FIBA U-17 World Championships: Top International Prospects

FIBA U-17 World Championships: Top International Prospects
Aug 07, 2010, 09:53 am
Scouting reports of the top non-US players seen at the U-17 FIBA World Championships in Hamburg.

Przemek Karnowski, 7-0, center, MMKS SIDEn, Poland, 1993

Left-handed Polish center Przemyslaw Karnowski had one of the better showings of any of the international players in Hamburg. He was the main facilitator and, at times, the go-to guy for the biggest surprise team of the tournament.

6-11, with a massive frame, Karnowski is a presence anytime he steps on the court. He establishes deep position in the post and has a solid back to the basket game, showing nice touch and a solid fade-away jumper that he likes to go to on the block. With that said, Hhis best asset clearly revolves around is his passing ability, though. He regularly whips terrific passes all over the floor with excellent timing, drawing comparisons to Brad Miller in the process. Like Miller, he can also step outside the paint and comfortably make jumpers with solid range.

Karnowski is a below average athlete at best. He's a below-the-rim type of player who lumbers up and down the floor. This affects him primarily on the defensive end. He lacks the lateral quickness to stay in front of more athletic opponents who attack him off the dribble. Though Karnowski shows nice timing blocking shots defending on the ball, he is not a presence at all rotating from the weak side. His conditioning is poor—he could stand to lose a good 105-120 pounds—and this really shows late in games, when he struggles to run the court. Karnowski does a good job cleaning the glass in and around his area, but he projects as a below average rebounder at the pro level due to his physical limitations.

On the plus side, Karnowski is a smart, competitive guy who has yet to turn 17 years old and already has intriguing characteristics that can't be taught. It will be interesting to follow his development over the next few seasons and see how he continues to improve athletically and skill-wise.

Mateusz Ponitka, 6-5, Shooting Guard, Tempcold AZS Politechnika Warszawa, Poland, 1993

The go-to guy on a very surprising Polish team, Mateusz Ponitka was one of the tournament's top scorers and overall best performers.

6-5, with a skinny frame and good but not great athleticism, Ponitka doesn't wow you on first glance with his physical profile. He does tend to grow on you, though, especially when you see how skilled and aggressive he is from the perimeter.

Excellent in transition, highly efficient in the half-court, and capable of getting his own shot in a variety of ways, Ponitka is a dangerous offensive weapon who has made major strides in his game as of late. He can make shots from the perimeter at a high rate—even if he gets streaky from time to time—and gets to the free throw line at an excellent rate. He is also capable of passing the ball and doesn't force shots, which is impressive considering his scoring prowess. He gets his points within the flow of the offense and appears to have a nice feel for the game. He also shows strong anticipation skills in the passing lanes.

Just how much upside Ponitka has at the pro level is still something of a question mark. We'll need to continue to evaluate him over the next few years.

Guo Ailun, 6-3, PG/SG, Liaoning Panpan, China, 1993

The top prospect on the Chinese squad, and one of the more talented guards seen at this tournament, Guo Ailun was fairly up and down in the games we saw in Hamburg, but he still managed to attract a good amount of attention.

Showing solid size and athleticism for either guard position, Ailun is an extremely confident, aggressive player who plays far more like an American than your average Chinese guard prospect. He's a very good ball handler, showing confidence and aggressiveness in transition, and is fairly effective creating his own shot in the half-court as well. He likes to operate on the pick-and-roll and shows fluidity and improvisation skills in the lane, which will serve him well as his body fills out.

Ailun has good enough vision to lead you to believe that he's capable of playing the point guard spot down the road. He made nice passes in drive-and-dish situations in every game he played, but he is a bit too wild at this stage and a little too aggressive of a scorer to shake the combo guard label just yet. He's extremely turnover prone, overestimating his skill level considerably and lacking experience against the fundamentally sound players he matched up against here in Hamburg.

Ailun's shooting mechanics are solid—he's capable of making shots both with his feet set and off the dribble—but he still has a lot of work to do with this part of his game. He was very streaky from the perimeter throughout the tournament.

Defensively, Ailun has a long way to go. His fundamentals are poor and he gambles excessively in the passing lanes. He rotates between being overly aggressive, and getting into foul trouble, and not being intense at all. His anticipation skills in the passing lanes and in rebounding situations are unmistakable, though. There is no question that with good coaching, and added strength and experience, he could be very solid in these areas down the road.

Ailun is a very important prospect for Chinese basketball. It's not often that you see a player with his physical attributes, feel for the game, creativity and overall talent emerge at the guard position from this big man-dominant country. Considering the style of play that is found in the CBA and the things he needs to work on, he'd be best served coming to the NCAA and playing for a top coach at a strong program so he can develop against other top prospects his age. Whether the Chinese basketball federation will be willing to let him go is anyone's guess, though.

