01 - 18
September 2022
9 Franz Wagner (GER), 9 Franz Wagner (GER)
to read

10 rising stars ready to make a splash in EuroBasket

MUNICH (Germany) - The lineup for FIBA EuroBasket 2022 is as star-studded as ever with the biggest names in basketball set to step out in Europe's flagship event in just September.

The same could be said about the impressive number of up-and-coming standouts, who will be out to prove they belong with the likes of Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Nikola Jokic.

In this preview, we highlight 10 players, born in 2000 or later, who are expected to make a sizeable impact on the competition.

Franz Wagner – Germany


Birth Date: August 27, 2001 (20 years old)
Height: 2.08m (6ft 10in)
Club: Orlando Magic (USA)

Since the last time Franz Wagner took the court in a FIBA competition in 2019, a lot has changed. He enrolled at the University of Michigan, grew to 2.08m, developed into a defensive juggernaut and a very versatile player overall, and was rewarded by being picked eighth by the Orlando Magic in the 2021 NBA Draft. After a successful season, in which he made the NBA's All-Rookie First Team and averaged an impressive 15.2 points, 2.9 assists and 35 percent accuracy from downtown, Wagner suited up for the German senior national team for the first time this summer. Germany will need his defensive excellence but also rely on him as a secondary ballhandler and shooter next to Dennis Schroder. For Wagner, this will be a special tournament. The versatile forward was born in Berlin, the host city of the Final Phase of the competition, and played for ALBA Berlin for more than half of his young life. Therefore, this tournament presents an opportunity for Wagner to create another memorable moment in his hometown.

Deni Avdija – Israel


Birth Date: January 3, 2001 (21 years old)
Height: 2.03m (6ft 8in)
Club: Washington Wizards (USA)

Deni Avdija knows what it's like to be the star of a FIBA competition, having won the FIBA U20 European Championship in 2018 and, in front of a home crowd, in 2019, where he was also voted MVP of the tournament after he stuffing the stat sheet. Just a year later, Avdija was drafted ninth by the Washington Wizards in the 2020 NBA Draft. The forward made an immediate impact, filling a rotation role with his defensive versatility and making life easier for his teammates in various ways. In his sophomore season, he averaged 8.4 points, 2.0 assists and 32 percent from three in over 24 minutes per contest for the Wizards. Avdija hasn't represented Israel's senior national team since going over to the United States, so the EuroBasket will show how much he's improved over the past two years. Israel will be looking for their first Top 10 finish at the FIBA EuroBasket since 2005.

Alperen Sengun – Turkey

Power Forward

Birth Date: July 25, 2002 (20 years old)
Height: 2.06m (6ft 9in)
Club: Houston Rockets (USA)

Alperen Sengun dominated the 2020-21 season in unimaginable fashion. He won the MVP trophy in the Turkish BSL and excelled in the FIBA Europe Cup as well as the FIBA Men's Olympic Qualifying Tournament. The young big took teams apart with his unstoppable inside scoring game, his dominant offensive rebounding and his impressive passing ability from the post. Through his performances, Sengun garnered attention from the NBA and was eventually picked sixteenth in the 2021 NBA Draft. In the US, he immediately played a significant rotation role for the Houston Rockets, averaging 9.6 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.6 assists and almost a block in just over 20 minutes a game. He also quickly won the hearts of the fans because of his eye-catching playing style, which will be on display during the Group Phase in Tbilisi but likely also later in the tournament, as Turkey will field a strong team that also includes Cedi Osman and Furkan Korkmaz.

Theo Maledon – France

Point Guard

Birth Date: July 12, 2001 (21 years old)
Height: 1.91m (6ft 3in)
Club: Oklahoma City Thunder (USA)

In his junior days, Theo Maledon excelled in multiple FIBA youth tournaments, contributing to the French teams that won gold at the FIBA U16 European Championship 2017 and silver at the FIBA U17 Basketball World Cup 2018. Afterwards, he successfully made the transition to the pros, winning the French LNB with ASVEL and earning the league's award for the best young player. In 2020, he was selected in the NBA Draft and has since then played 116 NBA games, averaging 7.1 points and 2.2 assists this past season. At the FIBA EuroBasket 2022, the skilled guard will be part of a stacked French backcourt alongside Evan Fournier, Elie Okobo and Thomas Heurtel. At the recent FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 European Qualifiers, the 21-year-old certainly looked ready for the challenge, averaging 15.5 points through two games.

Nico Mannion – Italy


Birth Date: March 14, 2001 (21 years old)
Height: 1.91m (6ft 3in)
Club: Segafredo Virtus Bologna (ITA)

Nico Mannion put on a show when he first put on the Italian jersey at the FIBA U16 European Championship 2017. Since then, the guard has established himself in the professional ranks, got drafted into the NBA by the Golden State Warriors and has become a staple for Italy's senior national team. After competing in last year's Olympics, Mannion returned home to sign with Virtus Bologna, but his first months there were derailed by health issues. Luckily, the 21-year-old has looked like his old self in recent games: dynamic and confident with the ball in his hands, he'll be one of Italy's main offensive players, responsible for putting points on the board but also putting his star teammates, like Danilo Gallinari, Simone Fontecchio, Niccolo Melli and Achille Polonara, into positions to succeed.

