U-19 World Championship Review: Guards

U-19 World Championship Review: Guards
Aug 19, 2007, 09:00 am
As promised, we take a look back at the U-19 World Championship celebrated last month in Novi Sad to individually check on the best players seen in the competition. We start with the guards.

1989, PG, 6-1, USA; 9.6 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 2.8 apg, 2.4 spg, 1.9 topg


A nice chunk of responsibility concerning the smooth team effort delivered by the US Team relied on Jonny Flynn and his unselfish and effective way of running the point-- always taking care of the ball. That was except for the last two games, where he sometimes tried to solve the offensive struggles of his team by over-dribbling to come up with individual solutions that didn't work out. And still then he was able to control himself enough to come back to the team discipline and conserve the calmness and patience which would eventually bring the victory in the semifinal against Franc).

A bit undersized, but very athletic, Flynn is an excellent ball-handler with both hands, a quick point guard who can split defenses pretty easily and feed his teammates. He shows very nice footwork in his slashing attempts, as well as excellent ability to finish near the rim by elevating for layups and finish even through contact. In Novi Sad, he seemed to be a pretty solid shooter, with off-the-dribble skills and range out to the three-point line. On defense he worked pretty well just as his teammates, using his quick feet (he enjoys a pretty strong lower body) to remain very active both in individual or zone defenses.

Flynn is not your classic point guard, but more of a slashing playmaker. He’s perhaps not the greatest distributor around, but is smart enough to try and come up with the best solution for his team, being particularly very gifted in terms of possessing the athleticism to create problems for opposing defenses. Born in 1989, he was the youngest player on the US Team, and is yet to make his debut in the NCAA. Therefore he still has time to fully develop his point guard skills, but still he might easily be the best prospect of the competition at this position.

1988, PG/SG, 6-1, USA; 13 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 3.2 apg, 3.9 spg, 1.1 topg


Playing almost full-time as a shooting guard, Beverley emerged as perhaps the best player on the US Team, taking full advantage of his shooting stroke, while also providing some secondary distribution to fuel the team's ball flow. In the end, he led the team in scoring and assists, being the player who stood out the most on court for the American team.

The most obvious skill Beverley puts on display is his wonderful shooting touch, particularly from mid-range distances. He's money in the bank either in spot-up fashion, off the dribble even after crossover moves, or coming of a cutter. He shows elegant mechanics, with nice elevation and a fluid release. His range goes out to the three-point line, being also able to knock down off-the-dribble treys, but visibly more comfortable in spot-up mode. Using his nice quickness and very solid ball-handling skills, Beverley can create his own shot or attack the basket, either to finish himself or effectively dish the ball. Still, he eventually forced too much, over-dribbling and allowing opposing defenses to collapse on him, even if that wasn’t the most consistent pattern at all.

Still, what didn't come clear out of his performance in the championship is his ability to successfully run the point and distribute the ball as a playmaker. Our personal guess is that he won't have much trouble in this regard, as he seems to enjoy the tools and showed a nice ability to find open teammates. He's obviously extremely undersized for a shooting guard, and his NBA hopes rely on how well he fills a playmaking role.

1989, PG, 6-3, France; 10.4 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 3.1 apg, 2.3 apg, 2.2 topg


Even if he doesn’t seem to have improved much over the past two years, Diot was a key piece on the French team, the guy who constantly pushed the ball to provide that fast pace that France loves to play at, and the high-character player to take important shots and make big plays down the stretch.

Featuring good size, long arms, nice strength, and being fairly quick, even if he doesn’t enjoy the same physical dominance he exhibited at the U-16 category, Diot enjoys very good tools to play the point. He’s a very aggressive player with the ball in his hands, always ready to attack his rivals, always thinking about gaining an advantage in transition by outrunning his opponents. Antoine still struggles dribbling with his left hand, and usually prefers to go right. Sometimes he forces too much trying to beat his opponents off the dribble, and ends up without a decent angle to release the layup. When rushing into transition with coast-to-coast plays, he loves to finish himself, usually with a short jumper if there’s anybody waiting for him under the basket. His jumper is still a double-edged sword. He can knock down very difficult shots, even wild three pointers off the dribble, showing nice ability to create his own shot. But at the same time, he’s not a reliable shooter, showing aggressive mechanics that don’t help him to get hot from the field. Regardless of whether he’s open or not, he virtually always gets unbalanced in the air while shooting the ball.

