; 8.3 RPG; 0.8 APG

Within the Spanish team Pere Tomas was among the top players, and certainly the most consistent. Not only with his 15 points per game, but also his very strong rebounding at over 8 per game. Tomas has a decently sized and strong frame, although he lacks the agility and athleticism to be considered a great NBA prospect.

It says a lot about the tournament he played, being able to reach such a high scoring average when he’s not really a dominant scoring-type of player, being much more an intelligent hard working team player, showing good toughness and confidence. You won’t see him forcing many shots, as he’s actually not a very good shooter, being very irregular from 3-point distance (27%), and not possessing a very quick release, which makes it difficult for him to shoot off dribble. He did convert 92% of his free throws however. Tomas is not a reliable enough ball handler to bring the ball up half court. He’s good enough for some dribbles to slash to the rim though, but only occasionally.

Truth be told, Tomas is a player who’s able to do many things on the court without excelling in any of them. He’s an OK passer on the perimeter, but is relatively limited when driving further. He did take his match-ups into the post several times, from where he can use his superior strength, turn around jumpers and even jump hooks to score. He also has good awareness and positions himself excellently, whether it is to catch and shoot an open three or to grab an offensive rebound.

Tomas shows a very good effort overall, running up and down the floor consistently, while giving good intensity on both the defensive end and on the glass. He boxes out for rebounds, usually also pursuing offensive rebounds out of his area.

On defense he’s certainly a solid part of the team, aware when on help side, contesting shots, and giving it all in order not to get beat on the perimeter or in the post. His average quickness and lateral speed nonetheless limit his possible success against some quicker opponents.

Tomas is a blue collar type of player who may not have great upside but can regardless emerge as a very effective player in the ACB league.

11.8 PPG; 6.4 RPG; 1.8 APG

The MVP of the championship team, although based on the whole tournament Bogris and Pappas could’ve also made a case for that honor. Still, he was the heart and soul of the team, and led all players in minutes played at over 33 per game.

Papanikolaou is a tough and intense player, always showing a lot of passion and emotion on the court, including constantly complaining to the referees. He has a very nice and strong frame to go along with decent athleticism and agility. He’s a solid passer, both on the perimeter and when slashing to the basket. He handles the ball well with his strong left hand, however with his right he’s noticeably weaker. His penetrations mostly go left as well, but he is pretty successful there, finishing with high percentages around the rim, always with confidence and aggressiveness. On the downside he did turn the ball over a decent amount, which was often caused by sloppy decision-making.

Papanikolaou displays a good looking stroke that was not consistent at all during this tournament, shooting just 28% during the tournament. His free throw percentage must improve significantly as well, at just 61%. Although he did play minutes on the 4 position, his future with the pros is definitely as a small forward. He’s able to post up against other 3’s, but he’s undersized to do so against real power forwards on the elite level.

As a rebounder he did a very good job here, showing good awareness for offensive boards and being very effective defensively as well en route to his team-leading 6.4 rebounds per game. Overall he’s a pretty good defensive player, both in man to man (possibly lacking better lateral quickness on the perimeter), as well as getting in the passing lanes and coming from the weak side. To emphasize that, he averaged 2 steals and 1.4 blocked shots per game here.

Konstantinos Papanikolaou is a 1990 born player with a good potential, something that Olympiacos likely agrees with since they just paid a 1 million Euro buyout fee to Aris to secure his rights. His NBA potential is still up in the air, but he’s bound to become a valuable player in high-level Europe at the very least.

ELIAS HARRIS, SF, 6’6”, Germany, 1989
14 PPG; 6.4 RPG; 0.4 APG

Strongly built with a developed upper body, Harris is quite an explosive athlete considering his frame, Elias Harris was the second most important player for the German Mannschaft, after Benzing. Even with his good effort and intensity, he’ll suffer defending on the perimeter at times trying and stay in front of his match-up without fouling. Harris isn’t a very good passer and he would need to work on his ball-handling skills too.

