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DraftExpress continues tracking down the international youth tournaments this summer with the European Cadet Championship, a competition for players born in 1989 and later, which means players 16 years old at maximum.
Were not particularly keen on hyping up such young players, kids that still have a long ways ahead of them before start thinking about playing in elite competition, let alone the NBA, and for whom humbleness is the perfect building block to continue developing through hard work. For that reason well try to limit the coverage in the number of players and compliments received.
This years edition of the tournament is being played in Spain. Astorga and Ponferrada are hosting the preliminary round, while León will take care of the rest of the competition. If playing in three different cities is not annoying enough, the Spanish Basketball Federation is making it worse with mediocre organizing so far, including, for example, close to no information until just a few days ago about where the games were going to actually be played.
Anyway, we have chosen Astorga, a beautiful and typical small town in Castilla to start our coverage this weekend, allowing us to take a first look at half of the teams in the tournament, including very intriguing teams such as Serbia and Montenegro, France and Spain.
The first impression has been of disappointment. Only taking into account the eight teams placed in Astorga, the level seems significantly lower than what was seen in previous editions of the tournament, like Rivas in 2003 for example, where Nemanja Aleksandrov and an amazing Serbian team astonished everybody.
The first letdown, right in the forehead, has been precisely Serbia and Montenegro. Always a big attraction in this youth championship, where they are historically dominant, they are also known as a prolific producer of some of the best international players in basketball. Here theyve shown a rather discrete face, featuring limited potential in whats usually one of the most stud-stacked rosters. This definitely has nothing to do with the current junior generation which recently came away as European champions in Belgrade. Kissing the title goodbye after going winless in the preliminary round is an enormous failure for a nation that had previously amassed four of the last five championships in this category.
Still, one player has made up for all the unreached expectations here in Astorga. His name is Antoine Diot, and he plays for France. This is the time when we have to control our feelings, not get carried away by euphoria and realize that hes only 16 years old, so perhaps not mature enough to properly deal with excessive praises.
However, if theres something that Diot transmits, its maturity. Hes a player in perfect control of himself, his team and every situation in the game, to the point that sometimes you wonder if hes capable of doing anything wrong. He makes one good decision after another and so on.
Diot is a point guard with every characteristic you would love to see materialized in your playmaker. At 6-4, he enjoys excellent size, but hes also quite an athlete, displaying great skills, and an awesome effort and attitude, quite a unique combination indeed.
Hes probably not the most creative passer in the world, but he always finds the right man in every situation, whether in transition or in a set offense, including slashing plays or mere distributing routine. On the other hand, hes also a terrific scorer. Starting with his shot, he shows excellent accuracy with a precious jumper that he releases very quickly, off the dribble if necessary and with long range. Hes also a nice slasher with a remarkable ability to finish against opposition. Diot is not a shoot-first player, but whenever a possession begins to look complicated for France, he takes care of it.
With these skills, its rather surprising to see the intensity he delivers on both ends of the court. His lateral movement is not the greatest, but hes a devoted defender. Sometimes it seems like hes everywhere on court; ready to grab a loose ball, the best positioned player to take down a rebound or just the guy needed to make a key defensive rotation. Basketball IQ, a winning character, leadership, all those concepts are no secrets for Diot already at this young age.
Do I have to carry on? He makes France an instant favorite for the title. And just to mention that in the game against Latvia, his coach rested him from the start, foreseeing a rather easy contest (France was qualified, preventing a huge-point differential loss). Things didnt go as expected, and Diot had to hit the floor in the second quarter with France down by 19 points. Its needless to say which team came away with the victory...
Still, I cant stress with enough insistence the fact that Antoine is a kid playing against kids. As awesome as he may look right now, only hard work will take him somewhere in basketball. By the way, hes another product of the INSEP school, where he currently plays, although his rights are owned by J.L.Bourg, a small ProA team in France.
The definition of hype
He became a very popular name amongst basketball fans early in 2004, when he amazed in a youth tournament organized by the ACB League, parallel to the Kings Cup. It became so out of control that even the President of the Spanish Basketball Federation irresponsibly compared him with the all-time greatest European guard, Drazen Petrovic, in an interview. Thats a huge load for a kid to carry, and it remains to be seen how everything turns out for him.
For the moment, Rubio is a 6-3 combo guard who already shows far superior quickness and explosiveness than most players in this tournament, being at the same time one year younger than the majority of them (hes a 1990 player). Rubio stands out as a very good slasher, featuring excellent handles, while being a great passer, who is easily able to play the point. Indeed, thats the position he would be headed towards if he didnt grow anymore. Besides, he enjoys terrific hands on defense, which makes him a public enemy for any player dribbling the ball.
On the other hand, Ricard is not much of a shooter, reaching a point where he doesnt even try. This flaw needs to be addressed as soon as possible, or his potential as a player will be condensed dramatically. Also, were not sure whether the player is displaying the right attitude. From a distance, it could be thought that some of the hype has indeed gone to his head.
That's why, when dealing with kids, the question can be to hype or not to hype.