10 players to watch at the FIBA Olympic Pre-Qualifying Tournaments in Poland-Estonia
GLIWICE / TALLINN (Poland/ Estonia) - As with the other 2023 Olympic Pre-Qualifying Tournaments taking place in Argentina, Turkey, Nigeria, and Syria, the action in Poland-Estonia will soon be tipping-off.
With eight participating teams possessing tons of talent; here are 10 ballers to look out for when the games get underway in Gliwice and Tallin.
*All players featured are subject to availability and selection by their respective Federations for the event. Final rosters will be confirmed following the technical meetings that take place before the start of the competition.
10. Travante Williams (POR)
Without the participation of Neemias Queta who was named into the 2023 All-G League First Team, it’s difficult to identify one truly standout player to watch on the Portuguese national team as it is full of several team-minded assets. However, Williams looks most likely to shine.
His experience and a lot of points in his hands should be enough ingredients for the go-to-guy recipe that Portugal needs against Bosnia and Herzegovina, Poland, and Hungary. Sporting CP’s leader in the latest FIBA Europe Cup campaign, he also dropped 17.0 points per game in the FIBA EuroBasket 2025 Pre-Qualifiers.
9. Kristian Kullamae (EST)
Estonia is getting ready to host in Tallinn, and what better way to do it than with the help of Kullamae? The Baltic national team will need the best help possible from the 24-year-old point-guard. He had a good showing at FIBA EuroBasket 2022 where her harvested 7.0 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 4.6 assists per game - numbers that will soon be climbing higher.
8. Zoltan Perl (HUN)
Leaving apart three experiences abroad with Capo d’Orlando, Treviso, and Estudiantes, Perl has always been rocking the jersey of his beloved Falco Szombathely. Very much playing the role of the master and commander of the yellow-and-black Hungarian club.
The national team will now rely mainly on the 28-year-old forward. In the 2022-23 Basketball Champions League, he established himself as one of the best scorers in the competition, averaging 17.7 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 5.2 assists per night.
7. Vojtech Hruban (CZE)
You don’t become the Basketball Champions League scoring leader without good reason. And Hruban, proving it for ten years with ERA Nymburk, has had plenty of them. The experienced shooting specialist, who last played with the London Lions, is the Czech anchor for this tournament.
Without some regular attendees, the attention regarding the Czech Republic will be turned to the 33-year-old, who tried his best to bring the national team to the FIBA Basketball World Cup. In eight qualifying appearances, he averaged 15.8 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 2.4 assists per game.
6. Aleksander Balcerowski (POL)
Winning the EuroCup Rising Star Award in back-to-back fashion makes you at least somebody to watch. Playing for the Boston Celtics at the NBA Summer League and being chosen by Ergin Ataman for his newest Panathinaikos project, well, definitely makes you somebody to watch.
Aleksander Balcerowski - Olek for the closest ones - was one of the most intriguing players to keep an eye on at FIBA EuroBasket 2022, playing an important role as stretch five with Poland. After winning the EuroCup with Gran Canaria, he wants to end the 2022-23 season in the best way possible. Or, is is more like starting the 2023-24 campaign in the best way possible?
5. Mateusz Ponitka (POL)
Over the past few years, first with the lights of Pinar Karsiyaka, Lenovo Tenerife, and Lokomotiv Kuban, and then rocking the jerseys of Zenit Saint Petersburg and Panathinaikos, Ponitka has always proved to be the perfect glue guy. He was solid offensively and nothing but reliable on defense.
When he sees the red of the Polish national team, though, the 30-year-old turns into the true leader of Igor Milicic’s team. At FIBA EuroBasket 2022 he managed to take out Luka Doncic’s Slovenia with an historic triple-double display of 26 points, 16 rebounds, and 10 assists. Is that convincing enough?
4. Yam Madar (ISR)
At FIBA EuroBasket 2022, Yam Madar proved to belong to the most anticipated stages, dropping 13.4 points and 3.0 assists per game with Israel. At this 2023 Olympic Pre-Qualifying Tournament he needs to confirm it without Deni Avdija next to him.
Being coached by the master Zeljko Obradovic in the past two years, he’s now moving on to his pupil Dimitris Itoudis, who will give him playmaking duties in Fenerbahce. However, before that, the 22-year-old Israeli emerging talent will firstly lead his team here.
3. TJ Shorts (MKD)
Imagine the best basketball year you can have, and step back: TJ Shorts’ 2022-23 campaign with Telekom Baskets Bonn has probably been better than that. The Basketball Champions League Regular Season and Final Four MVP dragged the German team to its first-ever title, earning a call from the newest Tuomas Iisalo’s Paris Basketball, playing next to Nadir Hifi in the LNB and EuroCup.
If that wasn’t enough, at the end of October 2022 he joined North Macedonia, following the steps of the great Bo McCalebb in looking to help the red and yellow national team in the FIBA EuroBasket 2025 Pre-Qualifiers. He averaged 21.5 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 6.3 assists per game in only four appearances. The backcourt duo he is forming with Nenad Dimitrijevic looks scary.
2. Jusuf Nurkic (BIH)
If we talk about European centers that have recently marked the NBA landscape, among names like Jonas Valanciunas, Domantas Sabonis, and Nikola Vucevic, the mind also goes easily towards Jusuf Nurkic. The 29-year-old big man, who made his presence felt with 16.2 points and 7.0 rebounds per night at FIBA EuroBasket 2022, will be there for Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Before last year, he would be the easy choice for the first player to watch at the upcoming 2023 Olympic Pre-Qualifying Tournament in Poland and Estonia. But there’s a new Bosnian leader in town.
1. Dzanan Musa (BIH)
When Bosnia and Herzegovina came inches away from making it through the group phase of FIBA EuroBasket 2022 against powerhouses like Slovenia, Germany, France, and Lithuania, a big round of applause had to be given to Dzanan Musa.
Following his exciting appearance on the big European stage in Cologne, he wasted no time in contributing to Real Madrid’s EuroLeague winning campaign, helping Los Blancos at the 2023 Final Four in Kaunas. Time to rest? Not for this Bosnia and Herzegovina leader.
*All players featured are subject to availability and selection by their respective Federations for the event.