DraftExpress continues its coverage of the European Cadet Championship that is being held in Spain right now. The competition has moved to León, where the quarterfinal round has been taking place over the last three days.
As we reported a few days ago, a first look at the teams playing the preliminary round in Astorga was somehow disappointing concerning the talent level featured, particularly regarding the presence of potential top prospects. Well, that impression hasnt changed a bit after checking the four teams coming from the Ponferrada groups which have qualified for the quarterfinal round, while the word here is that theres nothing really too interesting (of course, top-talent related) in the other four squads that could not advance so far either.
Out of these new four teams, three had caught our attention in advance. Russia has arrived as usual with a very physical team, to the point that a couple of players look to have more bulk than some of the guys here will ever have. But the typical Russian mixture of size, athleticism and potential, usually featured in very intriguing wing players, isnt there; at least, not developed enough to attract our attention as this early stage. What we actually havent missed is the overall degree of inconsistency bundled in with the talent that always leaves a taste of underachievement when talking about the final impression.
On the other hand, Lithuania has emerged as the best team of the championship so far, even if theres not really one highly intriguing guy on its roster, instead showing a nice group of very good players who might eventually become fine pro European league players (or maybe more, as you can never say never when dealing with players this young).
The One to Remember
Prospect wise, the main attraction has been Croatia, featuring an excellent wing named Bojan Bogdanovic, a Bosnian native who curiously also plays in the Bosnian League for Zrinjski. Perhaps even better than Frenchman Antoine Diot, Bogdanovic features exactly what were looking for in this tournament: a player with an array of interesting and somewhat developed skills packaged in with an intriguing physical set, with a head that is firmly set on his shoulders to go along with that. A mixture of these three things will usually indicate that there is a fair chance to continue to hear the players name in the future.
Bojan fills the bill. Physically, hes a nicely athletic player who, at 6-7, features the right size, particularly at his young age, and looks capable of developing into both a shooting guard of a small forward. Currently the scoring leader of the tourney, Bogdanovic is a pretty nice shooter who looks for spaces with quite a good movement without the ball. Featuring the ball-handling (although he is better with his right) and a fine first step, hes also a slashing threat. However, he gets a big chunk of his point in transition plays, where he tries to take advantage of any situation to get an easy layup or dunk on the break, particularly after coming up with steals thanks to his nice wingspan and quick hands.
Not as omnipresent as Diot, Bogdanovic doesnt force situations, waiting for his chance to show up and do his stuff. While its not a bad characteristic, it limits his ability to dominate and take over games, something that Croatia missed, especially since there wasnt a reliable playmaker to take the leading role. Anyway, Bogdanovic is a skilled player, visible every time he touches the ball, and features the tools to eventually manage to create his own shot on a regular basis.
Back to Earth:
Although still the clear cut MVP of the tournament as far as we are concerned, Antoine Diot has looked more human in the last games. His flaws have been exposed more clearly against tougher competition in this quarterfinal round, while the additional exposure is allowing us to better evaluate his game.
The most important thing weve learned these days is that Antoine needs to work hard on his ball-handling skills, particularly his left hand, which is seriously unpolished. It definitely didnt look like one of his best attributes in the first games in Astorga, but hes suffering more now because of it. Still, he managed to drop 33 points on Italy in the last contest to seal Frances ticket to the semifinals.
Right now, he relies on a superior physical set to dominate. His combination of size, length and explosiveness are really hard for his rivals to match at this age, but will be less of a difference maker once he starts facing older and better competition. He must keep working hard on his skills to make up for it.
Parallel to Diots weaknesses being exposed, France has suffered more than expected to make the semifinals, scheduled for this weekend. The team is too dependant on this playmaker, lacking a solid structure playing off of his offensive game, and relying on his superior athleticism to defensively drown his opponents. Its questionable if this is going to work against its next rival, Lithuania.
As we have said, Lithuania is the best team here so far. Faithful to its basketball legacy, this squad is packed with offensive threats, particularly shooters, while they move the ball with good criteria and deliver the right effort on defense. They would be the clear cut favorites had the hosts not still been in the fight.
And thats, of course, Spain. While not delivering too much of a brilliant performance despite the good talent level it features, the simple home court advantage, even if the attendance is surprisingly poor in León, should be a factor for the final result. Lets just remember that both Russia and Serbia and Montenegro came away as the winners this summer while playing at home in the under-20 and junior (U-18) championships.
Turkey is the dark horse out of these four teams. Not considered an early heavy favorite, and not really spectacular in its game, its a very tough team to beat, playing solid basketball on both ends of the court.
The resolution will be next week here at DraftExpress.