10 players who stood out at the FIBA U18 European Challengers
MUNICH (Germany) - Another action-packed youth event in the books as the next generation of stars came out during the FIBA U18 European Challengers.
Spain, Israel, Slovenia, Hungary and Kosovo finished as the winners of the five Challengers that took place in Skopje, Tel Aviv, Konya, Levice and Tirana, respectively. We highlight 10 players that stood out throughout the week, including the individual MVP winners at each tournament.
Jordi Rodriguez Stegemeijer (ESP)
Birth date: April 25, 2004 (17 years old)
Height: 196cm / 6'5"
Statistics: 15.0 PTS / 2.3 STL - 11.0 EFF per game
Rodriguez was named MVP in Skopje after helping lead Spain to a perfect 5-0 record through the week. The 17-year-old forward led the team in scoring - one of two players to average double figures - with a personal best of 19 points coming in their opening win against Georgia. Rodriguez also added back-to-back 16-point displays before adding 13 points in the decisive victory over Serbia, despite being held to 5-of-16 shooting.
Benjamin Schroder (GER)
Birth date: August 28, 2003 (17 years old)
Height: 200cm / 6'7"
Statistics: 16.6 PTS, 5.8 REB, 2.4 AST - 17.2 EFF per game
Another Schroder on the German national team, but no relation here to Dennis, though. Benjamin turns 18 at the end of the month and had a strong week for Germany with 16.6 points per game coming at an impressive shooting success rate of 70-percent. He saved his best for last with 21 points on 9-of-12 shooting in a big win against North Macedonia to conclude the week as his side finished with a 3-2 record.
Tel Aviv Challenger
Ron Zipper (ISR)
Birth date: January 24, 2003 (18 years old)
Height: 190cm / 6'3"
Statistics: 25.2 PTS, 3.6 REB, 2.2 STL, 51% 3PT - 23.2 EFF per game
Zipper was lights out in Tel Aviv. Do not leave him open should have been all over the scouting report. Zipper fired in a total of 27 three-pointers across five games - leading all five tournaments as the only player to average more than 25 points per game. The shooting guard fired in seven triples on the opening day before adding seven more in a 31-point outing to help Israel wrap up the Challenger title with a day to spare.
Henri Veesaar (EST)
Birth date: March 28, 2004 (17 years old)
Height: 208cm / 6'10"
Statistics: 16.2 PTS, 11.6 REB, 2.6 AST, 3.8 BLK - 24.8 EFF per game
Veesaar was arguably the most dominant player at the FIBA U18 European Challengers. Statistically, he was the second most efficient - behind Ireland's Killian Gribben - and proved to be more than a handful in a tough group in Tel Aviv. The Real Madrid prospect had 23 points, 13 rebounds and 5 blocks against Greece before finishing the tournament with a 24-point, 10-rebound double-double to go with 7 rejections in a win for Estonia over the champions, Israel.
Kymany Houinsou (FRA)
Birth date: January 6, 2004 (17 years old)
Height: 196cm / 6'5"
Statistics: 10.4 PTS, 7.2 REB, 7.2 AST - 16.6 EFF per game
Houinsou did a bit of everything for France as they picked up three wins from their five games. The ASVEL guard had off shooting nights in the defeats to Estonia and Israel, but bounced back with 16 points to go with 7 rebounds and 6 assists to lead his side past Lithuania on the penultimate day. Houinsou then dished out 13 assists to conclude the tournament in a victory against Greece - finishing +22 on the court with another all-round display.
Sasa Ciani (SLO)
Birth date: March 25, 2003 (18 years old)
Height: 207cm / 6'9"
Statistics: 13.0 PTS, 9.8 REB, 3.8 AST - 21.0 EFF per game
Another Challenger, another Slovenian triumph, another emerging talent as MVP. Ciani took the U18 honors with a near double-double average for the week as his side swept through the field in Konya. The 18-year-old forward also led the team in assists with just shy of 4 per game with back-to-back double-doubles setting the tone for the week in the first two games. Ciani also showed his threat from outside with 8-of-14 from three-point range across the week.
Berke Buyuktuncel (TUR)
Birth date: September 2, 2004 (16 years old)
Height: 208cm / 6'10"
Statistics: 16.5 PTS, 5.8 REB, 2.3 STL - 19.8 EFF per game
Buyuktencel exploded into action on the opening day. The 16-year-old hit six triples on his way to a 29-point haul to lead the tournament hosts to victory over Poland. However, it was a tough act to follow having been limited to single figures in his final two appearances before not playing the final game. Buyuktencel was playing a year-young this week and averaged 30+ minutes per game to highlight his talent and potential for Turkey.
Ivan Koldomasov (UKR)
Birth date: July 30, 2003 (18 years old)
Height: 189cm / 6'2"
Statistics: 17.6 PTS, 5.2 REB, 5.8 AST, 2.2 STL - 16.8 EFF per game
Bittersweet moment for Koldomasov in collecting the MVP award after Ukraine had fallen to defeat in the Levice Final against Hungary. The 18-year-old guard was a consistent scorer for his side and also got his teammates involved with his versatile skillset. One of those to benefit was Bohdan Bryniuk, who also impressed for Ukraine with four double-doubles including 17 rebounds and 15 points in the loss on the final day, while Koldomasov dropped a week's personal best of 20 points.
David Novak (SVK)
Birth date: May 16, 2003 (18 years old)
Height: 198cm / 6'6"
Statistics: 20.4 PTS, 9.6 REB, 3.2 AST, 3.6 STL - 20.0 EFF per game
Not quite how it could have turned out for Novak and Slovakia. They started off the week with high hopes with two consecutive wins before eventually having to settle for third place. Novak was a big reason why with 32 points in the victory against Bulgaria to boost his final averages to 20.4 points per game. The BA Nymburk forward also had three straight double-doubles with 17 points and 13 rebounds in the Semi-Final defeat with turnovers also a factor.
Visar Ejupi (KOS)
Birth date: April 3, 2003 (18 years old)
Height: 196cm / 6'5"
Statistics: 17.3 PTS, 4.0 REB, 2.3 AST - 15.0 EFF per game
There was elation for Ejupi and Kosovo as they went four from four in Tirana to claim the Challenger title. Ejupi led the team in scoring with Anes Gashi another key contributor throughout the week. The 18-year-old signalled his intentions from the first game with 28 points in a win over the hosts, Albania, and shot 68-percent from inside the arc across the four games - helping his side overcome Andorra and Luxembourg over the final two days.