2023 FIBA U19 World Cup Recap
This year's U19 World Cup showed that there is a lot of exciting upcoming talent. Here are those who really stood out all tournament.
Congratulations to Spain on winning the 2023 FIBA U19 World Cup. At first glance, that result may surprise a lot of people, but Spain was the best team from start to finish. They had a brilliant blend of size, skill, and athleticism that paired well with their egalitarian offense and high energy defense. In the finals, they overcame a tough French team that had tremendous size at every position and improved throughout the tournament. France started the tournament looking like a disjointed team, but they found their cohesiveness game by game. In the third-place game, Turkey beat the USA handedly. Turkey had a lot of size and skill on their team that led them to having a tremendous tournament. This was the USA’s worst finish since 2011, and it easily could’ve been much worse. They played like a team who just expected to win, and their game plan was to simply out-athlete the competition. Their on-ball defense was slopy and regularly gave up drives, their transition defense was uninterested in stopping the ball, they didn’t have any reliable shooters, their big men lacked the versatility of those from other teams, and their ball movement was mediocre at best. There was a lot of talent on the USA team, and they have really exciting futures ahead of them, but it never felt like the talent was being properly utilized. It’s not a fluke that the USA finished fourth as the talent across the globe continues to improve by the year. After a shaky start, this ended up being a really fun tournament. Here are some of the players that made the biggest impressions.
Jordi Rodriguez – Spain G – Club Joventut Badalona (ESP)
Personally, Rodriguez was the best player in this tournament. Rodriguez carried an immense load for this Spanish team and was a major reason why they were in the finals. Spain runs a very egalitarian offense that involves a tremendous amount of ball and player movement, but at the end of the day, the bulk of the offensive creation fell to Rodriguez. All tournament, Rodriguez showed a brilliant ability to create his shot in any area of the floor. He isn’t an overwhelming athlete, but his footwork, change-of-pace, and ball-handling made him incredibly elusive. Rodriguez finished through contact at the rim, knocked down movement threes off the catch, and made a myriad of pull-up jumpers. Simply put, Rodriguez is a professional scorer. Rodriguez also leveraged his scoring creativity to create for others. He’s an unselfish passer who sees the floor well and has an imaginative approach to sharing the ball. Rodriguez was also a highly adept defender. He isn’t a game wrecker on that end, but he has great footwork, awareness, and instincts. He can stay in front of ball-handlers and knows where to be and when to be there off-ball. Overall, Rodriguez had an absolutely tremendous tournament.
Izan Almansa Perez – Spain C – G-League Ignite (USA)
Almansa was awarded the tournament MVP as he averaged 16.9 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 2.8 stocks. Almansa wasn’t a threat to shoot, but he was one of the most effective at-rim finishers of the entire tournament. He regularly feasted on offensive rebounds and finishing out of the roll. Almansa also showed an ability to face up and beat his defender to the rim on drives. Almansa’s combination of finesse and power at the rim allowed him to produce one of the most dominant and consistent scoring performances of the tournament. On the defensive end, Almansa has scary upside. He moves incredibly well and recorded at least one stock (steal + block) in every game. His timing on steals and blocks was exceptional. Almansa was occasionally spastic with his off-ball defense and positioning, but he should be able to improve significantly on that in the coming years, especially with the Ignite.
Baba Miller – Spain F – Florida State University (USA)
Miller is coming off of a largely disappointing freshman season at Florida State after enduring one of the dumbest suspensions in a while. In this tournament, though, he looked tremendous. Miller was one of the more versatile and impactful two-way players in the tournament. He showed real defensive versatility as he covered every area of the floor and used his length to be a constant disruptor. The big question with Miller is still the shot, but there were a handful of games where the shot looked excellent. What is more encouraging, though, is that Miller has figured out how to make a consistent offensive impact in the half court. Compared to previous seasons, Miller was much more active as a cutter, passer, and slasher. He used his long strides to get to the rim at will and his length to finish in a myriad of ways. If Miller continues to build off this tournament performance, he could be in for a big year.