Zhai Xiaochuan, 6-8, SF/PF, Beijing Shougang, China, 1993

6-8 forward Xiaochuan Zhai also drew a fair amount of intrigue from the Chinese ranks, as he was their second leading scorer. A long, skinny and fairly athletic player who sees time at both the 3 and 4 spots, Xiaochuan is an extremely aggressive scorer with intriguing skills for his size.

Facing the basket is where Xiaochuan looks most comfortable right now. He made a good amount of jumpers from beyond the 3-point line to back that up. He has excellent touch and range to go along with very good shooting mechanics. He's capable of knocking down shots off the dribble as well as when he's set.

In the post, Xiaochuan mostly prefers to face up and beat his man off the dribble. He has a solid first step and above average ball-handling skills, but he can also knock down smooth-looking turnaround jumpers, showing excellent scoring instincts in the process.

His ability to create his own shot from the perimeter and score from beyond the arc gives him great potential to make a full conversion to the small forward position down the road, a position where he already spends a decent amount of time. Xiaochuan must improve his decision making skills, though. He settles for some extremely bad shots and can be very turnover prone.

As intriguing as Xiaochuan is offensively, he's a weak rebounder and an extremely poor defender who has a long way to go until he can legitimately guard players on the perimeter. His instincts and fundamentals are poor on this end of the floor, as is his effort level at times.

Only 17 years old, Xiaochuan is far from being a finished product and has a long way to go in his overall development. He's not consistent from game to game—at times he's barely noticeable on the court—and has to round out his game, particularly in terms of his passing ability. He'll be an interesting player to follow over the next few years to see he continues to improve.

Nemanja Bezbradica, 6-9, Power Forward, FMP Zeleznik, Serbia, 1993

Likely the best performer on an otherwise disappointing Serbian squad, Nemanja Bezbradica confirmed most of the things we saw from him in our trip to Belgrade last February, and added to many of them.

With his solid size, very good athleticism and excellent body, Bezbradica was one of the more physically gifted big men seen in Hamburg. He's not an exceptionally skilled player at this point, but he's an extremely hard worker who plays with great toughness and energy and shows enough flashes of an all-around game to keep you intrigued about his development down the road.

Bezbradica tries to do all kinds of things offensively—whether it's putting ball the ball on the floor from the perimeter, shooting jumpers or posting up aggressively inside—with mixed results. His basketball IQ isn't very high at this stage, but it's nice to see him try to put his physical tools to good use on the court. Clearly his decision-making skills need some work—as does his 43% free throw shooting—but there is plenty to build on down the road.

Defensively, Bezbradica has great potential. He's big enough and tough enough to guard most post players and mobile enough to step out and hedge screens on the perimeter when called upon. He's not afraid to use his body and is willing to dive on the floor for loose balls. He was also one of the better rebounders and shot blockers at this tournament.

Clearly Bezbradica's a player we'll be seeing more of at the international level over the next few years.

Nemanja Dangubic, 6-7, SG/SF, Kris Kros Pancevo, Serbia, 1993

Nemanja Dangubic wasn't the most noticeable player on this Serbian squad in terms of production or even playing time, but he drew some interest nonetheless thanks to his size at the wing position and his excellent ball-handling skills.

Dangubic saw minutes at the point guard spot for Serbia, despite standing 6-7, which led to comparisons to fellow Serbian point forward Nemanja Bjelica. He showed a nice feel for the game, handling the ball comfortably in transition and making some nice spin moves into the paint. He looked extremely bashful when it came time to shoot the ball, though. He only attempted a handful of shots over the course of the tournament, none of which came from the perimeter. He clearly needs to improve on the defensive end as well.

Marko Radonjic, 6-3, Shooting Guard, Red Star Belgrade, Serbia, 1994

Fighting for playing time on a Serbian team crowded with perimeter players, and a year younger than most of this group, Marko Radonjic stood out not with his physical tools (which are below average), but with his aggressiveness and competitiveness. He has good scoring instincts and likes to make things happen on the offensive end, whether it's taking big shots or getting into the lane and finishing. He plays hard defensively but is limited by his lack of size and athleticism. He could stand to improve his body as well.

Owen Odigie, 6-6, Small Forward, Australian Institute of Sports, Australia, 1993

The only semi-intriguing long-term prospect on an otherwise underwhelming Australian team, Owen Odigie has the physical attributes to develop into a good player down the road, even though his skills obviously have a long way to go.

