Dario Saric, 6-10, Small Forward, Croatia, 1994
At just 17 years of age, Dario Saric was one of the youngest players at the U-19 World Championship. Nevertheless, he had no problem asserting himself in this setting. He made significant contributions as a scorer, rebounder and passer, while playing a tournament high 36 minutes per game.
Saric is the same ultra-talented prospect we've written about on a few occasions alreadya 6-10 guard with outstanding ball-handling skills and incredible fluidity. He can grab a rebound and drive coast to coast, create his own shot at will, find the open man with terrific court vision, and score in a variety of different ways. There are some cracks starting to appear in his evaluation, though, which create doubts about whether he's the can't miss prospect he's been made out to be.
Saric's style of play was very predictable at this tournament, owing in large part to the incredibly unimaginative, isolation-based half-court offense his team ran in Latvia. He had the freedom to do essentially whatever he wanted in this setting and, more often than not, chose to simply pound the ball on the perimeter trying to shake his man, then lower his shoulder and attempt to force his way to the basket. Once this option was exhausted, he'd either try to thread the needle to a teammate with a spectacular bullet pass, or pull up for a low-percentage, off-balance jumper.
Between the turnovers, the missed shots and the disappointing eighth place finish, there were some obvious moments of brilliance mixed inusually involving Saric's ability to change of speeds or his uncanny skills of anticipation.
But there were also some doubts raised about whether he'd be able to operate successfully at the senior level in quite the same manner, seeing as he already has major issues finishing in the lane and does not appear to have the perimeter shooting skills to compensate for it.
Defensively, Saric struggled to stay in front of quicker, stronger wing players on the perimeter, and he didn't seem to put great effort into his work here, preferring to instead gamble excessively for steals.
More concerning was the poor body language he displayed at times, getting easily frustrated with his teammates, referees and opposing players, and showing something of a bad temper. There are concerns that the attention he's received at such an early age, for instance being anointed the next Toni Kukoc by the Croatian media, has gone to his head.
At such a young age, Saric still has plenty of time to work on his weaknesses and take advantage of his considerable talent. It's important for everyone involved to realize that the road he needs to take to reach his potential is still a long one.
Cristiano Felicio, 6-9, PF/C, Brazil, 1992
Minas Tenis Clube
Brazilian big man Cristiano Felicio was one of the most interesting prospects to emerge at this tournament. He led the tournament in field goal percentage, at 76%, and was one of the best offensive rebounders on a per-minute basis. He has come a long way since we saw him last summer at the U-18 FIBA Americas Championships in San Antonio.
Physically, Felicio draws comparisons to fellow Brazilian big man Nene. At around 6-9, with an outstanding frame, long arms and very nice athleticism, he stands out immediately with his rare physical attributes. He is a pretty raw player overall, but he showed flashes of potential in a variety of areas, including in the post and in transition. He even knocked down a 17-foot jumper at one point.
Felicio clearly lacks experience at this stage, but he has a decent feel for the game and appears to be a pretty competitive player, which is always a good sign. He still has a long way to go to reach his full potential, but he definitely established himself as a player teams will want to keep track of over the next few years.
Lucas Nogueira, 6-11, Center, Brazil, 1992
As we've become accustomed to by now, Lucas Nogueira played an up and down U-19 World Championship tournament -- the highs and lows he experienced demonstrated the extreme strengths and weaknesses of his game.
Given his terrific size and athleticism, Lucas was at his best when making his presence felt defensively and on the glass. He ranked as the tournament's No. 1 per-minute shot-blocker and its fourth best rebounder. With that said, his lack of strength and poor fundamentals clearly hampered him at times. If not addressed, these are weaknesses that will likely prevent him from being able to play consistently well against high level competition.
Offensively, Lucas is still a limited player. He doesn't possess much of a post game and does not have an extraordinarily high skill level outside of the paintas demonstrated by his sub-50% field goal conversion rate here in Latvia. Worse still, he doesn't seem to know what his limitations are at this stage, which can lead to some awkward moments when he forces the issue. Situations like this show just how far away he is in terms of polish and overall basketball IQ.
Still, his sheer length and athleticism allow him to make his presence felt when he's really dialed in and playing to his strengths, especially given his ability to crash the offensive glass and finish above the rim.
The upside Lucas possesses is undeniable. His strengths put him in a rare caliber of big men prospects that are highly coveted by NBA teams. Clearly he needs more time and experience to reach his ceiling, though. He can't be viewed as anything more than a long term prospect at this stage.
Toni Katic, 6-2, Point Guard, Croatia, 1992
Croatia was clearly one of the most talented teams at this tournament, as evidenced by their thrilling win over the U.S. in the group stage. An untimely injury to Toni Katic, their star point guard, contributed to a disappointing eighth place finish and emphasized the important role he plays in their success.
Katic has decent size for a point guard. He stands about 6-2 and has a solid frame and pretty good athleticism for a European prospect. He's a creative ball-handler who can score in pick-and-roll, transition and isolation situations, and has a first step that allows him to get into the paint on a regular basis at this level.
A fluid player with excellent body control, Katic shows fancy footwork and the ability to change speeds. He also uses a polished Eurostep move to keep his defender off balance and has a nice feel for scoring around the basket and in the mid-range area. He's a creative scorerhis repertoire includes floaters, pull-ups and reverse lay-ups--and he's good at finding teammates in drive-and-dish situations and at the 3-point line.