Lucas Langarita – Spain G – Casademont Zaragoza (ESP)
While Langarita didn’t have quite as prominent of a role as he did in last year’s FIBA U17 World Cup, he picked up right where he left off with his effectiveness. Langarita continued to show that he has a professional scoring repertoire with his off-ball movement, shifty ball-handling, at-rim explosiveness, and spot-up shooting. Langarita finished the tournament shooting 39.4% from three on 33 attempts, but he also showed off his playmaking chops with 23 assists and just nine turnovers. Langarita turned 18 in January, so it makes sense that he took more of a backseat role to some of the more experienced guards. He has the tools to be an extremely dynamic offensive weapon, and his defense is more than adequate.
Melvin Ajinca – France F – SQBB-JSC (FRA)
Ajinca put on a clinic all tournament with his outside shooting as he finished shooting 48.9% from three on 6.5 attempts per game. Ajinca didn’t do much else on offense other than score, but he averaged 19.3 points while shooting 58.8% from two and 48.9% from three. At 6’7”, Ajinca has the size and athleticism to attack the rim, spot-up, and hit movement threes. What was so impressive about Ajinca’s shooting performance is the variety of shots. He wasn’t simply spotting up the whole time but instead ran off screens and hit step backs as well. Ajinca also showed some devastating defensive tools as well. His athleticism and strength made him incredibly versatile. He moved his feet well to deny drives and played some tremendous ball denial. Ajinca’s 3&D ability alone gives him an exciting floor. If he continues to develop as an on-ball scorer and playmaker, he could really make some noise next season.
Alexandre Dam Sarr – France C – Perth Wildcats (AUS)
Like he did in the U17 World Cup, Sarr played much better in his country’s jersey than he did with OTE. The 7-footer just turned 18 in April, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that he’s still really raw. While that can lead to some inefficiencies and inconsistencies, it also leads to some brilliant flashes that spark the imagination of what he could be. Sarr was at his best on offense acting as a play finisher on dump offs and out of the roll. He didn’t shoot much, but he did show some flashes of really dynamic drives and body control. He wasn’t the most polished player on the court, but he was always one of the hardest working. On defense, Sarr needs to get stronger and more disciplined, but his work rate allowed him to generate 3.6 stocks per game. Coming into the tournament I was pretty skeptical about Sarr’s potential, but it’s almost impossible to not be excited about it now.
Zaccharie Risacher – France F – LDLC ASVEL Lyon Villeurbanne (FRA)
The expectations for Risacher coming into this tournament were astronomical. Unfortunately, he didn’t come close to meeting them. The 6’8” forward turned 18 in April, so his rawness is understandable. The brightest aspect of his game was his defense. He was a terror defending on the ball and was disruptive away from the ball as he averaged 2.0 steals per game. The offensive end was a different story, though. Risacher did end up shooting 44.4% from three, which is fantastic, but on only 2.6 attempts per game. Risacher’s shot is still a work in progress and is much more effective off the catch than off the bounce. Risacher also showed some really exciting passing chops but too frequently resorted to that instead of trying to get his own bucket. Risacher only averaged 7.4 points and 5.6 shots per game. For someone who has had their name thrown in the conversation as a top pick in the 2024 draft, he needs to be much more aggressive as a scorer, and this was the perfect setting to do it. Risacher is still an excellent player with a bright future, but his performance just left me wanting him to show more.
Zacharie Perrin – France C – Pole France (FRA)
Perrin was one of the most consistent performers of the tournament as he averaged 15.4 points and 10.9 rebounds while shooting 66.2% from two. There wasn’t anything flashy about Perrin’s game; he just always seemed to be in the right spot at the right time. Perrin was a devastating play finisher at the rim and gobbled up every rebound that came near him. For his position, he also showed a willingness to and effectiveness at passing. On defense, Perrin was more of a playmaker than a foundational piece. He had solid awareness and good hands but got in foul trouble in the knockout stage. The biggest hurdle for Perrin is his lack of explosiveness. He isn’t a traditional rim protector, didn’t defend much on the perimeter, and struggled to create his own shot. He did, however, consistently produce at an absurd level.