As far as his shooting is concerned, his stroke itself looks decent, but he needs plenty of improvement in this aspect, as his terrible 41% free throw percentage would indicate. He does seem to be aware of his limitations regarding as a 3-point shooter, though, and thus hesitates to attempt perimeter jumpers. Slashing to the basket however he’s very hard to stop, being able to go right or left. He doesn’t have the greatest touch right now, but his strength, explosiveness and good balance compensate to be a reliable inside finisher nonetheless, helping him rank first in overall field goal percentage at 60%. Even being undersized, he can do quite a bit of damage in the low post too, using his body well and even showing off some spin moves.

As a rebounder he’s not a fierce pursuer of offensive boards, but is very strong going after defensive rebounds. And if he would do a better job boxing out, it can only get better. He contributes in other aspects such as stealing and shotblocking too, collecting one of each per game here on the Greek Island. On the other hand the 3.2 turnovers were the clear negative part of his performance. In 25 minutes this is really too high.

Generally still a quite raw player with an interesting progress margin, Harris will be interesting to keep track of at Gonzaga.

MINDAUGAS KUZMINSKAS, SF, 6’8”, Lithuania, 1989
9.9 PPG; 5.2 RPG; 0.3 APG

When he’s mentally in the game and motivated, Kuzminskas was one of the most enjoyable wing players to watch here at the European Under-20. He has good size for his position and long arms, and is also quite athletic and agile, being able to run the floor very well with good speed, disposing of decent balance and good quickness too.

His shooting stroke is really very nice, showing a quick release and a pretty high release point, however his percentage from beyond the arc surely doesn’t credit him as a good outside shooter (13%!). He was not what you would call streaky, he was simply completely off target. The 79% in which he converted his free throws gives hope that he can improve as well from long range though.

He also handles the ball decently, and has the potential to work on pull-up jumper. In his best version he’s also a powerful slasher, obtaining decent percentages finishing inside. He’s a pretty good perimeter passer, but not so solid on drives or on the fast-break, only coming up with 0.3 assists per game. Overall he’s too irregular on offense, unable to provide scoring on a consistent base.

He also gave a good rebounding effort with 5.2 per game, of which quite a lot were on offense. Defensively we return to his mentality. He has good lateral speed, and when his intensity level and effort are as required, he’s certainly reliable, coming up with both steals (1.6) and blocks (1.2). Generally his presence on the court during this championship was noticed positively, but in some of the scrimmages disputed at the recent Reebok Eurocamp he gave another impression at times.

Kuzminskas looks like he can become a valuable asset for teams even at the highest European club level, with further development for a couple of years. His NBA potential may be limited, though.


TOMMASO RASPINO, SF, 6’5”, Italy, 1989
10.4 PPG; 4.2 RPG; 0.9 APG

The Italian forward Tommaso Raspino started off the tournament with two more than modest games, but then found a nice rhythm and his role on the team. He’s an undersized small forward with a nice frame and decent agility, but whose lack of quickness and athleticism limits his future career options significantly.

Raspino runs the floor well, showing a good up and down effort. He’s an okay passer and ball-handler with both hands, and able to bring the ball up the court himself at times. He enjoys good court vision and awareness to position himself at the right spot at the right moment, also reading the defense to exploit mismatches and setting strong picks. He’s also pretty good driving to the basket, and he finds better positioned teammates when that occurs. He seems to lack better touch and athleticism to improve his finishing inside, though. He appears to have a post up game, of which he logically can’t take advantage very often with his average size. As a shooter he doesn’t appear to be very a huge weapon from downtown, but thanks to his shot-selection, managed to register a solid 39% anyway. Although he can hit runners occasionally, he’s not good at creating shots off the dribble.

As a rebounder we have to give him credit, doing a good job both on defense as well as following up to grab some on offense. On defense he plays with intensity, but his lack of lateral quickness combined with his limited size will create trouble for him in many match-ups, and probably more so with the pros.

SEMEN SHASHKOV, SF, 6’7”, Russia, 1989
2.1 PPG, 1.3 RPG; 0.5 APG

What more do we need to say about Semen Shashkov? Surely not that he’s worthy of an honorable mention, barely deserving the very few minutes (9.5) his coach gave him. Right now it’s tough not to call him a waste of great talent and athleticism. His statistics speak for themselves: 2.1 pts (5/12 2FG’s, 1/8 3FG’s, 4/7 FT’s), 1.3 rebs, 0.5 assists, 0.9 turnovers, 0.5 steals and 0.5 blockshots in 9.5 minutes per game (total 8 games played).

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