Not the most creative guy around, Diot is a nice passer who likes to drive and dish, but who also looks for entry passes or tries to give fluidity to the ball movement. Still, he feels more comfortable in transition rather than working in the set offense. Anyway, he’s a leading-type of player.

Next season he will join Nicolas Batum in Le Mans. It was about time for him to move up to a pro team and face some strong competition.

1989, PG, 6-4, Lithuania; 10.1 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 6.6 apg, 3.6 topg


Janavicius finished the tournament ranked first in assists, and it was still a pretty average showing for him, actually for the whole Lithuanian team, that performed far worse than expected. Playing too out of control, not capable of making his shots on a regular basis, he also suffered the pressure of being the virtually only shot generator for his team, without even a decent point guard to back him up (again, we don’t understand why Vasiliauskas didn’t make the team).

The pick and roll is the go-to move of Lithuania, with Janavicius being the protagonist most of the time. The objective is to get free of his defender and attack the basket searching for a layup or to feed an open man. He also can beat his match-up off the dribble, usually using crossover dribbles. All in all, he’s a very aggressive player that tries to step into the lane again and again. Left-handed, Zygimantas tends to deliver the layup going left and pass the ball if he goes right, of course also depending on the situation. Actually, he’s a much better dribbler with his good hand. Too often, he didn’t take appropriate care of the ball, particularly when passing it, allowing opponents to anticipate the passing lane. A simple bounce pass would greatly help him in many situations.

Not outstanding in the physical department (he’s tough and enjoys nice size and quickness, but nothing special), not a terrific defender, Janavicius needs to work on his game, taking better decisions, exceeding his drive-and-dish habits to become a more complete distributor, and especially, improving his jumper. He was completely off shooting behind the arc, and neither found any scoring rhythm with his mid-range jumper off the dribble.

1989, PG, 6-1, Turkey; 12.4 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 3.3 apg, 3.3 topg


Little has changed in Balbay’s game. He’s the same old incisive and super-athletic guard. Consistently growing stronger, he’s a penetration force that easily breaks defenses down looking for the opponent’s rim. Gifted with impressive legs, he can hang up in the air to perform acrobatic layups through contact with both hands, showing excellent body control in the air, while he can also dish the ball decently to open teammates. Very reactive on defense, he enjoys very good lateral defense and is very active in the passing lanes. Balbay also showed terrific activity fighting for rebounds. Always alert to the ball, he used his leaping ability perfectly well to grab a nice bunch of boards, even on the offensive end. Actually he enjoys such good leaping ability that sometimes he seemed to be playing volleyball when he managed to rebound his own missed shots.

On the negative side, he’s yet to showcase any consistent shooting touch. He’s almost a non-factor from long-range distances. Also, he sometimes gets a bit out of control, and still needs to improve his distribution skills. Right now he’s a bit one dimensional on the offensive end, always trying to go inside.

1988, PG, 6-5, Serbia; 5.9 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 3.2 apg, 3 spg, 1.4 topg


This was a solid, although unspectacular championship for Markovic. His improved playmaking abilities (and the fact that the Serbian coach increasingly trusted him at the point as the tournament advanced) greatly helped Serbia to win the title, but perhaps we were expecting a little extra brilliance in the performance of a player that already enjoys a nicely prominent role on one of the very top Balkan teams.

Blame it on his shooting struggles. The guy is not any type of shooter (he lacks some rhythm and smoothness in his mechanics) but to achieve 1/19 from the arc is just a woeful performance, and ultimately greatly limited his scoring production. He was much more effective doing what he knows to do best: slash. He’s a pretty fast and reactive guy, enjoying a nice first step and being very incisive going inside. A big chunk of his playmaking came off drives towards the basket, situations where he pretty easily finds his open teammates, or where he can just try to finish himself with the layup, although he eventually forced his scoring attempts a little bit. Solid on defense, he enjoys good legs and the strength to stay with his match-up.

1989, SG, 6-3, France; 13.8 ppg, 2.6 rpg


One of the best shooters in the tournament, Jackson emerged as the scoring leader on this very strong French team, despite being one year younger than most of his teammates. Actually, just two years ago he was a marginal player on the French U-16 squad, then a talented but wild guard who didn't please his coach at all with his performances on the court. More mature now, having gained great consistency in his shooting stroke, Jackson makes a living off his shooting skills.