Asa Newell – USA C – Monteverde Academy (USA) – ESPN 2024 #14 Recruit
Despite being one of the younger players in the tournament, turning 18 in October, Newell was one of the most impressive performers from start to finish. At 6’9”, Newell has excellent size and functional athleticism that teams drool over. What stands out immediately is Newell’s defensive excellence. His functional athleticism allows him to switch on the perimeter, but his explosiveness, awareness, and timing made him one of the most effective rim protectors in the entire tournament with 2.3 blocks per game. Newell was also an impactful rebounder on both ends of the floor and tended to catch everything. The only concern with Newell’s defense is that he can be a bit jumpy, but that can be easily corrected in time. While his defense feels like a guaranteed skill, Newell’s offense is a bit more uncertain but extremely enticing. He was impactful on the offensive glass, caught everything, was a consistent above the rim finisher, and even showed some flashes of putting the ball on the floor and getting to the rim. Right now, Newell is just an interior play finisher, but there are flashes of more to come. The big question with his offense is the shot. Newell didn’t shoot it well, but his mechanics looked solid, and he was willing to shoot when left open. In the long run, I’d buy the idea of him being at least a capable shooter from outside.
Cody Williams – USA F – University of Colorado (USA)
After experiencing an astronomical ascension up the 2023 recruit rankings earlier this year, Williams has had a busy few months of basketball. Unfortunately, Williams was one of the more disappointing players at Nike Hoop Summit as he often looked timid and like he felt as if he didn’t belong. Looking at just the numbers from this tournament, it would be easy to come away with the same conclusion. However, I actually came away really impressed with how Williams approached these games. Yes, the numbers are underwhelming and inefficient, but his mindset was extraordinarily better. Williams was aggressive all tournament about getting downhill and pressuring the rim. He wasn’t afraid of contact and found ways to leverage his size. Williams still needs to get significantly stronger as he really struggled to finish through contact, but his willingness to embrace and initiate contact was a welcomed development in just a couple of months. Williams’s lack of strength also hurt him on defense. His defensive activity and intensity improved throughout the tournament, suggesting that there is a really exciting ceiling for him given his length and competitiveness, but opponents tended to bump him off his spot too easily and finish through him. Once Williams adds the requisite strength needed to compete at the highest level, there is a lot to get excited about with his two-way versatility, especially when you factor in his passing.
Dylan Harper – USA G – Don Bosco High School (USA) – ESPN 2024 #1 Recruit
Harper was one of the tougher evaluations for me due to some of his inconsistent involvement. Then you remember that the 6’4” guard just turned 17 in March, and it becomes pretty easy to get excited about his future. Harper never really took over a game, but there were plenty of flashes that you could see translating to absolute dominance in his high school league. Harper showed some really intriguing 3-level scoring versatility with his ability to burst to the rim with ease, get to his spots in the mid-range, and knock down spot-up threes. Harper’s shooting was the biggest weakness, but it wasn’t so bad that there should be any long-term concerns over it. Aside from some intriguing scoring flashes, Harper was at his best on offense when he moved the ball. He was an excellent connective passer and had a few games with brilliant stretches of playmaking as he finished the tournament with 21 assists and just three turnovers. Harper also showed some really exciting flashes of defense. There were stretches where his fundamentals and processing speed were lacking as he relied just on his size and athleticism, but he mostly was a tenacious on-ball defender. If he can continue to improve that aspect of his game, along with his off-ball impact, and pair that with his steadily growing offensive repertoire, Harper could easily maintain that #1 spot into his freshman season.
Eric Dailey Jr. – USA F – Oklahoma State University (USA)
Similar to Williams, Dailey also came into this tournament with a lot more confidence than he showed at the Nike Hoop Summit. Dailey was constantly playing bully ball and out muscling his defenders. He regularly got to his spots and was highly effective scoring on the interior as he shot 59.6% from two. Unfortunately, Dailey’s outside shot still has a lot of work to do. He shot just 15.4% from three but on only 13 attempts. Dailey’s focus was to be a physical interior scorer, but he’ll need to figure out how to be a reliable shooter from outside given that he’s just 6’6”. Aside from the scoring, Dailey’s passing looked much better than previous outings. It wasn’t a consistent tool throughout the tournament, but there were a handful of games where he did a great job of leveraging his scoring gravity to create for teammates. Like his passing, Dailey also showed great stretches of defensive versatility. He used his strength, moved his feet, and was a solid defensive playmaker as he averaged 2.0 stocks per game.