Rokas Jokubaitis – Lithuania

Point Guard

Birth Date: November 19, 2000 (21 years old)
Height: 1.93m (6ft 4in)
Club: FC Barcelona (ESP)

Rokas Jokubaitis will run the point for the Lithuanian squad. The skilled guard provides the team with crafty driving ability, a good outside shot and the ability to effectively run the pick-and-roll with Lithuania's superstars Jonas Valanciunas and Domantas Sabonis. The 21-year-old is coming off a long year: first, he was drafted in the second round of the 2021 NBA Draft. Instead of moving to the New York Knicks immediately, however, Jokubaitis signed in Barcelona, where he played a significant role through 81 games for the team of his countryman and 2003 FIBA EuroBasket MVP Sarunas Jasikevicius. He finished the season winning the Spanish Cup as well as the EuroLeague's Rising Star Award, after averaging 7.1 points and 2.7 assists per game there. At the FIBA EuroBasket 2022, Jokubaitis will attempt to help Lithuania to their first medal finish since 2015.

Usman Garuba – Spain


Birth Date: March 9, 2002 (20 years old)
Height: 2.03m (6ft 8in)
Club: Houston Rockets (USA)

Usman Garuba returns to the Spanish senior national team after playing four games at last year's Olympics. Since then, the young big man has experienced a lot. Last summer, he was selected in the first round of the NBA Draft by the Houston Rockets. In his rookie year, he had some injury issues and only played 35 total games between the NBA and the G-League, so the FIBA EuroBasket 2022 could be a welcome opportunity for Garuba to get back on track, help Spain compete for a medal and potentially set up a breakout sophomore season in the NBA. After all, the 20-year-old has plenty of experience at FIBA competitions, having earned three medals, two of them golden, as well as one MVP and three All-Star Five selections at various FIBA European Youth Championships. For Spain, he'll be expected to make an impact at the big man-positions with his versatile defense.

Karlo Matkovic – Croatia


Birth Date: December 29, 2001 (20 years old)
Height: 2.08m (6ft 10in)
Club: Cedevita Olimpija (SLO)

It's been a turbulent couple of months for Croatia big man Karlo Matkovic. Earlier this year, the 20-year-old entered the draft and put himself on the radar of NBA teams through outstanding pre-draft workouts, which eventually led to him being selected 52nd by the New Orleans Pelicans. In Europe, however, Matkovic isn't a big name yet - he's only played two FIBA games for Croatia and never participated in one of the big international club competitions -, but that could be about to change at the FIBA EuroBasket 2022. The big man is an incredible athlete, who can catch just about any alley-oop pass thrown in his direction. He has the potential to be a consistent human highlight reel during the tournament. Furthermore, he can work the post a bit and effectively protects the rim on the other end, giving Croatia an effective interior option.

Keye Van Der Vuurst de Vries – Netherlands

Point Guard

Birth Date: December 29, 2001 (20 years old)
Height: 1.91m (6ft 3in)
Club: Filou Oostende (BEL)

Keye van der Vuurst de Vries comes into the competition with plenty of FIBA experience, having played four FIBA European Youth Championships (in 2018, he led the Netherlands to the gold medal at the FIBA U18 European Championship, Division B with a huge 35-point outing in the Final), 13 games in EuroBasket or World Cup Qualifiers for the senior national team as well as three seasons in the Basketball Champions League. The 20-year-old has had a successful season, helping Oostende reach the Semi-Finals of the BNXT League and averaging 9.3 points, outstanding 6.5 assists and 37 percent from downtown. For the Netherlands, van der Vuurst de Vries made his debut when he was just 16 and has since then developed into a regular. The guard will play as a floor general and can be expected to finish near the top of the tournament's assist leaderboard since he's an awesome playmaker with great passing vision and accuracy.

Kerr Kriisa – Estonia

Point Guard

Birth Date: January 2, 2001 (21 years old)
Height: 1.88m (6ft 2in)
Club: University of Arizona (USA)

For Kerr Kriisa, the FIBA EuroBasket 2022 will be the first opportunity to play on European soil since 2020. As a junior, the Estonian guard stood out at several FIBA European Youth Championships, but two years ago, he made the move across the pond to attend the University of Arizona. In his sophomore season there, he averaged 9.7 points, 4.7 assists and shot 34 percent from three on over seven attempts a game, helping his team reach the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament. Kriisa has so far not made a big impact for Estonia's senior national team, but this is bound to change this summer, as they'll be relying on the youngster's ability to knock down shots from distance as well as his playmaking skills, through which he'll be able to get Estonia's star big man Maik Kotsar involved.