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Top storylines of 2014-15 season
REGENSBURG (David Hein's Eye on the Future) - Summer is officially over - according to the calendar as well - and it's time to look forward to the 2014-15 basketball season.
The new campaign has already opened in a number countries and more and more leagues will tip off action in the coming weeks.
Here is a breakdown of five of the top stories I will be following this season.
Duke's super freshman trio
After winning the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup title, Mike Krzyzewski returns to Duke with a re-stocked Blue Devils team that will challenge for the title. Despite the departures of Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood to the NBA, Coach K has a freshman class to dream on.
Teaming up with senior Quinn Cook (2010 FIBA U17 World Championship) and junior Rasheed Sulaimon (2013 FIBA U19 World Championship) are fellow USA youth world champions Jahlil Okafor (2012 U17, 2013 U19), Justice Winslow (2012 U17, 2013 U19) and Tyus Jones (2012 U17).
With that group of proven winners, Krzyzewski could wind up cutting down the nets after Duke's fifth NCAA title - and first since 2010.
Will Qi Zhou get minutes with Flying Tigers?
The 18-year-old Qi Zhou showed at the 2014 FIBA Asia Cup that he belonged in the adult game, averaging 8.9 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.4 blocks, including an outstanding 16 points, 10 rebounds and six blocks against Japan.
Later in the summer, he out-classed the rest of the competition at the 2014 FIBA Asia U18 Championship with 13.1 points, 6.9 rebounds and 2.7 blocks in less than 19 minutes per game.
Qi now moves back to the club season and will play with Xinjiang Flying Tigers in the CBA and the question is how much the 18-year-old 2.18m youngster will play. The club signed former NBA players Andray Blatche and Jordan Crawford and also fellow seven-footers (2.13m) Tang Zhengdong and Su Wei. With the 2015 FIBA U19 World Championship coming next summer, it will be good for his development to get some playing time.
Sabonis starts US adventure with Gonzaga
It's been a while since a Sabonis played basketball in the northwest of the United States as the legendary Arvydas Sabonis left Portland in 2003 to return to Europe. But his son, Domantas Sabonis, will start his adventure in the United States in the coming weeks as a freshman at Gonzaga University.
The 18-year-old Domantas, who was born in Portland in 1996, comes off a disappointing summer as he failed to lead Lithuania to a spot in the 2015 FIBA U19 World Championship as the Baltic nation finished seventh at the 2014 U18 European Championship.
Sabonis will have plenty of international flavor at Gonzaga including Poland's senior national team big man Przemek Karnowski and Canadian Kevin Pangos, who both played at the 2010 FIBA U17 Worlds and 2011 U19 Worlds.
There are also players with well-known fathers at Gonzaga. Former Kentucky recruit Kyle Wiltjer is the son of former Canadian international Greg Wiltjer; while fellow freshman Dustin Triano's father is the current Canadian national team head coach Jay Triano; and freshman Leo Roese's father Walter played for Brazil at the youth ranks and is a former college assistant coach.
When will Maker make his decision?
As I have previously talked about in this column, Thon Maker still has a big decision to make. The 17-year-old Australian has already made his move from the United States high school to a Canadian high school academy. It still remains to be seen if he will reclassify but more importantly in the immediate and international regard if he will commit to playing for Australia as we would likely see Maker play for the Aussies at the 2015 FIBA U19 World Championship along with Ben Simmons and probably Isaac Humphries. Expect that decision to come in the next couple months.
Youth movement at Anadolu Efes
As a youth basketball columnist, it's hard not to be excited about Anadolu Efes Istanbul this season. First off, the legendary coach Dusan Ivkovic is at the helm and he loves working with young players - see his most recent work two summers ago with Serbia at EuroBasket 2013. And Duda definitely has a tremendous group of youngsters to work with at Anadolu.
Dario Saric is ready to make the jump from big-time talent to leader at just 20 years of age. Cedi Osman is coming off an MVP performance in helping Turkey to their maiden title at the 2014 U20 European Championship, which earned the 19-year-old a minor role with Turkey at the 2014 FIBA World Cup.
The 19-year-old Emircan Kosut was last year compared to a young Kevin Garnett by Croatian veteran Zoran Planinic. And then there is the thrilling 17-year-old duo of Furkan Korkmaz and Okben Ulubay. Korkmaz has already wowed fans with some amazing reel of highlights.
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.
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