Ian Jackson – USA F – Cardinal Hayes High School (USA) – ESPN 2024 #5 Recruit
Jackson had one of the more erratic tournaments as his minutes and role fluctuated game by game. Jackson just turned 18 in February, and the 6’6” forward is committed to the University of North Carolina. Despite being listed as a forward, Jackson showed a lot of guard skills and offensive versatility. As a scorer, Jackson was the most effective off-ball. His shot looked more comfortable, it was more effective, and he showed good instincts with his off-ball movement. Jackson had some difficulties with his on-ball creation, despite some solid drives, but his playmaking stood out as the most exciting long-term upside tool. Jackson made some gorgeous bounce passes through traffic and kickouts on drives. He likely won’t be a primary creator going forward, but his passing ability will help him be an important piece in dynamic offenses.
Kylan Boswell – USA G – University of Arizona (USA)
Despite heading into his sophomore season at Arizona, Boswell just turned 18 in April. Boswell had a good season with the Wildcats and was one of the prospects I was most excited about in this tournament. Unfortunately, he left me wanting so much more. The best part of Boswell’s game, similar to his freshman year at Arizona and in high school, was his defense. He was a menace at the point of attack, had lightning quick hands, and was solid with rotations and help defense. Unfortunately, bigger opponents rarely had trouble moving him, getting to their spot, and simply shooting over him. The bigger frustrations came on the offensive end, though. Boswell’s shot looks solid and the numbers suggest that he is a quality shooter as he shot 48% from two and 35.3% from three on 2.4 attempts. However, Boswell doesn’t seem to think that he is a good shooter. He constantly passed up wide-open looks, and instead opted to drive into traffic or make an extra pass to an already covered teammate. Boswell has to be willing to let it fly or else he becomes exceptionally easy to defend. He lacks the size and explosiveness to be a consistently impactful interior scorer. While he’s a good passer, he isn’t exactly a dynamic playmaker. Boswell didn’t have a bad tournament, but he came well short of the expectations and hopes I had for him going into it.
Mark Armstrong – USA G – Villanova University (USA)
Armstrong was one of the most fun athletes in the entire tournament. Despite being just 6’3” (which looks generous), Armstrong was constantly finishing above the rim. He played at such a different pace than everyone else on the floor and was rarely deterred from getting to where he wanted to go. Armstrong showed an impressive understanding of change-of-pace dribbling and how to fully leverage his athleticism. Armstrong’s interior scoring and on-ball creation was tremendously fun, but his shooting was sorely disappointing. Armstrong’s mechanics generally look fine, but he shot just 12.5% from three, which is concerning that there hasn’t been much improvement after shooting 24.6% from three in his freshman season. At his size, reliable outside shooting is essential. Additionally, Armstrong didn’t look overly concerned with creating for others. Armstrong finished with averaging 2.6 assists per game, but when you take out the seven he had against China, this average falls to 1.8. Armstrong can effortlessly collapse a defense, but his next step in development needs to be recognizing how to counter the defensive rotations with something other than a potential poster dunk (although those are an immense amount of fun).
Myles Colvin – USA G – Purdue University (USA)
Out of the entire USA roster, Colvin was given the smallest opportunity. His minutes fluctuated significantly, and his role was minimal. Colvin is headed to Purdue, and his selection may surprise many to begin with given that he wasn’t even in ESPN’s top 100 and finished 74 on RSCI. In his limited opportunity, the biggest takeaway is that he could be a lethal off-ball shooter. Colvin only shot 37.5% from three on 16 attempts, but his mechanics are excellent. Colvin is a natural off-ball scorer with how he moves and gets his shot off. His fit at Purdue should be seamless given the past shooters that have been there and the offense that they run. On a team that didn’t have a ton of reliable shooters, it would have been nice to see Colvin get some more minutes.
