All You Need to Know About the U-19 World Championships

Breakdown of how the teams did, who starred, who disappointed, and who to look out for. There’s also first and second team selections.

Breakdown of how the teams did, who starred, who disappointed, and who to look out for. There’s also first and second team selections.

Croatia: A disappointing performance for a young but talented team that was expected to make it to the semi-finals. They have a very deep team with a versatile roster full of players with great potential, the only thing lacking was experience. After beating USA in the last game of the second round they were expected to overcome Argentina, but the South Americans surprised everyone and Croatia has to view the result as a massive disappointment.

Their leading scorer was the 19-year old 6’9″ center, Boric Barac (17.9 ppg) but their best player – and likely the second-best playerin the tournament – was Dario Saric.

He was listed as a center in the competition but found himself played considerable time at the point! He can handle the ball, shoot from mid-range and attack the basket off the dribble. He’s a natural scorer and a tenacious rebounder (tournament top 5 in both categories with 18.1 ppg and 10.1 rpg) and is two years younger than Barac. already has him as a lottery pick in 2013. If his development continues and he stays in the draft, I see him being a top 5 pick. He reminds me a lot of Toni Kukoc because of his all-around abilities at his size.

Player to Watch: Besides Saric, of course, Mario Hezonja, a very athletic 6’5’’ shooting guard. He’s only 16 years old and plays in the same team as Saric in Croatia. He started the tournament strong playing a lot of minutes but in the last couple games he couldn’t put a double-digit scoring game. He finished with an 8 ppg average.

Poland: Finished seventh overall by beating Croatia on the last day of the competition. One of their main players was Przemylsaw Karnowski, an 18-year old 7’1’’ center who averaged 13.2 points and 6.3 rebounds, but couldn’t stop tournament MVP Jonas Valanciunas in the quarterfinals, a tall task in this tournament. Valanciunas’ 26/24 performance was too much for Karnowski to overcome. Considering they didn’t come as a favorite by any account, the seventh spot was a good performance.

Player to Watch: Michal Michalak, an 18-year old 6’6’’ guard who averaged 17.4 points. He’s got good size and rebounds well for his position, he’s best remembered in the competition for putting up a stellar performance against Lithuania with 29 points and 13 rebounds.

Australia: Won their group in the second round but lost in the quarterfinals to tournament runners-up Serbia. They lost by one to USA and ended up finishing sixth. It was a good performance which would have been better if their main player, Anthony Drmic (a 6’5’’ small forward committed to playing in the NCAA next season), put the same numbers in the final round than as he had in the previous two. After two rounds, he was head-to-head with Valanciunas for the tournament MVP but averaged just 9 points in the last 5 games. Their top scorer with 17.1 ppg was 6’3’’ guard, Hugh Greenwood.

Player to Watch: Anthony Drimic who will be easy to follow in the next couple of season. Greenwood showed a great scoring ability in the lasts games but he’s undersized for the SG position at 6’3’’.

USA: I won’t say a lot about them. Most RR readers know these players better than me. Jeremy Lamb, Joe Jackson and Patric Young were their best players. Lamb put up some stellar performances that showed he’s a very good prospect. He’s a bit undersized but has a crazy long wingspan. He averaged 16.2 points and had a 35 point game against champions Lithuania, a game that USA won in overtime.

Their loss to Russia in the quarterfinals was the tournament’s biggest surprise. Some said that they underestimated their opponent and questioned their preparation. It’s the same thing that had been said about the National Team in Indianapolis 2002, Athens 2004, and Japan 2006.

The fifth spot overall is clearly not what everyone expected from them.

Argentina: Finished fourth after losing to Russia in the bronze medal game. It was a spectacular performance for a team that didn’t come with a lot of hype or expectations. They lack a true star and even a good prospect, but they showed their typical effort (see Scola, Ginobili) and a great team game. They are a very deep team because no player is much better than the rest.

After losing the tournament opener in a blowout against Australia and recovering in the second round, they surprisingly beat Croatia in the quarterfinals and lost a very close game against European powerhouse Serbia in the semis. Their top scorer, Luciano Massarelli, averaged just 11.2 points, and their fifth best scorer averaged 8.2 points, showcasing the even scoring responsibility on the team. The stat also perfectly shows the ball distribution and multiple scoring options that present itself out of their motion-heavy offense. Massarelli, Garino, Giogetti and Paredes are some names to play attention.

Player to Watch: Marcos Delia. He didn’t put up spectacular numbers but he really showed great footwork and an offensive arsenal from the post. He averaged 10.8 points and 7.8 rebounds but put a very strong performance in the semis with 19/10. Because of his offensive repertoire in the post, he reminds a lot of Luis Scola, but Scola took care of that comparison with a tweet during the semis: “I like him a lot, but he’s not like me, He’s far more athletic”.