Katic is more of a modern scoring point guard than a natural distributor. He still has room to improve on his court vision and his decision making in half-court sets. He tends to get out of control and turns the ball over excessively.
What's more concerning for his long-term potential is his inability to consistently knock down 3-pointers, though. He showed limited range from the perimeter at this tournamenthe converted just 2 of 8 attempts from beyond the arcand hasn't fared much better over the course of the season in the Croatian league.
Katic's body language also left something to be desired. He was easily frustrated and didn't show much in the way of leadership skills on a young team that desperately needed his experience as one of the oldest members of the roster.
Defensively, Katic was similarly inconsistent, showing average length and not displaying the best effort in terms of staying in front of his man. How much he's able to improve in this area may well dictate how high of a level he'll be able to play at.
All in all, Katic is an extremely talented player who appears to have benefited greatly from the experience he garnered this season in the Croatian league with KK Split. He has some adjustments he'll need to make to his game to reach his full potential, but he was one of the more intriguing guard prospects we saw at this event.
Boris Barac, 6-9, Power Forward, Croatia, 1992
Coming off an impressive showing at the adidas Eurocamp in Treviso, Boris Barac emerged as the second leading scorer at this tournament, making this something of a breakout summer for him.
The brother of Euroleague standout Stanko Barac, Boris doesn't have quite the size of the former Indiana Pacers second round draft pick, but he seems every bit as skilled.
Standing a solid 6-9, with long arms and a well developed frame, Barac has adequate size for a face-up four man. He's not overly quick or explosivehis high hips detract somewhat from his long-term athletic potentialbut he is an impressive offensive player. He has great scoring versatility for a player his age.
Barac is first and foremost an excellent shooter. He has a quick, natural release and unlimited confidence in his jumper, both when spotting up and off the dribble. He's more than just a one-dimensional player, though. He's also capable of putting the ball down and driving in either direction, even if he's somewhat limited in his finishing ability due to his lack of vertical explosiveness. He also has the strength needed to post up a bit inside, mostly to create space to get off a high-arcing turnaround jumper.
Defense and rebounding are two areas of Barac's game that he will have to improve to show he can play at the highest levels of basketball. His lateral foot speed is not great and he's a bit mechanical in his movements, which may make it difficult for him to defend more athletic players who can take him off the dribble. In the post, he has just average size. He'll need to show he has the strength and toughness to keep up with bigger players who will try to push him around inside the paint.
Mitchell Creek, 6-6, SF/PF, Australia, 1992
Adelaide 36ers (Australian NBL)
Mitchell Creek is the most experienced player on Australia's roster at the professional level, having seen significant playing time in the NBL this past season. From what we saw, he was the most interesting long-term prospect as well.
Creek has good size for a wing player at 6-7, with long arms, a well-developed frame and good athleticism. He did an excellent job in transition and in the post, as well as on the offensive glass and on defensea product of his physical tools, his toughness and his intensity.
Creek is seeing more time at the power forward spot at the moment than at the 3. He can beat his man off the dribble with a strong first step, but he must improve his skill-set on the perimeter to fully translate his effectiveness to the senior level. He has limited range on his jumperhe made just one 3-pointer the entire tournamentand he converted just 63% of his free throws. He's also an improvable ball-handler, particularly in terms of using his off hand and learning to incorporate changes of speed and direction.
Creek doesn't need to completely reinvent his game. If he adds a reliable spot-up jumper and gains experience playing on the perimeter on both ends of the floor, he'll become a fairly intriguing prospect.
Hugh Greenwood, 6-3, PG/SG, Australia, 1992
Committed to New Mexico
Showing a strong frame and good size for a point guard--he split time as Australia's primary ball-handler with Butler commit Jackson Aldridge--Greenwood uses his smarts and toughness rather than quickness or explosiveness to get the job done.
He is a prolific shooter who has the ability to make jumpers with his feet set or off the dribble. He's also prone to taking outside shots he attempted as many shots from beyond the arc as he did inside it. Greenwood is able to create space for himself with solid ball-handling skills and a nice change of pace dribble, but he is more likely to pull up in the mid-range area than drive all the way to the basket. He attempted just 10 free throws in 247 minutes in Latvia, which is something he'll need to work on in college to improve his scoring efficiency and increase his chances of making a full-time conversion to the point.
With his unselfish mentality and high basketball IQ, Greenwood should be able to make the transition to point guard down the road, which will significantly improve his pro potential in Europe or back home in Australia.
Janis Timma, 6-7, SG/SF, Latvia, 1992
Janis Timma was a very up and down player in this tournament, but he is nevertheless intriguing as a long-term prospect.
Timma is certainly a player who catches your eye on first glance. He has great size for a wing player at 6-7, to go along with a good frame and very fluid athleticism. He has the physical tools needed to play at a high level down the road. He's explosive in transition and is capable of doing a little bit of everything offensively.
Timma's mechanics are in need of serious refinement--he bends his knees deeply on each attemptbut he's capable of making shots from the perimeter. He can also put the ball on the floor and finish nicely around the rim in transition. However, he needs to improve his ball-handling skills in order to fully take advantage of his quick first step. Right now he's all too comfortable settling for jumpers from beyond the arc, which is a shame considering his physical tools.
Defensively, Timma again has potential, but he doesn't show great focus or intensity on that end of the floor, something his team surely could have used at this championship.
Edited by Patrick Crawley, Managing Editor of Basketball Fiend.