Player Spotlight: Ruben Prey - Portugal's next big thing
PODGORICA (Montenegro) - Portugal made history during the Group Phase of the FIBA U20 European Championship by winning their first-ever game in Division A in an overtime nail-biter against Israel, with the likes of Andre Cruz and Ruben Prey excelling for their national team.
The latter's performance has caught the eye of scouts and fans alike, as Prey is the youngest player in the 2022 tournament and has firmly established himself as one of the best prospects in his age group with his performances in Podgorica.
FIBA contributor Marius Flachenecker used this opportunity to break down Prey's game.
OFFENSE - A VERSATILE BIG MAN WITH A SILKY TOUCH
Ruben Prey's versatility as an interior scorer sticks out immediately. For one, he shows impressive fluidity as a driver at 2.08m (6ft 10 in). He's regularly able to attack slower bigs out of faceups or from the perimeter and can effectively attack closeouts as well. While he'll need to tighten his handle in the next couple of years to remain effective against higher levels of competition, his potential as a driver is high, especially because of his soft touch around the rim. In the past few games, he's proven he can efficiently finish with either hand, even against contests.
Beyond driving to the basket, Prey also likes to work the post. He regularly attempted to back down bigs during the Group Phase, but these attempts were mostly futile. The Joventut Badalona big man has the physique of a power forward, which makes it hard to attack centers, especially ones who are two-three years older than him. Still, he's proven to be effective when he can catch the ball deep in the paint, because he has nice touch for hook shots. While Prey is unlikely to develop into a physically imposing interior scorer, there are still avenues for him to be effective in the post.
Rounding out his interior game, he can also act as the screener in pick-and-roll, where he's even had the occasional thundering dunk. Prey will still need to get stronger and improve the timing of his screens, but the versatility is impressive, because he can not only roll to the basket but he's also successfully popped out for a three-pointer multiple times this week. Shooting is the biggest swing skill for his career – in my opinion, he'll need to become a reliable outside shooter to make it to the NBA - but he's shown intriguing flashes in Podgorica, even knocking down a difficult midrange jumper off an out-of-bounds play to ice the game against Israel.
Through 29 games this season (U20 European Championship, Spanish LEB Gold, Spanish Liga EBA and ANGT), Prey has shot 19-of-65 (29.2 percent) from three and 36-of-62 (58.1 percent) from the line. These aren't the numbers of a potential knockdown shooter, but he's shown enough glimpses to where he can realistically develop into a reliable threat from downtown. He's already made strides with his shooting mechanics, slowly improving the movements of his guide hand, which had looked peculiar at last year's FIBA U16 European Challenger. Look out for Prey making further improvements as a shooter in the coming years.
DEFENSE - SIZE, SMARTS AND UPSIDE
Defensively, Prey is best as a help defender around the rim. He displays solid awareness and regularly makes smart rotations to impact shots around the basket with his size and length. The big forward shows solid mobility for his size, but he also still has plenty of baby giraffe moments, in which he looks uncoordinated making certain movements, especially turning his hips, or getting off the floor to contest shots at the rim.
Prey struggles most making two rotations in quick succession – for example, rotating to the rim to stop a driver and then changing direction and running a closeout to the three-point line. This is fairly normal for a 17-year-old who's still getting used to his size, but it's still something that'll need to be improved over the coming years. Portugal have mostly asked Prey to defend out on the perimeter, and he's done a solid job. There are some inconsistencies in terms of his footwork, but he puts in consistent effort and has even had the occasional impressive possession against a guard. While he's unlikely to become a switch defender long-term, he's shown the lateral mobility and effort needed to defend bigger opposing forwards on the perimeter, even at a high level.
Ruben Prey is widely considered one of the top prospects in the competition, and it's easy to see why. Despite his youth, Prey combines a versatile offensive skill set with good size and fluidity. Even though he's already good enough to be effective against Europe's elite at the U20 level, he still has many areas to improve in, which means his potential is incredibly high. With his talent, he can be a leader for the Portuguese senior national team for the next 15 years, building a dangerous frontcourt pairing with Neemias Queta. Prey also has a shot at making the NBA, if he consistently puts the work in, improves further and gets the - always necessary - stroke of luck.