On Friday I had the chance to attend the Basketball Without Borders event in Barcelona put on by the NBA. Not really sure how I was allowed in being that there were about 50 people waiting outside the facility at one point to watch the F.C. Barcelona soccer players come out of the complex after their practice. The “act like you own the place” method worked once again.
The “camp” consisted of the top 50 prospects in Europe, as with any camp of this type I’m sure there were valuable players left off and less worthy players invited. My highlights:
1) The systems
For me it was interesting to watch these different players from the different countries right after the World Championships and you see the style of these players matches perfectly with the system that they come from. There were a couple kids from Lithuania who were big 2-4 type players (as they have on their national team) that weren’t especially good shooters but they knocked down a mid range jumper and then hit back to back 3′s just like their National Team did against Argentina, they aren’t shooters but if they’re on they all can shoot. As mentioned the Serbian guards ability to find the open man, something Teodosic did to perfection in the World Championships as he directed traffic for a dynamic and young Serbian national team. There was a kid that looked good and had a good skill set and a guy sitting next to me said “It couldn’t be more clear that the kid is from Dennmark, he’s got no blood (competetive nature).”
With respect to the Lithuanians and Serbians it brings up a question to mind
-are the kids that make it to the National Team a product of a system of teaching, so all the top players have a certain way of playing? Or are they the kids that have the style of play that best fits the system so they are selected and identified as being “talented” with realtion to being selected for these types of selections? So talented kids who don’t play a certian type of way discarded because of their inability to fit within the national system.
2) The Serbian Point Guards
After Serbia’s impressive performance in the World Championships and talking to some press yesterday, Serbia is doing things right in terms of identifying and developing the basketball talent within their country. Yesterday the two best PG’s in my eyes were from Serbia:
Alexsandar Cvetkovic and Nenad Mijenovic
Both of these guys are really long point guards that have the total package. Alexsander is about 6’2 and Nenad an inch or two taller and both have really long arms and bodies that should fill out nicely in the next few years (they will both turn 19 in 2011) so they’re like high school seniors.
Why did I like them?
The thing that stood out to me the most about these two guys was their ability to find the open man. Many times it was a simple pass (or made simple by their ability to pass the ball with either hand at any time) but they were so good at getting into the paint and making the right decision and also making the right decision in the pick and roll. In these camp situations where most teams are playing “AAU style” ball where there is little to no passing and less team game. When the ball was in one of these guys hands everything was much smoother and regardless of the other 4 guys on the court they played like a team.
And in the case of Nenad he is a real competitor and transmits confidence to his teammates, both things that are necessary for a player to reach the elite and are very hard to teach.
3) Przemyslaw Karnowski and Dario Saric
Karnowski is a legit 7 footer from Poland and Saric a 6’8 swing man from Croatia are the two can’t miss talents in the group.
Karnowski is the most well rounded 7 foot “high schooler” I have ever seen. He’s still a little bit heavy and slow footed which hopefully he can improve as he grows into his body and sheds some of his baby fat. But Karnowski has the total package, great with his back to the basket, excellent hands, likes contact, intimidating defender and very good footwork. He got a little tired as the day got into hours 6 and 7 for them and they were in the second of back to back 48 minute games but he’s legit. A name you will 100% hear about in Europe and most likely see in the NBA at some point especially given the fact that a real 7 footer is much more suited for the NBA style game than the European game. He was comfortable and effective in his mid range shooting and even stepped out to knock down a 3 at one point. Athletically he still has some work but in 3-4 years he should be playing at the highest level here in Europe.
Saric is a swingman born in 1994 (the rest of the players are from 93) who has superstar written all over him. His skill set, his swagger, his athleticism. He’s not a jump out of the gym type athlete but he’s really smooth, got good speed and jumping ability and he’s really really coordinated. He also is a guy that you are gonna be hearing about in the years to come.
4) Worth Mentioning
Matuesz Ponitka is a 6’5 shooter from Poland who is already playing in the top league in Poland. He’s a lights out shooter with really good athletic ability. He’s playing pro right now and it showed, he looked like a man among boys alot of the time. Great footwork on the perimeter and a deadly shooting stroke with a really quick release.
Pavlin Ivanov is a 6’6 scorer from Poland. He has an unquestionable ability to score the basketball a variety of different ways. Unfortunately his passing ability or willingness was not as present as he was very reluctant to give the ball up once he got it. Not necessarily a bad thing, I like my scorers to really want to score but he’s got to be able to recognize when there is an opportunity and when there isn’t. Nevertheless that part of his game can be improved while teaching someone to score like he can is much more complicated. He, Ponitka and Karnowski could make Poland relevant in European basketball in the years to come.
Bogdan Radosavlejic is a 6’11 big man from Germany who is a 4 but has played his whole life as a 5 which is good and bad. He is unreal with his back to the basket, looked like a European Tim Duncan at times with his ability to hit little bank shots with either hand from 4-6 feet. But his jumper needs a lot of work, he shot a couple 3′s and they were closer to hitting the lights than the rim.
All in all it was a great day of basketball and really has my mind churning as to what kind of teaching and player development is going on in each of these different countries and their “basketball schools.”