Russia: Qualified for the quarterfinals after Argentina beat Brazil, a result they needed to advanced and meet USA, who they finally beat to advance to the semis against Lithuania. Dimitri Kulagin had a great tournament despite starting slow. Sergey Karasev shouldered the load until Kulagin appeared as everyone expected. Both players average a combine 30 points but it was the latter who carried his team in crunch time. He put up 21/12 against USA, 27/3 against Lithuania, and 24/8 in the bronze medal game.

Player to Watch: Of course, Kulagin and also Karasev. At 6’5’’, Kulagin is an exciting combo-guard, a bit undersized for the two and not really a true one. He shjot a great 48.7% FG and he’s a natural scorer who has potential to improve – he’s already on the NBA’s radar.

Sergey Karasev is a 6’7’’ small forward that averaged 15.3 points but just 4.1 rebounds. For a player with his size and strength, he could had rebounded better. He remains a solid three-point shooter making 35.4% from outside.

Serbia: Came as a contender and lost the final game to Lituania by 18, 67-85. They were lead in scoring by the exciting and electrifying Aleksandar Cvektovic, the 18-year old 6’3’’ point guard. He reminds me of Tony Parker, except he’s not as quick and is a much better shooter. He averaged 14.4 points and 3.8 rebounds, but a poor 2.7 assists considering how much he handles the ball. He started the tournament very strong but his scorning numbers went down as the games went on.

Serbia finished the second round in the fourth spot but beat Australia in the quarterfinal and then won a close game against Argentina in the semis. In that particular game, Bogdan Bogdanovic showed why so many are excited about him. Note that he’s not Bojan Bogdanovic, the Croatian picked 31th by the T-Wolves in the 2011 Draft who was traded to the Nets on draft night. Bogdan is a 19-year old 6’6’’ guard with a long wingspan and a good touch who didn’t have a great tournament (he missed the first two games). He did erupt against Argentina for 25 points (4/6 3PT) and 8 rebounds. In the final game, 7’3’’ center Nemanja Besovic was destroyed by Valanciunas.

Player to Watch: Of course, Cvetkovic, but some scouts say Bogdanovic has a better chance of being drafted.

Lithuania: What can you say, they came as the favorites, lost the opening game against Croatia and an overtime thriller against USA without their second-best player. After that, they destroyed everyone on their road to victory. They won the trophy with by far the best and most dominant player in Jonas Valanciunas and an extraordinary and mature point guard in Vytenis Cizauskas. Lithuania is one of the few countries where basketball is the main sport and a constant source of good players.

The Cavaliers front-office has to be at least thinking about their decision of not selecting Valanciunas in favor of Tristan Thompson, even though the former hasn’t picked up an NBA basketball yet. He lead the competition in both points and rebounds with 23 and 14, respectively, and had some spectacular performances like the 26/24 against Poland in the quarterfinals, the 30/15 against Patric Young and USA, and the 36/8 in the final against Serbia. But the most surprising stat was the 81.1% (60/74) free-throw shooting. He had only 2 games with less than 10 rebounds and scored in double figures in every game. He was dominant and abused almost every center that defended him.

Player to Watch: Vytenis Cizauskas, a 19-year old 6’2’’ point guard who controls the game very well. He showed great all-around abilities and a high basketball IQ for his age. The decision making was impeccable at times and he did a great job of feeding Valanciunas in the post throughout the tourney. He led the tournament in assist with 5.6 and also averaged 13 points and 5.7 rebounds.

Most Disappointing Teams:

1. USA
2. Croatia
3. Brazil

Most Surprising Teams:

1. Argentina
2. Russia
3. Egypt

Most Disappointing Players:

Davis Bertans (Latvia): He’s an 18-year old, 6’10’’ player who plays on the perimeter. Although he recovered in the last couple games, it was not a good shooting performance for one of the only two already drafted players. He played in his country and his team could have played better. Averaged 15.3 points but shot just 26.7% from three.

Lucas Nogueira (Brazil): He put up some weak performances but the most disappointing part of his tournament was his team’s 9th overall position. Everyone knew he’s still years away from being a quality center, but being eliminated in the second round didn’t help his stock either. He averaged 9.6 points and 8.8 rebounds, the inconsistency was evident in his 19/10 and 4/2 performances.

Most Surprising Players:

1. Assem Ahmed (Egypt)
2. Marcos Delia (Argentina)
3. Vytenis Cizauskas (Lithuania)

RR’s All Tournament First Team:

PG: Aleksandar Cvetkovic (Serbia)
SG: Dimitri Kulagin (Russia)
SF: Dario Saric (Croatia)
PF: Marcos Delia (Argentina)
C: Jonas Valanciunas (Lithuania) – MVP

RR’s All Tournament Second Team:

PG: Vytenis Cizauskas (Lithuania)
SG: Anthony Drmic (Australia)
SF: Jeremy Lamb (USA)
PF: Assem Ahmed (Egypt)
C: Boris Barac (Croatia)

You can follow me on Twitter at @raul_ruscitti.

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