Standing 6-6 with a fantastic body and terrific athleticism, Odigie gets most of his playing time at the power forward position at this junior level, where he's more than capable of getting the job done. He's a tough, active, competitive guy who is able to defend multiple positions. He's extremely energetic crashing the glass and is a pretty good teammate. He gets in the passing lanes quite a bit, is a handful in transition and displays the traits of a very hard worker.

Offensively, Odigie is limited. He's an extremely poor perimeter shooter—something he showed over and over again—and isn't much of a ball handler either, unless he's operating in a straight line. He doesn't appear to have great instincts on the offensive end of the floor and will likely need to work very hard to improve this part of his game, something he's obviously capable of doing considering his age.

Daniel Diez, 6-9, Power Forward, Real Madrid, Spain, 1994

The best long-term prospect on an extremely disappointing Spanish squad (which shockingly failed to even make the quarterfinals of this tournament after winning the U-16 European Championships last summer), Daniel Diez has the requisite size and skill-set needed to carve out a solid career in his home country.

Standing around 6-9 with a solid frame, long arms and average athleticism, Diez has clearly put in the time to maximize his physical tools. He's a solid finisher, making him an excellent target in the post (for crafty layups) or on the perimeter (where he made shots with nice touch). He doesn't have much of a back-to-the-basket game or any real ball-handling skills, but he is able to get good production thanks to his excellent work on the offensive glass, where he shows nice timing and intelligence pursuing loose balls. A smart, competitive player who isn't going to wow you with amazing upside, Diez will likely be a solid fixture on the Spanish national teams throughout the junior stages, perhaps longer.

Jaime Fernandez, 6-2, Point Guard, Estudiantes, Spain, 1993

The engine of a sputtering Spanish national team, Jaime Fernandez showcased nice talent but probably didn't have enough weapons around him to really make his presence felt at this tournament. Fernandez isn't a great athlete, but he is a true point guard who plays the game with excellent pace and can create for himself and others with solid ball-handling skills. He often finds ways to make up for his lack of athleticism by utilizing his high basketball IQ, and he makes few mistakes.

Fernandez struggles to finish around the basket, but he has a nice floater in his arsenal and is more than willing to move the ball around to find the open man. A streaky shooter who doesn't get to the line very often, Fernandez lacks great upside, but he should develop into a solid player in Spain over the next couple of years.

Duane Notice, 6-2, Point Guard, Canada, 1994

Duane Notice was nowhere near as impressive as he was the last time we saw him at the Jordan Brand Classic at Madison Square Garden last spring. Nevertheless, he showed intriguing talent and did so competing against players much older than him here in Hamburg.

Playing primarily off the ball due to the presence of Canada's floor general and clear-cut leader Kevin Pangos, Notice struggled to make his presence felt and showed he still has plenty of work to do down the road. Notice He was a blur in the open court and was extremely effective creating for himself and others, but his poor fundamentals and wild style of play were flaws that were exposed in the rigid half-court environment he competed in. This was especially true when it came to his perimeter shooting ability.

Notice's decision-making ability and overall feel for the game still lags behind his terrific physical attributes and his talent, something that is particularly on the defensive end (where he gambles all the time and shows very little awareness). Notice is still young and clearly possesses a world of potential at his fingertips. He will likely use this tournament as a learning experience to find out what he needs to improve on down the road.

Anthony Bennett, 6-7, Power Forward, Mount State Academy, Canada, 1993

One of the most productive players in Hamburg (and probably one of the most talented as well), Anthony Bennett bounced back from a concussion suffered midway through the tournament to lead his Canadian team to the semifinals with a magnificent performance. He backed up everything we thought about him following the Jordan Classic and then some (even if there is still plenty of room to improve).

Bennett is undersized at 6-7, but he has a body that looks more like a 21 year old's than a teenager's. He is extremely long and athletic and has a pretty unique skill set for his age. He makes shots from the perimeter at a terrific rate, spotting up confidently from beyond the 3-point line and making jumpers in impressive fashion. Bennett isn't much of a ball handler and needs to improve his footwork, post moves and work ethic in order to take full advantage of his terrific talent level. He isn't in a huge rush to show off how athletic he is, which can be misleading when watching him on first glance. Defensively, Bennett has a ways to go, but he is quite a presence on the glass.

Andrew Wiggins, 6-6, Small Forward, ?, Canada, 1995

Far and away the youngest player at this tournament at just 15 years old, Canadian Andrew Wiggings nevertheless found a way to help his team in Hamburg and earned himself a solid amount of playing time in turn.

Standing around 6-6 with an amazing frame, long arms and superb athletic ability, Wiggins has all the physical characteristics needed to develop into a big time prospect down the road. His value at the moment lies mostly on the defensive end, where he shows excellent timing and intensity and was able to make a major impact. He blocked a good amount of shots at this tournament and altered plenty more with his terrific length. He displays the type of instincts and patience that could make him a lockdown defender and a coveted prospect down the road, regardless of how quickly his offense develops.