Omaha Biliew – USA F – Iowa State University (USA)
Biliew was one of the standouts all week at Hoop Summit, so it was great to see him get a bigger role in this tournament. Biliew is still exceptionally raw, and it showed at times in this tournament. His impact was a bit erratic, and he was played either meaningful minutes or barely at all. Biliew played on offense like he knew he had a very short leash. He rarely experimented and largely played within himself. He proved to be disruptive on the offensive glass, and his outside shot off the catch looked significantly improved. Some of his misses were still miles off, but there at least appears to be strides in the right direction. The biggest hurdle for Biliew on offense is that there is almost no on-ball creation to his game yet. He isn’t much of a playmaker, and he doesn’t seem to have much confidence in his handle. There were a few drives where he showed a tight handle, creative approach, and impressive understanding of the spaces to attack. However, he typically tended to bail out of drives as he’d try a move and immediately not trust it to work. Defensively, Biliew has all the tools to be a monster. He has the strength, agility, and competitiveness to defend most positions on the court. With a bit more experience and coaching, Biliew could easily make the leap from good defender to elite defender. This is a big summer for Biliew, and if he continues trending in the direction he is, and I’m more than willing to bet on his work ethic, he could be a surprise top-5 pick in next year’s draft.
Tobe Awaka – USA C – University of Tennessee (USA)
Awaka was an absolute force on the interior all tournament. He averaged a double-double with 11.6 points and 10.6 rebounds. His strength is evident as he effortlessly battled and secured rebound after rebound after rebound on both ends. Offensively, Awaka is a pretty easy evaluation. He has good scoring touch but that’s about it. His entire shot creation comes from offensive rebounds or just lowering his shoulder into his defender. He isn’t a shooter, and he was generally a black hole on offense as he didn’t register a single assist. If he can figure out how to find those kickout opportunities from the post, it would do wonders in creating scoring opportunities for himself and the rest of his team. On defense, Awaka showed the same strength and work rate he did on offense. He plays really hard, but there wasn’t much else there. He isn’t an overtly explosive athlete, and at just 6’8” he isn’t the natural rim protector other centers are. Awaka was extremely reliable at ending possessions with rebounds, and he even moved his feet well. Given his physical limitations, though, there was only so much he could do.
Tre Johnson – USA G – Link Academy (USA) – ESPN 2024 #3 Recruit
Johnson just turned 17 in March, and despite his age and lack of explosiveness, the 6’6” guard was one of the most impressive performers of the tournament. Johnson proved that he can play on and off ball on offense. His decision making was that of a much more experienced player, and he got to his spots at will despite not being an elite athlete. Johnson displayed an understanding of the game and ability to manipulate it to his will that is surprising for a player his age. It would be surprising if Johnson isn’t an excellent shooter down the line, but his playmaking was even more impressive. Johnson finished with 18 assists, compared to six turnovers, and they were more than just making the extra pass to an open shooter. Johnson regularly moved defenders and countered rotations at will. To make matters better, Johnson was also one of the more reliable defenders on the team. He displayed great fundamentals and awareness. Johnson has a really good shot to challenge Harper for that #1 ranking and be one of the best players from his class.
Ven-Allen Lubin – USA C – Vanderbilt University (USA)
After transferring from Notre Dame to Vanderbilt, Lubin provided decent minutes as the backup center on this team. Lubin’s bankable skill all tournament was his rebounding. Like Awaka, Lubin is extremely strong and relentless going after rebounds. Once he secured it, there was almost no chance he was losing it. Aside from that, though, Lubin’s performance was underwhelming and inconsistent. There were some flashes of ball skills and ability to drive. There were some flashes of defensive versatility and ability to move his feet on the perimeter. Unfortunately, Lubin struggled to string them together for sustained periods of time.
