Player Spotlight: Alexandros Samodurov - the Greek diamond
IZMIR (Turkey) - With superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo in their ranks, Greek basketball is already in good hands. At this FIBA U18 European Championship, however, 17-year-old Alexandros Samodurov has proven he has the potential to also play a significant role in the future of Greece's senior national team.
The big forward impresses with outstanding versatility on both ends of the floor, and he's rightfully considered one of the most talented youngsters in his age group. Because of his skillset and tremendous upside, Samodurov has already earned a long-term contract with European powerhouse Panathinaikos Athens.
Although an ankle sprain has ruled out the player from the rest of the tournament, FIBA contributor Marius Flachenecker uses Samodurov's performances in Izmir as an opportunity to take a closer look at his game,
OFFENSE – AGILITY, TOUCH AND UPSIDE
Offensively, Samodurov combines the size of a big man with outstanding agility. In Izmir, he's often been too nimble for opposing bigs - him generating 19 free throw attempts in 55 minutes is a testament to how he's regularly been a step ahead of his opponents - and he's therefore been very effective scoring on the interior in a variety of ways as well. The 2.11m power forward has been efficient as a roll man, shows potential attacking from the perimeter, for example against closeouts, and he can even push the ball in transition at times. At the basket, he shows soft touch with his right hand and some glimpses of left-handed finishing, even if that part of the game can still become significantly more consistent.
While his mobility is one of Samodurov's standout attributes, he still has plenty of room to improve physically. His current physique makes it hard for him to finish against contact and prevents him from being a bully in the low post. Still, he's found ways to be effective in the post in Izmir. He does a tremendous job of sealing opponents deep in the paint and then takes advantage of his soft touch and long reach to finish against them. While he'll likely remain a finesse player rather than the bully ball type, he should become a solid post player once he fills out his frame. At 17 years old, he has plenty of time to do so.
For someone projected to play on the perimeter a lot, the jump shot is key. Samodurov is far from a knockdown shooter, but he's shown intriguing flashes of outside shooting. In the Greek U18 Rising Stars tournament, the big forward shot 16-of-62 (25.8 percent) from three and 53-of-70 (75.7 percent) from the line in nine games. The combination of shooting volume, free throw percentage and general touch lends hope that he can become a reliable shooter in the long-term. For now, his mechanics are inconsistent but workable, likely only requiring minor tweaks as well as many reps.
Samodurov's offensive game is a work-in-progress, but the combination of size, agility and touch is rare. If he can continue to develop his game, especially his body and jump shot, he has strong potential on this end of the floor.
DEFENSE – VERSATILITY AND SUFFOCATING LENGTH
Defense is where Samodurov has been at his most dominant in Izmir. He displays tremendous versatility as he can defend smaller players on the perimeter but also be an intimidating force as a help defender around the basket. Defending the ball, he's done a good job staying with opposing forwards and even most guards. He reads his matchups quickly, moves well laterally and has been able to turn his hips against direction changes from smaller players.
He's not the physical type who cuts opponents off near the three-point line, but he excels at staying in front of his man and forcing them into tough shots. While he can still get more consistent in his defensive movements, he could potentially cover at least three positions at a high level in the future. Of course, he still has a lot of physical maturing ahead of him before he can also adequately defend centers or at least big forwards below the rim.
Off the ball, Samodurov makes a massive impact as a rim help. He's shown solid awareness, making the required rotations at the right time for the most part, and he has excellent tools to affect shots around the basket. Firstly, he's very mobile and covers ground better than almost every player his size and age. Secondly, Samodurov has outstanding length – his wingspan likely exceeds 2.13m (7ft) by quite a bit – so he's very hard to finish against. Furthermore, he can affect shots without needing to be too close to the offensive player, which, in certain situations, can help him avoid foul trouble.
Defense is the less theoretical part of Samodurov's game, as he's already highly impactful in multiple ways. Once he fills out his frame, he has the potential to become a defensive standout at any level of basketball.
Alexandros Samodurov has been one of the most interesting prospects in Izmir with his combination of size, agility and skill flashes. He's undoubtedly a long-term prospect, who requires plenty of hard work, skill development and some luck to reach his potential. Nevertheless, he should be considered at least a Top 4 prospect at the FIBA U18 European Championship and has a legit case for having the highest upside in the competition. If everything goes well, Samodurov could become a cornerstone of the Greek senior national team for more than the next decade, giving them another unique player in the frountcourt.