Skill-wise, Wiggins is quite limited (as you might expect considering his age). He shows very little in the way of shooting range and displays poor mechanics on top of that, releasing the ball from the side of his head. His ball-handling skills are a work in progress, even if he did drop some extremely impressive glimpses of potential from time to time, beating his man to the basket with a terrific first step, then elevating and hanging well above the rim for an awesome finish. Even more impressive than that was the maturity and composure Wiggins showed at such a young age. He didn't force the issue in the slightest, making some nice passes and looking like a very good teammate. He was willing to contribute in whatever way he was asked to.

Wiggins is still in a very early stage of his development and clearly has a long path ahead of him, but he's off to a great start and will be in excellent shape as long as he doesn't let the attention he's garnering get to his head.

Kevin Pangos, 6-2, Point Guard, ?, Canada, 1993

The clear-cut leader and go-to guy on this Canadian national team, Kevin Pangos had a strong outing in Hamburg and only added to his already impressive resume.

Not exceptionally athletic (but likely more physically gifted than we initially gave him credit for), Pangos has good size for a point guard to go along with excellent footwork and a terrific basketball IQ.

Pangos is extremely skilled with the ball in his hands. He's also a very good shooter who can make jumpers with his feet set or off the dribble and is particularly effective in the mid-range area. He runs the team steadily and confidently, showing strong ball-handling skills and solid court vision. He's effective in the pick-and-roll but prefers to settle for a pull-up jumper rather than take the ball strong to the rim. When he does get to the basket, he lacks the strength and explosiveness to finish the job, something that might become more pronounced at the college level than it is now.

Defensively, Pangos is smart and competitive. He knows how to use his body effectively and shows terrific fundamentals and patience staying in front of his man. His lateral quickness remains a question mark, though, something that will likely be easier to evaluate in the NCAA than at an international tournament of this nature.

Pangos is a coveted prospect for college coaches and for good reason—he's a rare breed of point guard and seems to have excellent intangibles on top of that. Just how much upside he has left to tap into is anyone's guess, but there's no question we'll be talking about him again over the next few years.

Dyshawn Pierre, 6-7, Small Forward, ?, Canada, 1993

An underrated prospect as far as his college recruiting hype indicates, Dyshawn Pierre was an instrumental part of the terrific showing Canada had here in Hamburg.

Showing excellent size for a small forward, with long arms and good athleticism, Pierre has the physical attributes needed to play at the highest levels of college basketball. He's got a nice frame and a pretty versatile game that revolves around his play on the defensive end at the moment.

Pierre is a competitive guy who can guard multiple positions. He really made his presence felt blocking shots and rebounding at a terrific rate, setting the tone nicely for his teammates. He's not particularly skilled at the moment, but he's a mature, reliable player who passes well and rarely turns the ball over. He was extremely efficient on the offensive end as well, which made it difficult for coach Roy Rana to keep him off the floor. He finished well around the basket, and he did a good job in transition and on straight-line drives. He clearly has work to do on his ball-handling skills and perimeter shooting. He knocked down just a handful of jumpers over the course of the tournament.

We'll have to see how Pierre's offensive game comes around to really get a feel for what type of prospect he is down the road, but he will surely be a hot commodity in recruiting circles as soon as more people take a look at him in the States.

Negus Webster-Chan, 6-7, Shooting Guard, ?, Canada, 1993

A big, smooth guard who is starting to generate good buzz amongst recruiting services, Negus Webster-Chan is a raw player with nice upside who was extremely up and down here in Hamburg.

6-7 with long arms, a nice frame and a fluid blend of athleticism, Webster-Chan is a versatile player who can do a little bit of everything but doesn't excel in any one area at this stage in his career. A talented ball handler who saw minutes at backup point guard for Canada, Webster-Chan can create his own shot and get to the basket with either hand, but he struggles in his decision making and can be turnover prone. He gets to the basket, but rarely finishes at the rim. He lacks a degree of strength and toughness and is clearly still inexperienced. He makes a great play on one possession and a terrible one immediately after. He's not consistent at all with his play, but he clearly has the talent to achieve consistency the road if he keeps working on his all-around game.

As a shooter, Webster-Chan has potential. He shows a quick release and decent range from the perimeter, even if he is still very streaky in this area and needs to improve his shot-selection. Defensively, Webster-Chan has outstanding potential. He had some very nice moments in Hamburg, even though his lack of experience showed up regularly, particularly in the way he gambled in passing lanes.

Edited by Patrick Crawley, Sports Editor, Annenberg Digital News.

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