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Cheeseball alert at 2014 Albert Schweitzer Tournament
REGENSBURG (David Hein's Eye on the Future) - Every youth basketball tournament offers a chance for observers to learn about new players or judge the improvement or regression of players they already knew. And the 2014 Albert Schweitzer Tournament (AST) is no different.
Actually I haven't seen that much of the 1996-born generation, so the 27th biennial spectacle in Germany opened my eyes to quite a few new talents - and there are plenty of very interesting young players with bright futures on showcase to dozens of NBA and European scouts and personnel bosses.
While everyone is looking for the next big thing, I wanted to provide my favorite 10 players after four days of action in Germany - having watched all 16 of the teams twice.
Again, these are not necessarily the "best" 10 players in the AST, just my personal cheeseballs about whom you will undoubtedly read more about from me in the future.
So, let's take care of business…
Ludvig Hakanson (1996-born), Shooting guard/Point guard, Sweden
Of course, I've written a lot about Ludde and he's dominated here as you would expect, given the fact that he played for the Swedish senior national team at EuroBasket 2013. But the note here is that it seems about time for him to be tested more with Barcelona, and I can imagine him getting sent somewhere on loan for next season to play against adults. Sweden, however, will have a tough time getting up to Division A at the U18 Euros this summer without Hakanson.
Marc Garcia (1996-born), Small Forward, Spain
Ludde's roomate at Barca, Garcia is another amazing shooter. You can easily imagine these guys with posters of Reggie Miller, Larry Bird, Drazen Petrovic and Ray Allen on their walls and endless re-runs of NBA three-point contests as well as a CD track on repeat of a sultry-sounding woman saying: "fingertips, extension, release, good". Simply put, Garcia is a joy to watch.
Yankuba Sima, (1996-born), Center, Spain
Garcia's teammate with Spain, Yankuba is a long, low post player who sticks out in many ways. A brief glimpse at the statistics impresses right away: 15.3 points, a tournament-best 13.5 rebounds and an AST best 2.3 blocks for a second-best 24.3 efficiency rating (behind only Hakanson). Sima averages 5.8 offensive rebounds a game and he's shown that statistics don't lie. He's a vacuum cleaner on the boards and is all over the place defensively. His offensive game is far from refined but he’s also far from a non-factor in the post.
Afik Egemen Guven, (1996-born), Center, Turkey
My next cheeseball is Turkey's big man Guven. The Pinar Kariskaya youngster helped the Turks to their first-ever U18 European title last summer and will go for a repeat this summer in Turkey. Guven is a long big man who stands out on the defensive end but is much further along offensively than Sima. Guven has a solid mix of offensive moves (64 percent shooting) and showed three-point range in practice. But he also has flashed some very good passing skills for a big man.
Nicolas Aguirre (1998-born), Point guard, Chile
The diminutive Aguirre, who turned just 16 on April 12, has shown that he can play at this level - facing the USA, France, Ukraine and China and averaging 12.3 points, 4.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists (and 1.8 turnovers) and 2.3 steals. He controls the game well and seems like a player who will be better when his teammates are better. He's small - listed at 1.76m - but he will gain some needed bulk as he gets older. He seems like a lock to come to Europe to develop his game instead of going to the States.
The Second Five (which only means I'm writing less on these guys):
Ethan Happ (1996-born), Forward, USA
The Wisconsin-bound Happ is an all-around monster, leading the team in scoring, rebounds, steals (an AST best 4.0 spg) and second in assists while playing power forward, though he can also play small forward.
Niklas Kiel (1997-born), Center, Germany
Usually I would pick Jan-Niklas Wimberg over Kiel, but Wimberg is injured at this tournament. Kiel is one of Germany's top talents, a long low-post player who plays good defense, rebounds well and has an inside-outside game.
Jules Dang Akodo (1996-born), Point guard, England
Akodo has a great body with a great motor as a point guard. The Union Olimpija playmaker can drive to the lane and plays tough defense. He struggles a bit shooting.
Zhao Yanhao (1997-born), Small forward, China
China’s leading scorer, Zhao is an impressive shooter - hitting 46 percent from long range - but he also drives to the lane, passes well and plays good defense.
Louis Rui Hachimura (1998-born), Forward, Japan
Japan lists Hachimura as a center for this tournament, but the 2.00m 16-year-old will likely play as a power forward or small forward long term. He has a great body and is probably the biggest prospect of a young Japanese team. He has a lot of work to do, but Hachimura-san is a heinnews cheeseball.
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