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10 Usman Garuba (ESP)
David Hein's Eye on the Future
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Talented trio Pecarski, Garuba, Samanic leading the way at U16 Euros

REGENSBURG (David Hein's Eye on the Future) – The FIBA U16 European Championship 2016 has reached the Quarter-Finals stage and three young prospects are really standing out above the rest – Serbia's Marko Pecarski, Usman Garuba of Spain and Croatian Luka Samanic.

This trio of talents is not the only three players who have excelled in Radom, but they are showing they have the stuff of possible future stars.

Pecarski is probably the worst bad luck story of the three. The son of former European club champion broke out at last summer's U16 European Championship despite being a year younger. But the Serbs were unable to finish in the top six and missed out on this summer's 2016 FIBA U17 World Championship.

The Serbs came into this summer's U16 tournament as one of the top favourites, especially because of Pecarski and Filip Petrusev were patrolling the post – two players who were on the U16 team last summer who could lead the other players.

But Petrusev had been dealing with a foot injury in the build-up to the tournament and then was forced out in the first game after just five minutes with what was called a stress fracture. Petrusev did not play the rest of the tournament.

That has left Pecarski as the main man for the Serbs, and he has more than filled that role, leading the tournament in scoring with 25.8 points and rebounding with 13.8 rebounds per game. Unfortunately for Pecarski and Serbia fans, the Balkan side could not give him enough help, losing three straight games to Finland, Greece and Montenegro as they enter the 9-16 Classification stage.

Pecarski, who was actually born in Gijon, Spain, has once again impressed talent observers with his strong set of skills.

While Pecarski is confirming his performance from last summer of 12points and 8.9 rebounds as a bottom level player, Garuba is downright dominating at the U16 European Championship despite being two years younger at just 14 years of age.

The Real Madrid forward is dead even with Pecarski as most efficient player of the tournament at 29.0 per game. Garuba is averaging 18.3 points – the fourth most in the tournament – while hitting 80 percent from the field and he’s second in rebounds with 12.0 boards a contest.

The physically strong and athletic forward Garuba is gaining some invaluable experience as he will likely spearhead Spain’s team next summer at the U16 European Championship, which will serve as the qualifiers for the 2018 FIBA U17 World Championship.

But first there is Spain's Quarter-Finals match-up with Montenegro as the Iberians shoot for their fourth U16 title – and first since 2013.

A possible showdown in the final on Sunday in Poland could be Croatia, who take on France in the final eight. The Croatians are led by star prospect Luka Samanic, who tops the team in scoring (15.5 points), rebounds (10.2) and blocks (4.0) while also picking up 3.0 assists a contest.

Samanic, whose father Marko Samanic played basketball professionally throughout Europe for 19 years, did not pick up hoops until he was 11 years old, having already played football, handball and tennis.

While Samanic has struggled with his shot – hitting just 40 percent from the floor and 23 percent from long range, the forward has come up big when it counts. He picked up a crucial three-point play with 43 seconds left in the second overtime in Croatia’s triumph over Sweden to reach the Quarter-Finals.

Croatia's exciting group of young players is getting a lot of attention right now around the world with Croatia have reached the Quarter-Finals of the Rio Olympics – and a date with Serbia. Samanic said he and the team have been watching Dario Saric, Mario Hezonja and company play in Rio.

"It is certainly a great motivation for me and the rest of the team. Saric and Hezonja have already achieved a lot in their careers, and each of us would like to follow their footsteps," Samanic said. 

The next big hope for Croatian basketball has already garnered international attention, being mentioned in a story about Croatia at the Olympics.

Sure, Pecarski, Garuba and Samanic are still years from playing in the Olympics. But the way they have played at the FIBA U16 European Championship, it’s not a stretch to look off in the distance and see them gracing the stage at the world's biggest events.

But let's just enjoy this trio in the moment and where they are at right now.

David Hein


FIBA's columnists write on a wide range of topics relating to basketball that are of interest to them. The opinions they express are their own and in no way reflect those of FIBA.

FIBA takes no responsibility and gives no guarantees, warranties or representations, implied or otherwise, for the content or accuracy of the content and opinion expressed in the above article.


David Hein

David Hein

Walk into the media tribune of any major basketball event and there's a good chance you will come across David Hein. Having covered dozens of FIBA events, including numerous women's and youth events, there are few players Dave doesn't know about, and few players who don't know him. His sporting curiosity means he is always looking to unearth something new and a little bit special. David Hein's Eye on the Future is a weekly column digging out the freshest basketball talent worldwide and assessing what the basketball landscape will look like a couple of years down the line.