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Youngsters shine throughout in 2021 Qualifiers around the world
REGENSBURG (David Hein's Eye on the future) - The basketball world took its first step towards the 2021 continental tournaments over the past week with the first qualifying games for the four events. And a number of countries saw the future leaders of their national teams step up and show they are already ready for the big stage.
All four of the continental regions witnessed players born 1999 and later signal to their respective national teams that they can be counted upon to get them qualified for the FIBA AfroBasket 2021, FIBA AmeriCup 2021, FIBA Asia Cup 2021 and FIBA EuroBasket 2021 - not to mention possibly star at those events next year.
Here is a breakdown by region of some of the top youngsters who shined over the first round of games.
Samir Gbetkom - Cameroon
Africa only had one group in action this FIBA window and there were not any players who qualified for this list but we put the 1998-born Gbetkom in there because of his strong showing for Cameroon in Group C. The point guard, who plays for France ProB side Gries-Oberhoffen, stood out in particular against Equatorial Guinea with 10 points, 3 assists and 2 steals. For the three games, Gbetkom averaged 6.3 points, 1.7 assists and 1.3 steals for Cameroon, who went 2-1 in the group, losing to Cote d'Ivoire after beating Equatorial Guinea and Guinea.
Yago Mateus - Brazil
The point guard is not new to the senior national team, having played nine games in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Americas Qualifiers and then appearing in two World Cup games in China. The 20-year-old played a big role in getting Brazil two wins over Uruguay in the FIBA AmeriCup 2021 Qualifiers, averaging 10.5 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists. Mateus was joined on the team by 17-year-old Guilherme Carvalho, who last summer helped Brazil win the South American U17 Championship 2019.
Dominick Bridgewater - Bahamas
Bahamas went 1-1 against Mexico in the AmeriCup Qualifiers and a big reason for them getting the home win was the 19-year-old Bridgewater, one of the country's brightest hopes for the future. The point guard scored 15 points with 3 three-pointers and 2 assists in 10 minutes off the bench and averaged 9.5 points, 1.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists in the two games.
Moises Andriassi - Mexico
Mexico meanwhile saw one of their better prospects show what he can do as Andriassi averaged 4.0 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists in the two games against Bahamas - against whom Andriassi's older brother - 22-year-old Josue Andriassi - also played.
Juan Gomez de Liano - Philippines
Gomez de Liano made his senior national team debut and the 20-year-old showed Gilas fans what the future might hold, collecting 10 points, 1 rebound, 2 assists and 1 steals in 11 minutes against Indonesia.
Sam Froling and Josh Giddey - Australia
Let's group these two together as they both made their Boomers debut. The 20-year-old Froling - the youngest in a family full of players who have represented Australia - played 2 minutes against New Zealand and then picked up 6 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist and 3 blocks against Hong Kong. Giddey for his part collected 11 points, 3 rebounds, 6 assists and 1 steal against Hong Kong as the 17-year-old became the youngest person to play for the Boomers since Ben Simmons.
Karim Zeinoun - Lebanon
Another player making his senior national team debut in the Asia Cup Qualifiers was the 20-year-old Zeinou, who shined in two wins for Lebanon against Iraq and Bahrain. The 20-year-old collected 15.5 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists.
Others: Those were just the top performers of the youngsters but there were plenty others who gave their home team fans hope for the future, including 17-year-old Taine Murray of New Zealand; 19-year-old Indian Princepal Singh; the 19-year-old Iranian guard Mohammadsina Vahedi; 18-year-old Muzamil Hamoda of Bahrain; 16-year-old Indonesian talent Derrick Xzavierro; and Malaysian 17-year-old Soon Kang Chong.
Deni Avdija - Israel
One of Europe's top emerging stars is Avdija, who helped Israel win the FIBA U20 European Championship 2018 and already played in two games in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 European Qualifiers. The 19-year-old starred for Israel in their win over Romania with 21 points on 8-of-13 shooting with 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal and 1 block in 24 minutes.
Carlos Alocen - Spain
Spain have a long line of great point guards and one of the next ones could be Alocen, who made his senior national team debut in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 European Qualifiers as he played 2 minutes against Latvia. In the EuroBasket Qualifiers against Romania and Poland, the 19-year-old averaged 4.0 points, 1.5 rebounds, 9.0 assists (collecting 9 assists in both games) and 1.0 steals.
Kristian Kullamae - Estonia
Kullamae excelled already at the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 European Qualifiers, averaging 8.7 points, 2.2 rebounds and 2.6 assists in nine games, including 18 points in each of the last two games. In the first EuroBasket Qualifier, the 20-year-old exploded for 31 points with 5 three-pointers to go with 3 rebounds and 5 assists against North Macedonia. He added 17 points, 2 rebounds and 6 assists against Italy. Kullamae is one of a number of youngsters on the Estonian team including fellow 1999-born Sander Raieste while 2000-born Henri Drell also played in both games as did 2001-born gem Kerr Kriisa, who had 1 rebound, 5 assists and 2 steals against Italy.
Mateo Dreznjak - Croatia
Dreznjak has already made a mark for Croatia at the youth ranks - getting the country back up to Division A by winning the FIBA U18 European Championship 2017 Division B and then grabbing second place at the FIBA U20 European Championship 2018. In his senior national team debut, which came just a couple weeks before his 20th birthday, Dreznjak averaged 14.5 points, 3.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 2.5 steals while shooting 72 percent from the field in wins over Sweden and Netherlands.
Rokas Jokubaitis - Lithuania
Jokubaitis got a chance to make his senior national team debut in Lithuania's home win over Czech Republic and the 19-year-old point guard impressed with 7 points, 3 rebounds and 6 assists in 23 minutes.
Arturs Kurucs and Arturs Zagars - Latvia
This dynamic duo carried Latvia to one of their biggest national team successes, taking second place at the FIBA U18 European Championship 2018. And now the 2000-born pair have debuted at the senior national team. Kurucs - the younger brother of Rodions Kurucs in the NBA - averaged 6.0 points, 1.5 rebounds and 1.0 assists in losses against Bosnia and Herzegovina and Bulgaria while Zagars totalled 13 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists against Bulgaria.
Others: Those are just some of the top players but there were many more youngsters who played in the EuroBasket Qualifiers' first window. On top of five 1997-born players on the team, Romania also had three 1999-born players in Lucas Tohatan, Dragos Diculescu and Mihai Maciuca. The 17-year-old Matteo Spagnolo and 19-year-old Giordano Bortolani debuted with Italy; 19-year-old center Aleksander Balcerowski played for Poland; the Czech Republic team included 19-year-old Vit Krejci; Netherlands called on 18-year-old Keye van der Vuurst de Vries; Sweden had 19-year-old Melwin Pantzar and 20-year-old Karl Lundqvist; while 18-year-old Rati Andronikashvili appeared for Georgia; Serbia used the 19-year-old duo Dalibor Ilic and Uros Trifunovic; and Germany's youth movement included 20-year-old Philipp Herkenhoff.
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