12 - 20
August 2023
13 Dzanan Musa (BIH)
to read

OPTQ's: Five players who lit it up and three ballers who broke out in Poland-Estonia

GLIWICE / TALLINN (Poland/ Estonia) - The FIBA Olympic Pre-Qualifying Tournament 2023 in Poland-Estonia saw some superb individual performances from an array of class international players.

Here are the top five players who impressed the most in Gliwice and Tallinn, plus three other players who posted breakout tournaments in a national team jersey.

Five Players Who Lit It Up

Aleksander Balcerowski - Poland

Tournament Statistics: 16.6 EFF; 15.0 PPG; 6.8 RPG

Before the Semi-Finals clash against Estonia, we asked - will Aleksander Balceroswki be the leader for Poland in the future? Well, after the umpteenth exciting tournament with his national team, the answer is nothing but yes, definitely. Talking about the present, he was crucial in the Final against Bosnia and Herzegovina, going up against Jusuf Nurkic and Luka Garza to end with 14 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, and a rough landing following an outstanding alley-oop attempt. Oh - and a ticket to the OQT's!

Michal Sokolowski - Poland

Tournament Statistics: 18.4 EFF; 16.8 PPG; 5.0 RPG; 3.2 APG

While the usual leader Mateusz Ponitka had some great performances in the Gliwice Arena, it was veteran star Sokolowski who really stepped up for the Poland. He was among the best in the whole tournament in terms of performance efficiency valuation (4th with 18.4), points scored (6th with 16.8), free-throw shooting percentage (4th with 82.6%), and also field-goal shooting percentage (5th with 50.9%). Turning 31 in December of this year, the Olympic dream is very much still alive for him.

Dzanan Musa - Bosnia and Herzegovina

Tournament Statistics: 17.8 EFF; 18.0 PPG; 3.2 RPG; 5.2 APG

Leading the tournament in Poland-Estonia in total points scored throughout the competition with 90 in five games played, Musa has arguably reached the status of the greatest ever to wear the Bosnia and Herzegovina’s national team jersey. Already an established superstar in Europe, the 24-year-old versatile forward and main ball handler for the Dragons will have to pursue the goal of reaching the Olympic Games for Los Angeles 2028 after his team came up short this time.

Jusuf Nurkic - Bosnia and Herzegovina

Tournament Statistics: 19.2 EFF; 15.4 PPG; 10.0 RPG; 3.0 APG

His name doesn’t come as a surprise in this Top 5, considering Nurkic’s nine-year experience in the NBA. However, his national team performances can’t be taken for granted especially going against upcoming giants like Poland’s Balcerowski and Israel’s Roman Sorkin. Despite his route to the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris being ultimately derailed, he still came out as the best rebounder with 10.0 boards per night, while also scoring 15.4 points per outing (7th in the whole competition).

Roman Sorkin - Israel

Tournament Statistics: 20.5 EFF; 19.5 PPG; 7.8 RPG

Alongside Yam Madar, this was Sorkin’s occasion to establish himself as one of the most reliable centers among European national teams, and what a way to confirm it. Averaging 19.5 points and 7.8 rebounds per game, he was almost Bosnia and Herzegovina’s nightmare in the Semi-Finals by putting up a losing effort of 28 points and 9 rebounds, going 11 of 18 inside the paint. He came close to a double-double also against Estonia earlier at the event, adding 18 points while also grabbing 9 boards. 

Three Breakout Ballers

Vit Krejci - Czech Republic

Tournament Statistics: 20.3 EFF; 14.0 PPG; 5.3 RPG; 6.7 APG

Before the start of the tournament, all eyes were on Vojtech Hruban leading the Czech Republic, considering his experience and background in such international competitions. However, by how the win against Estonia materialized, it was clear Krejci had the team in his hands. Following elimination, he was released by the Atlanta Hawks. But you would now be betting on the 23-year-old ball handler being more than a good solution for several teams.

Luka Garza - Bosnia and Herzegovina

Tournament Statistics: 15.6 EFF; 12.4 PPG; 7.0 RPG

A star in the NCAA with Iowa University and already an NBA player, it’s difficult to insert Garza among breakout players still under the radar. However, if we stick to national team basketball, this was literally the first major tournament in which he represented Bosnia and Herzegovina, his mother’s country. Being always pushed by his dad Frank courtside, he particularly shone in the Semi-Finals against Israel, posting up a massive double-double of 24 points and 11 rebounds while shooting 9 of 12 from the field. The future of the Dragons is brighter with him now on board.

Andrzej Pluta - Poland

Tournament Statistics: 12.2 EFF; 9.0 PPG; 2.2 RPG; 4.8 APG

Continuing a tradition of this Polish national team that sees Jaroslaw Zyskowski as the son of Jaroslaw Zyskowski, who played until 1993; Igor Milicic as son of Igor Milicic the head coach of this squad and finally, breakout baller Pluta is the son of great three-point specialist Andrzej Pluta, who wore the red and white jersey until 2007. The 23-year-old playmaker, who started his professional career in the Spanish second division but then moved back to his home country, was a real surprise to conduct the offense when Mateusz Ponitka needed some rest. In the Semi-Finals against Estonia, Poland’s number zero delivered a performance of 16 points and 7 assists, shooting 6 of 6 from the field and showed he can get it done at this level.