Five players to watch in Oradea
ORADEA (Romania) - Twenty-four nations will be fighting to earn promotion from the FIBA U18 European Championship 2019, Division B. Here is a selection of the top players to watch.
Amit Aharoni, Israel
Israel are aiming to get back to Division A for the first time since 2016 and Aharoni will be a major part of those chances. The playmaker helped Israel stay in Division A in both of his summers playing the FIBA U16 European Championship in 2017 and 2018. And now he makes the jump to the U18 level, where Israel were fourth and ninth the last two summers. The 2002-born Aharoni and his teammates will be looking to draw motivation from the country's older youth generations as Israel just won their second straight FIBA U20 European Championship.
Aharoni, who has grown up in the Maccabi Tel Aviv ranks, comes from a major basketball family as his father Oren Aharoni played 16 years in the Israeli Premier League and also represented Israel at FIBA EuroBasket 1997. Aharoni's uncle is Gur Shelef, who was the captain of the Israeli national team and Maccabi Tel Aviv for many years. Shelef's brother Uli Shelef played and coached the game and their father is Ami Shelef, who played for the Israeli national team and Maccabi as well.
Rati Andronikashvili, Georgia
Andronikashvili continues his busy summer as he will be playing at the U18 level after just competing at the FIBA U20 European Championship 2019, Division B, where he helped Georgia finish eighth by averaging 16.9 points, 5.9 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 2.0 steals. The point guard comes down to his age group in Oradea hoping to get Georgia to Division A at the U18 level for the first time since 2004. Andronikashvili, who played this past season with the Spanish EBA fourth division club Miraflores Burgos, averaged 11.7 points, 1.6 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 2.3 steals last summer at the U18 Division B tournament.
Andronikashvili has already debuted with the Georgian senior national team and played five games in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 European Qualifiers, averaging 2.4 points and collecting two rebounds, one assist and two steals in a combined 30 minutes.
David Bohm, Czech Republic
Bohm will be playing in his second U18 Division B tournament after he averaged 15.9 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 1.8 steals last summer when Czech Republic took fifth place. The Czechs last played in Division A at the U18 level in 2015. Bohm and his teammates will be motivated by the country’s older youth generation as they finished second at the FIBA U20 European Championship 2019, Division B to earn promotion to Division A. The small forward is a sharpshooter who plays in the USK Prague ranks and appeared in seven games in the Czech NBL league and averaged 2.7 points, 1.7 rebounds and 0.6 assists in 16 minutes.
Kaspar Kitsing, Estonia
Kitsing and Estonia are hoping its third time lucky as the country reached the Semi-Finals the past two editions of the U18 Division B but could not get promoted to Division A. Both times the team must have finished in the top two as only two teams were relegated from Division A due to early designation of Division A hosts. Kitsing will be playing the first time at the U18 level after helping Estonia stay at Division A at the FIBA U16 European Championship 2017, averaging 13.1 points and 3.4 rebounds. At the club level, Kitsing plays in Italy and helped Trento win the Italian Serie A Youth Cup. Kitsing is the younger brother of Estonian international Kristjan Kitsing, who played for Estonia the last time they were in Division A at the U18 level in 2008.
Illia Zaiets, Ukraine
Zaiets will be playing his second U18 tournament after he picked up 6.9 points, 1.4 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.3 steals last summer - though he couldn't help Ukraine avoid relegation from Division A with a 15th-place finish. The shooting guard returns to Division B, where he played a summer earlier at the FIBA U16 European Championship 2017, Division B, averaging 9.5 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.1 steals as Ukraine finished fifth, losing to eventual champs Greece in the Quarter-Finals. Ukraine had played in the Division A at the U18 level in three of the last four years and will look to get back up right away.
Others to watch
Those are just a handful of players to watch out for in Oradea. Here are some more: Mihnea-Tudor Brie, Romania; Rapolas Buivydas, Ireland; Raziel Hayun, Israel; Kacper Klaczek Poland; Kerr Kriisa, Estonia; Gilad Levy, Israel; Alexandre Merkviladze, Georgia; and Erhan Sholla, Kosovo.