10 players to watch at FIBA U20 European Championship 2022
MUNICH (Germany) - After a two-year break, the FIBA U20 European Championship returns to its usual format with the 2022 edition in Podgorica, Montenegro.
After winning the competition in 2018 and 2019, defending champions Israel will be looking for a three-peat, but it will not be an easy feat to accomplish with a plethora of European rising stars also looking to lead their national teams to glory.
Here is an overview of 10 players who will shape this tournament.
Be sure to also check out the players to watch in the Division B tournament, which will be taking place in Tbilisi, Georgia.
Lefteris Mantzoukas – Greece
Birth Date: July 8, 2003 (19 years old)
Height: 2.04m (6ft 8in)
Club: Panathinaikos BC OPAP (GRE)
Lefteris Mantzoukas has long been regarded as one of the best talents in his age group. The Greek youngster spent the 2021-22 season earning his stripes on the Panathinaikos squad, practicing against Europe's elite on a daily basis. Still, the skilled forward has only seen limited minutes at the pro level, so the FIBA U20 European Championship will be an excellent opportunity to remind the world of his ability. The last time Mantzoukas played against his peers in an international competition, he averaged 32 points per game at the ANGT Munich in early 2020, including an outrageous 49-point, 19-rebound outing against ALBA Berlin. The big forward impresses with fluid drives from the perimeter and soft touch around the basket. Furthermore, he's a consistent threat to knock down a couple of three-pointers, even though this area of his game isn't fully consistent yet. With this skill set, Mantzoukas can be expected to be among the tournament's best players and make a run for the scoring title.
Matthew Strazel – France
Birth Date: August 5, 2002 (19 years old)
Height: 1.83m (6ft 0in)
Club: LDLC ASVEL Lyon Villeurbanne (FRA)
Matthew Strazel is one of the most experienced and fun-to-watch players in the whole competition. The shifty guard has already played over 900 EuroLeague minutes and was also one of the key players of France's silver-medal winning team at the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup 2021. Strazel will be France's primary ballhandler, for good reason: the 19-year-old has developed into a proficient playmaker, as he's improved his decision-making and the variety of reads he can make over the past few years. Despite being undersized, the guard can also fill up the scoreboard. He's a talented pull-up shooter, who consistently creates shots out pick-and-roll through a combination of a solid first step and shifty handle. While France will be missing several key players in the 2002 and 2003 generations, they'll still be a contender to win the tournament due to their unbelievable talent depth. Monaco's Armel Traore and Arizona's Adama Bal will be key players for the French squad as well.
Fedor Zugic – Montenegro
Birth Date: September 18, 2003 (18 years old)
Height: 1.96m (6ft 5in)
Club: ratiopharm Ulm (GER)
Fedor Zugic has been an excellent scorer at the youth level forever. At the FIBA U16 European Championship 2018, he barely missed out on the title as the scoring champion, and he’s also proven his abilities at the ANGT multiple times. The 18-year-old is very good shooter off the catch and even off the dribble. Additionally, he's a solid athlete, who can consistently get to the rim out of pick-and-roll, and even make plays for others in ball-screen situations. Within a few months of moving to ratiopharm Ulm, Zugic was able to put his skills on display on the big stages of the German BBL and EuroCup. Because of this, he'll go into the competition with a significant edge in experience over most of the other players, which will help him lead a strong Montenegrin team. With skilled forwards Andrija Grbovic and Djordije Jovanovic as well as guard Luka Bogavac also on roster, Montenegro has the potential to make waves in this tournament.
Michael Caicedo – Spain
Birth Date: June 21, 2003 (19 years old)
Height: 1.97m (6ft 6in)
Club: FC Barcelona (ESP)
Michael Caicedo returns to the U20 competition, after he had a solid showing at the FIBA U20 European Challengers last year. In the meantime, the skilled forward gained significant experience practicing with Barcelona's senior team all season and even getting minutes in 24 games of the Spanish ACB and EuroLeague. The 19-year-old does a little bit of everything on the court: he's a capable shooter, can get to the bucket and finish, finds the open man on his drives and can always catch opposing defenses out with his smart cutting. Additionally, he's able to defend multiple positions. Caicedo has moments where he takes over games, but for the most part, he impresses with his versatility – he's the type of player who just helps you win basketball games. And Spain are expected to do just that in this tournament: the team is stacked with talent from top to bottom, and they are undoubtedly among the contenders for the gold medal.
Noam Dovrat – Israel
Birth Date: July 16, 2002 (19 years old)
Height: 1.95m (6ft 5in)
Club: Hapoel Bank Yahav Jerusalem (ISR)
With Dovrat, the MVP of the FIBA U18 European Championship 2019, Division B returns to FIBA youth play. The big guard, who already debuted for the senior national team in 2021, moved to Hapoel Jerusalem mid-season, and slowly got more and more comfortable after a slow start. Dovrat is a well-rounded player, who consistently contributes in many areas of the game: he's able to create for himself and others out of pick-and-roll, knocks down three-pointers at a solid frequency, though he can still become more consistent there, and has also proven that he can defend at a high level of European basketball, which gives him an advantage over many players in the competition. After sharing the ball with Basketball Champions League-stars Jalen Adams and Retin Obasohan all season, this will be Dovrat's opportunity to be the primary ballhandler of a team. Israel are fielding a talented squad which will also include sharpshooter Ron Zipper, talented big man Gilad Levy and guard Amit Aharoni.