Reynan Santos – Brazil G – Franca (BRA)
Santos was one of the most electrifying guards in the entire tournament. Santos turned 19 in February and showed impressive levels of burst and explosiveness at 6’4”. The main selling point with Santos is his athleticism and ability to pressure the rim at will. Santos isn’t afraid to finish over, through, or around defenders at the rim. He also leverages his rim pressure to create for others with creative passes, impressive vision, and an unselfish approach. Santos’s on-ball creation can be tremendously fun, but he was also prone to far too many turnovers. He needs to improve his ball security, but his mentality, aggressiveness, and versatility on drives is a great foundation to build on. Santos ended the tournament with a hot outside shooting performance, but his jumper looked largely unreliable for most of the time. Santos takes a similar approach to defense as he does attacking the rim. He gambles a lot and is an effective defensive playmaker, but his fundamentals and consistency still need work. Santos was the shining star for Brazil and has a promising foundation to continue to develop.
Samis Rodrigues Calderon – Brazil F – NBA Academy (MEX)
Calderon showed some really interesting tools for a long-term 3&D forward. Calderon doesn’t turn 19 until November, and at 6’7” he has plenty of tools to scale across lineups. Calderon was at his most effective when playing off-ball on offense. His overall outside shooting numbers weren’t ideal, but he showed more promise as a spot-up shooter as he also effectively and consistently attacked closeouts. Aside from attacking closeouts, Calderon looked largely uncomfortable creating anything on ball. His handle was loose and looked stiff with his movements. Defensively, Calderon showed a lot of promise. He had a bad habit of giving too much of a cushion, but he wasn’t afraid of physicality, moved his feet well enough, and was able to switch most positions. If the jumper continues to trend in the right direction, Calderon has some really interesting tools on the wing.
Leandro Cardoso Inacio – Brazil F – Club Athletico Paulistano (BRA)
Inacio was one of the more impressive defenders of the tournament. At 6’8”, Inacio displayed excellent footwork on the perimeter and tenacious strength in the post. He was highly switchable and was also a monster on the boards. Inacio turned 19 in January, and his defense being this polished already is pretty exciting. Unfortunately, Inacio was largely ineffective on offense. There was some solid interior play finishing flashes from him, but that was about it. He isn’t a shooter, doesn’t create for others, and is mostly incapable of creating his own shot. Inacio’s defense is really impressive, but he has to figure out something to contribute on offense.
Guilherme Tesch – Brazil F – University of Evansville (USA)
Tesch turned 19 in May, and like Calderon, showed some really intriguing 3&D tools at 6’8”. On offense, Tesch is solely a spot-up shooter right now. His jumper needs to be sped up, but it has a solid foundation that could turn him into a highly reliable shooter. Unfortunately, Tesch showed barely any ability to create on-ball. Defensively, Tesch has a lot of tools. He was a smart and reliable team defender who could switch assignments and make timely rotations.
Jan Vide – Slovenia G – UCLA (USA)
Vide was one of the more impactful players in the tournament from start to finish. The 6’6” guard turned 18 in January and is headed to UCLA in the fall. Vide showed a lot of offensive versatility with his off-ball cutting, but he was at home with the ball in his hands. He consistently got to his spots with ease, pressured the rim despite elite explosiveness, and created quality looks. Vide displayed impressive body control and dynamic interior scoring around the rim and pulling up in the midrange. Aside from scoring, Vide also exhibited an impressive playmaking arsenal as he found cutters, made skip passes out of drives, and countered defensive rotations. Vide’s outside shot needs a lot of work as his mechanics are disjointed and has a narrow base. It may just be an issue of needing to get stronger as his midrange jumper and interior scoring touch looked good, but he’ll have to figure out the outside shot eventually.
Sergej Macura – Slovenia F – Saski Baskonia (ESP)
Macura was one of the pleasant surprises of this tournament. The 6’9” forward turned 19 in April and showed two-way versatility from start to finish. Macura wasn’t much of a shooter and was ineffective creating off the bounce, but he was a tremendous play finisher in the forward spot. He attacked closeouts, finished around the rim, made sound decisions, and was constantly moving. His high level of activity made him a reliable outlet for teammates, but it also made him a complete menace on the boards, especially on the offensive end. Macura has a slender frame that should get stronger, but he still held his own on defense despite typically facing a strength disadvantage. He has great length, is a fluid mover, and an intelligent team defender. Once Macura adds a bit more strength, he could be a devastating defender with enticing offensive potential.
