Six players who blossomed at the 2023 U19 World Cup
DEBRECEN (Hungary) - Almost all of the big-name players at the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup 2023 delivered and lived up to the expectations about them. The great part about tournaments like this is that some players step up and shine brighter than others had expected.
Here is a list of six players who blossomed at the 2023 U19 World Cup and gave fans of theirs and their respective national teams reason to be excited about the future.
Lee Aaliya - Argentina
17.1ppg 9.0rpg 1.3spg 2.1bpg
Aaliya had already played twice with the generation last summer at the FIBA U18 South American Championship 2022 and FIBA U18 Americas Championship 2022. At the latter he averaged 8.5 points and 2.7 rebounds. The power forward made such strides during last season that he even was invited to the Argentina senior national team training camp in the February 2023 window.
Aaliya made a massive jump in Debrecen, finishing fourth in scoring, rebounds and blocks. And he stepped up his game during the tournament. In the first two games he averaged 11.0 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.0 blocks. After the first rest day, he averaged 19.6 points, 10.4 rebounds and 3.6 blocks the rest of the way, including a monster double-double of 31 points, 20 rebounds and 3 blocks in the Classification 5-8 versus Canada. Aaliya was selected in All-Second Team of the tournament.
Melvin Ajinca - France
19.3ppg 2.9rpg 1.6apg 0.9spg 49% 3-ptrs
Ajinca was probably the biggest beneficiary of the many big names missing from France's rosters as he led the team in scoring while making the second most three-pointers in the tournament (22) but hitting the fourth-best percentage. The guard also helped out on play-making while not hurting his team with turnovers (just 1.6 per game in 28 minutes).
Ajinca was also the second-best free throw shooter on the team (83%) while taking the most foul shots per game (5.0). Second-best scorer of the tournament and best scorer of the final (21 pts). The French player was selected in All-Second Team of the tournament.
Xaivian Lee - Canada
14.1ppg 3.3rpg 3.1apg
Lee made his first appearance for Canada and expectations were mild after he averaged 4.4 points, 1.8 rebounds and 0.9 assists in 13 minutes in his freshman season at Princeton. With star playmaker Aden Holloway not being included on the team, Lee's chances of having an impact rose greatly.
He struggled in the opening game against Spain with just 3 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists and 5 turnovers. But he rebounded very strongly and scored at least 11 points in each of the last six games, topped by 21 points, 5 rebounds and 8 assists against Argentina in the Classification 5-8.
Mathias M'Madi - Madagascar
24.1ppg 3.6rpg 2.7apg 1.9spg
M'Madi came into the tournament with all eyes on him to see what he can do for U19 World Cup debutants Madagascar. And the guard, who was the MVP of the FIBA U18 African Championship 2022, did not disappoint in the least. After scoring 28 points on solid 56% shooting against United States in his first game on the global stage, he poured in a tournament-high 34 points in helping Madagascar notch their first ever victory over Lebanon.
M'Madi ended up leading the tournament in scoring as he also dropped 33 points against France. He also chipped in all other areas - ranking second on the team in assists and tied for first in steals.
Baba Miller - Spain
9.4ppg 6.0rpg 1.3apg
Miller came into the tournament having played at the FIBA U18 European Challengers 2021, where he averaged 11.8 points and 4.4 rebounds. Miler spent the 2022-23 season in the United States where he collected 4.3 points and 3.7 rebounds in his freshman season at Florida State University.
In Debrecen Miller showed that he can step up at big moments, having scored 18 points against Argentina but his second and third highest scoring games came against France - 14 points in the group stage as well as 11 points in the Final. Miller also flirted with a triple-double against China with 9 points, 10 rebounds and 7 assists.
Yang Hansen - China
12.6ppg 10.4rpg 4.7apg 5.0bpg
Yang came to Hungary with question marks as far as if he could repeat the level he played at the FIBA U18 Asian Championship 2022, where he averaged 12.4 points, 9.2 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 3.6 blocks.
Yang certainly showed he can hold his own on the world stage as he tallied 12.6 points, 10.4 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 5.0 blocks. He led the tournament in blocks and was also third in rebounds and fourth in assists. Yang was selected in All-Second Team of the tournament.