Ruben Prey – Portugal
Birth Date: February 16, 2005 (17 years old)
Height: 2.08m (6ft 10in)
Club: Club Joventut Badalona (ESP)
Ruben Prey will make the biggest jump in competition level this summer. After leading Portugal to the 3rd Place Game of the U16 European Challenger 19-25, he'll now be a centerpiece for the U20 squad, even though he's two-three years younger than most of his competitors. This might seem like a tall task, but Prey is ready, as he's been excellent for Badalona’s youth teams all year and even excelled at the prestigious ANGT. At 2.08m, Prey is an excellent driver and inside scorer, who impresses with fluid movements and ambidextrous finishing ability. Additionally, he's slowly improving the consistency of his outside jumper. On defense, he combines solid physical tools with good awareness, and he can therefore consistently affect shots around the rim. This versatile skill set makes Prey one of the best prospects in Europe's 2005-generation, and he's expected to be one of the Portugal's best players this tournament as well, alongside skilled US-based wing Andre Cruz.
Igor Milicic – Poland
Birth Date: August 27, 2002 (19 years old)
Height: 2.02m (6ft 8in)
Club: University of North Carolina at Charlotte (USA)
Igor Milicic Jr. has already made his debut for Poland's senior national team, but he's never represented his country at a FIBA junior event. At the FIBA U20 European Championship, the skilled forward is expected to lead the Polish squad. Despite standing 2.02m, Milicic exclusively plays on the perimeter. He's a capable shooter off the catch and shows some flashes off the dribble as well. Furthermore, he's able to shoulder a part of his team's shot creation, as he can create driving lanes and make some passing reads out of pick-and-roll. He also contributes on the defensive end, especially as a help defender around the basket, where he consistently alters shots using his size and length. The 19-year-old certainly didn't have the season he hoped for, only playing 99 total minutes as a freshman for Virginia, but this tournament provides an opportunity for the youngster to get back on track, before he moves to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte for his sophomore season in college.
Juan Nunez – Spain
Birth Date: June 4, 2004 (18 years old)
Height: 1.90m (6ft 3in)
Club: Real Madrid (ESP)
Juan Nunez returns for his third appearance in a FIBA competition, after he played at the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup in 2021 and made the All-Tournament Team and won the gold medal at the FIBA U16 European Championship 2019. The guard has been held in high regard by fans and scouts around the world for his impressive playmaking ability. He combines high-level passing vision with spectacular creativity, which makes him one of the most fun-to-watch young guards in Europe. The 18-year-old spent the whole season with Real Madrid's senior team, practicing with Europe's elite and even getting into 32 games. On the stacked Spanish team, which will be competing for the gold medal, Nunez will be splitting playing time with the older guards Millan Jimenez and Guillem Ferrando, who gained ACB and EuroCup experience with Valencia this season, but the Madrilenian will have the most eyes on him, especially since the 2004 age group will be eligible for the NBA Draft for the first time in 2023.
Urban Klavzar – Slovenia
Birth Date: May 27, 2004 (18 years old)
Height: 1.86m (6ft 1in)
Club: Real Madrid (SLO)
Slovenia arrive to the FIBA U20 European Championship 2022 with a stacked team, which has a real shot at winning a medal. The frontcourt features Sasa Ciani, a dominant interior presence, and Luka Scuka, a versatile forward with an outside shot. In the backcourt, they'll be represented by playmaker Dan Duscak and Real Madrid prodigy Urban Klavzar. The latter is a highly capable scoring guard with a reliable pull-up jumper and crafty driving game. When Real Madrid suffered a wave of injuries and illnesses in late December 2021, Klavzar was ready to step up and scored 10 points in his EuroLeague debut, even creating an open floater with a nice crossover in a 1v1-matchup against high-level defender Daniel Hackett. The 18-year-old will be one of the younger tournament participants, but only few players can match the amount of experience he's gathered at the youth level with Real Madrid.
Augustas Marciulionis – Lithuania
Birth Date: March 21, 2002 (20 years old)
Height: 1.93m (6ft 4in)
Club: Saint Mary's College (USA)
Augustas Marciulionis will be an integral part of the Lithuanian squad, as he's one of the most experienced players in the competition: at 20 years old, he's already played a season of college basketball, three FIBA tournaments, 40 games in the Lithuanian LKL and even received some playing time in the Basketball Champions League. The son of 1988 Olympic Champion Sarunas Marciulionis impresses as a high-level ballhandler, crafty driver and creative playmaker. He runs the pick-and-roll like a veteran, often applying deceptive moves to catch opponents off guard. On his drives, he displays tremendous vision and the ability to find the open man from various angles and through tight passing windows. In his freshman season at Saint Mary's, the big guard struggled to score (3.1 PTS, 30% FG, 18% 3P FG), so this tournament will be an opportunity for him to get back on track and prepare for a breakout year in the US in 2022-23.