Mathias M’Madi – Madagascar G – BWB Team 3 Men (BWB)
M’Madi was one of the most enjoyable watches in the tournament as he averaged 24.1 points per game that included a couple 30-point performances as well. The 6’4” point guard just turned 19 in June, and his youth was frequently on display. Did he commit an obscene number of turnovers? Yes. Was he also extremely inefficient as a scorer? Also, yes. Do I care? Not really. Obviously, M’Madi averaging 5.3 turnovers while shooting 44.9% from the floor and 16.1% from three isn’t sustainable. However, he had some of the most creative on-ball sequences of the entire tournament. He played with a sense of flair and joy that is rare in these tournaments. He got to the line 9.6 times per game, was a creative scorer, and fascinating playmaker. He has to improve his ball security and outside shooting, but those tend to be more fixable than trying to integrate the inane creativity M’Madi plays with.
Elijah Fisher – Canada G – DePaul University (USA)
Fisher had an up and down tournament as he struggled to sting multiple quality games together in a row. When things were clicking for Fisher, it’s easy to get excited about what he could be. He was aggressive attacking the rim and leveraging his strength to discard defenders. His pull-up jumper was falling, and he was knocking down shots from outside. He was really active on the boards, kept the ball moving, and showed intriguing defensive versatility by sliding his feet on the perimeter and banging in the post. Unfortunately, Fisher failed to build off these performances. Every exciting game was immediately followed by a lackluster one. His slow release became a bigger issue, his lack of raw explosiveness and scoring touch made him an inefficient scorer, and his defensive fundamentals and awareness disappeared leading to blown rotations and sloppy fouls. There is no denying that Fisher has some tantalizing tools that he’s capable of enacting to produce impressive performances. Hopefully a change of scenery at DePaul will help him find the consistency that he lacked during this tournament.
Michael Nwoko – Canada C – Miami University (USA)
After a dominant Nike Hoop Summit game performance in April, Nwoko largely picked up right where he left off. Nwoko plays with a sense of force and strength that most players his age are incapable of dealing with. He plays with a brutish ferocity in the post but then kisses the ball off the glass with the softest of touches. Nwoko doesn’t have a highly refined or dynamic post-up repertoire, which will likely become an issue in the near future, but his eagerness to go through defenders and ability to score with a soft touch has been incredibly effective for him. Aside from post scoring and relentless rebounding, though, Nwoko didn’t shine in many other areas. A jump shot is just not a tool for him right now, and outside of the game against France, his passing was largely nonexistent. Defensively, Nwoko didn’t answer many questions. He only registered three blocks in five games, and his defensive rebounding was pedestrian as he averaged only 3.0 per game compared to his 2.4 offensive rebounds per game. Nwoko showed some ability to disrupt pick-and-rolls with hard hedges, but his defensive awareness, positioning, and activity was mostly underwhelming. As he scales up in competition, Nwoko must develop different aspects to his game as his method of pure force will become more untenable as the competition grows in size, strength, and skill.
Xaivian Lee – Canada G – Princeton University (USA)
Lee was a pleasant surprise on this Canada team as he effectively ran their offense and controlled the pace of play. Lee, who turned 19 in March, is listed at 6’4” and 180-pounds, both of which feel incredibly generous. The biggest concern with Lee is how small he looked on the court. Lee makes up for his lack of size and strength with his quickness. He was a pest for defenders to stay in front of and was incredibly active at the point of attack. Lee also showed impressive scoring touch and shooting potential as he finished with shooting 53.2% from two, 36.4% from three, and 78.1% from the line and encouraging playmaking chops with his ability to spray the ball around the court. Unfortunately, Lee also regularly got bumped off his drives and blocked at the rim.