This undersized, yet athletic shooting guard possesses superb ability to release jumpers. While displaying very nice elevation in his leaping effort, he shows perfect timing to elevate and catch his opponent unbalanced. He often uses crossover dribbles where he gains a lot of space if his defender is not properly alert. Obviously, we can say that he can create his own shot on a regular basis, but he also is active searching for open looks to shoot off cutters, or just in static fashion.

As intriguing as his shooting stroke is, Jackson's performance in Novi Sad also exposed his lack of creativity team-wise. He was somewhat of a black hole on the offensive end, a productive black hole at that, but a much less creative force than you would have liked in a guard. Actually, the fact that he was the premier scorer on the French team perhaps wasn't a good sign about their playing level and the ability of other teammates to step up and take responsibilities.

Even if a very one-dimensional player, he's still very interesting, and he plays some nice defense too, taking advantage of his quickness and well-built body.

1988, SG, 6-5, Serbia; 14.7 ppg, 3.3 rpg


This championship was a coming out party for Jeremic. Emerging as the premier scoring reference on the Serbian perimeter, his excellent shooting touch was a key factor for his team to finally win the world title. The guy enjoys a very sweet stroke either in catch-and-shoot mode or off-the-dribble fashion. A solid ball-handler, he can attack his match-up and go all the way to the basket, although he struggles in pure one-on-one settings against good defenders. Still, he perfectly took advantage of his team's inside strength and ball movement to find good opportunities for high-percentage shots.

Not a superb athlete and not particularly big, Jeremic doesn´t ooze with potential, but he has the makings of a very solid European player.

1989, PG/SG, 6-3, Canada; 22.6 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 3.4 apg, 4.1 topg


One of the top scorers of the tournament, Devoe Joseph took over the Canadian offense from the very beginning, assuming big responsibilities on the court. He is a sort of combo guard, a 6-3 skinny scorer. His body is noticeably underdeveloped, which makes sense since he is still one year younger than most of the players at the tournament.

Although he played the point for some stretches, he showed very little playmaking mentality. At least, team playmaking, because the great majority of his efforts have a single destination: his own points. The guy has a great ability to release his shot off the dribble, even against opposition, and enjoys a nice soft touch. Still, he takes way too many shots, eventually forcing them and becoming predictable, so his percentages suffered. He has nice ball-handling skills that he uses to unbalance his rivals in order to release his jumper or to attack them looking for the basket, where he shows nice ability to step into the lane and finish around the rim. Given his offensive prominence on the team, it does not come as a surprise that he is not the most devoted player on the court.
He is still very young and he shows a nice feel for the game, so we will see how he evolves. Considering his size and unspectacular athleticism, becoming a real point guard should be the key to playing at the highest level. Still, he might turn out as a valuable scorer in Europe down the road.


Other interesting guards included Patrick Mills, an undersized (barely reaches six feet) and very quick playmaker with limited distribution skills and an inconsistent perimeter stroke. He likes to shoot treys from the corner, although with mixed results, while he also showed nice ability to pull-up from mid range distances. He was pretty effective slashing towards the basket for his own layup or to dish the ball, his primarily source of game creation, while he stayed very active in transition.

The main perimeter reference in Brazil was Betinho Duarte, an incisive 6-5 shooting guard with average athleticism, but with the aggressiveness to attack his match-ups while showing a solid shooting stroke. However, his accuracy ended up being mediocre as he often forced too much and always attracted a lot of attention from the opponent's defense.

Coming off the bench for Serbia, Stefan Stojacic provided a valuable scoring punch thanks to his shooting stroke, either in spot-up fashion or going off the dribble. Not particularly quick, but a nice defender nevertheless, he might be a bit one dimensional at this point and not particularly tall at 6-5. Still he's very young, having been born in 1989.

His generation teammate Dusan Katnic showed some flashes of potential, emerging as a reliable back-up point guard for the Serbian team, sticking to the basics while displaying a bit of everything, whether dribbling, slashing, shooting or passing the ball. He's a 6-4 playmaker with solid quickness and a promising body who shows some poise running the point, while he contributed to the Serbian defensive effort.

We finish with the disappointing Martynas Gecevicius, who often failed to emerge as the scoring reference that his team needed in many situations. Still, we have to note that the absence of a reliable back-up point guard put a lot of creative pressure on his shoulders, when he's not anything close to a playmaker and actually exposed some struggles with his ball-handling, particularly in one-on-one situations. Also, the fact that Janavicius had such a bad shooting tournament also helped defenses to focus on him.

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