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Blatt, Bitadze headline Top Five U21 players from World Cup Qualifiers fifth window
REGENSBURG (David Hein's Eye on the Future) - The action heated up in the fifth window of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Qualifiers and young players once again played a major role in their teams’ play. Here is a breakdown of some of the best players age 21 and under.
Goga Bitadze, Georgia
The 19-year-old big man was a big reason why Georgia picked up two wins in the window and remain alive for a spot in their first-ever FIBA Basketball World Cup. Against Estonia, Bitadze collected 19 points, 11 rebounds, 3 steals and 2 assists. The Mega Bemax center, who measures 6ft 11in (2.10m), then totalled 18 points, 7 rebounds, 3 blocks, 2 steals and 1 assists in Georgia’s big overtime win over Israel. Bitadze, who was on Georgia’s roster for the FIBA EuroBasket 2017 but did not play due to an injury, is making his senior national team debut in the Qualifiers and has played in all 10 games and averaged 11.5 points, 5.9 rebounds, 1.6 blocks, 1.1 steals and 0.9 assists.
Tamir Blatt, Israel
The 21-year-old point guard had one of his best games with the Israeli senior national team in their biggest victory of the European Qualifiers, collecting 10 points, 9 assists, 7 steals and 1 rebound in the shocking win over Serbia. Blatt, the son of legendary coach David Blatt, came back to Earth a bit in the last game of the window with 8 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists in the overtime loss at Georgia - which toughened Israel’s attempts to reach their first FIBA World Cup since 1986. Through nine games in the Qualifiers, the 6ft 3in (1.90m) Hapoel Jerusalem playmaker is averaging 8.9 points, a team-high 5.3 assists, 1.3 rebounds and 1.2 steals.
Sebastian Herrera, Chile
Chile were already eliminated going into the window but the 21-year-old guard had a great two games. The 6ft 3in (1.90m) guard tallied 26 points with 5 three-pointers, 7 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 block in carrying the country to their second win over Virgin Islands. Herrera, who plays for German first division side Crailsheim Merlins, added 17 points, 5 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 assist and 1 block in Chile’s loss against Dominican Republic. Herrera leads Chile in scoring with 12.6 points while hitting 53 percent of his three-pointers and also averages 4.1 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 0.7 steals in seven Qualifiers.
Ahmed Metwaliy, Egypt
The 21-year-old point guard made his senior national team debut in the African Qualifiers in the window in Angola and helped Egypt to a 2-1 record. Metwaly, who played for Egypt at the FIBA U17 Basketball World Cup 2014 and the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup 2015, collected 5 points, 4 assists and 2 rebounds in Egypt’s win over Chad and then picked up 8 points, 5 rebounds and 2 steals in the victory over Tunisia. In the huge game with Cameroon, the 5ft 10in (1.77m) playmaker could not keep Egypt from losing despite 11 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 steal. With that, Egypt have been eliminated from China 2019 contention.
Yovel Zoosman, Israel
If you’re an Israel fan you have to be excited about your national team when you look at this list and see two players on it - including the 20-year-old Zoosman. The 6ft 6in (1.99m) guard from Maccabi Tel Aviv totalled 10 points, 4 steals, 3 rebounds and 3 assists in the big win over Serbia. Zoosman, who guided Israel to the title at last summer’s FIBA U20 European Championship 2018, then had 9 points, 4 rebounds, 3 steals and 1 assist against Georgia. For the European Qualifiers, Zoosman is averaging 8.8 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.7 steals.
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With a number of teams having already been eliminated, it should not be a surprise to see more countries add young players to their rosters for the final window in February 2019. And that will make it that much harder to come up with the top five U21 players for that window.
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