Filip Borovicanin – Serbia F – University of Arizona (USA)
At 6’7”, Borovicanin showed off a unique skillset for his position. Despite his size, the 19.5-year-old frequently acted as a point guard by running in transition and even initiating the half-court offense. Borovicanin utilized a pretty tight handle and change of pace dribbling to get to his spots almost whenever he wanted. This skill made him an effective interior scorer and playmaker off the bounce. Unfortunately, Borovicanin struggled shooting from outside, he has a hitch at the top of his shot. His mechanics likely need an overhaul, but his success in the midrange is at least a cause for optimism. The biggest concern is how much Borovicanin struggled against France. France is an excellent team with great athletes, but Borovicanin’s lack of explosiveness and burst didn’t allow him to separate or create much of anything off the dribble.
Ilija Milijasevic – Serbia G – Spartak Subotica (SRB)
Milijasevic is the spirit animal for gunners in pickup games. There isn’t a shot that he’s ever disliked. To his credit, though, Milijasevic took, and made, some of the most difficult shots of anyone in the tournament. He knocked down movement threes, standard pull-ups, and dynamic step backs. His ability to create his own shot was absurdly fun. Milijasevic’s on-ball creation also carried over to his playmaking. His shifty change-of-pace ball-handling allowed him to get anywhere on the court, and his creativity consistently produced tremendous scoring opportunities. Unfortunately, Milijasevic’s creativity was also prone to steering him towards disaster. Milijasevic was incredibly inefficient scoring from within the arc and prone to turnovers.
Lazar Djokovic – Serbia F – Crvena Zvezda MTS (SRB)
At 6’8” and having just turned 19 in April, Djokovic is exactly what teams look for in a stretch-4. Djokovic showed his versatility throughout the tournament as he averaged 14.9 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 3.1 assists while shooting 61.2% from two and 37.5% from three. Djokovic was a highly reliable play finisher around the rim and from three, but he also showed a capability to create for others from the top of the arc with accurate and creative passes. Defensively, Djokovic was very reliable. His rotations were sound, his length was disruptive, and his fundamentals allowed him to switch on most matchups. Unfortunately, Djokovic didn’t look supremely athletic. He was a bit of a stiff mover and struggled to create anything off the bounce. The tools are fascinating, but he’ll have to figure out how to be more impactful when facing far superior athletes.
Samet Yigitoglu – Turkey C – Besiktas Emlakjet (TUR)
Yigitoglu was one of the biggest players in the tournament, and it looks like his game has been modeled specifically after the player formerly known as Enes Kanter. Yigitoglu was a force on the boards and showed a promising scoring touch. Yigitoglu was a reliable interior finisher and even showed some encouraging passing flashes. Unfortunately, Yigitoglu wasn’t as impactful as a defender as it felt like he should’ve been and consistently found himself in foul trouble. His footwork and positioning were really good in drop coverage, but his rotations were a step late and overall effectiveness as a rim protector was lacking.
Hamza Mestoglu – Turkey F – CB Ucam Murcia (ESP)
Mestoglu plays like Alperen Sengun is the only player he’s ever watched. Mestoglu displayed some real creativity with his passing, but unfortunately the juice wasn’t always worth the squeeze as he accumulated more turnovers than assists. Mestoglu also utilized some brilliant footwork to create easy buckets in the post. While the shooting results and mechanics weren’t ideal, Mestoglu was at least willing to shoot, which opened up driving and playmaking opportunities. As a defender, Mestoglu was pretty pedestrian. He battled and worked hard, but effectiveness wasn’t always there. If his willingness to shoot transforms into better results, and his passing becomes a bit more accurate, though, Mestoglu could grow into a really intriguing offensive weapon.
Karahan Efeoglu – Turkey F – Anadolu Efes SK (TUR)
At 6’8”, Efeoglu was one of the most interesting and versatile scorers on this Turkey team. He shot 48.8% on two pointers and 44% on 3.6 attempts from three. He was a reliable three level scorer who took over stretches of some of their games. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much else to Efeoglu’s game. He didn’t create for others and the defense was minimal. If the scoring versatility continues to grow, though, it could be more than enough for him.