Players to watch: Torneig Ciutat de L'Hospitalet, 2014

Jan 02, 2014 by David Hein, Print
Players to watch: Torneig Ciutat de L'Hospitalet, 2014
FC Barcelona: Marc Garcia

Garcia was the only 1996-born player on Spain's team that won bronze at the U18 European Championship this past summer along with 2013 NIJT winners Alberto Abalde, Agusti Sans and Jose Nogues. Garcia averaged 7.2 points, 1.9 rebounds and 1.2 steals. The 1.97-meter forward, who looks younger than his age and still has room to fill into his good-sized, but narrow body, shined with 18 points in Spain's quarterfinal win over France. He helped Barcelona to the NIJT final in London, being named to the all-tournament team with 17.5 points and 3.8 rebounds, hitting 12 of 22 threes. Garcia possesses a scorer's mentality but also can shoot from outside, especially from the corners. The Manresa native, who is in his second season with Barcelona, has a game that is considered to be fluid and balanced as well as smooth, especially his catch-and-shoot mechanics. His all-around game on both sides of the ball will get better as he adds more weight.

Brose Baskets Bamberg: Andreas Obst

Obst did not play for Germany at the U18 European Championship Division B this past summer but was on the German team at the U18 3x3 world championship in Jakarta, going undefeated in pool play and then losing to Russia in the Last 16. The 1.91-meter shooting guard has been invited to Germany's U18 camp for the 2014 summer. The Halle native is considered one of the country's top future shooters. Despite being only 17 years old, Obst has already established himself as a legitimate game-changer in Germany's third division, hitting at least five three-pointers and scoring at least 18 points in three consecutive games. He rebounds solidly from the wing and has shown a strong instinct for steals on defense. Obst, who guided Bamberg's farm team to the JBBL U16 league final last season, isn't the greatest of athletes but understands what he does best – and that's being a lights-out shooter.

Fenerbahce Ulker Istanbul: Berk Ugurlu

Ugurlu is already a proven winner despite being just 17 years old, having helped Turkey to the gold medal at this past summer's U18 European Championship, averaging 4.1 points, 2.9 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.3 steals per game. The 1.90-meter point guard also won the 2012 U16 European Championship, too. Last season he helped Fenerbahce reach the Rome NIJT final, collecting 24 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals against Spars. For the tournament, he averaged 16.5 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 4.3 apg, and 3.8 spg. The Sisli native, who played four games for Fenerbahce's pro team last season, is extremely quick and pushes the ball in transition confidently with the ability to finish at the rim. The charismatic playmaker possesses good court vision and playmaking skills and takes care of the ball, though he still needs to work on his jumper and three-point shot. Ugurlu, who also has a nifty floater, will be helped by added strength that comes with age.

FIATC Joventut: Sergi Costa

Costa did not play last summer for Spain at the U18 European Championship but won U16 European bronze in 2011. The 17-year-old point guard was a member of Joventut's NIJT title-winning team in London, averaging 2.3 ppg, 1.0 rpg and 2.0 apg, including 5 points and 4 assists in the final. The Barcelona native helped Badalona to the Spanish U19 championship last season and has played minutes in the men's third division this season. Look for Costa to take more responsibility this season after being a role player during Joventut's title run in London. He possesses good shooting skills and rebounds well from the point guard position. Costa can penetrate with the left hand and applies good pressure on defense. He is a good facilitator and handles the ball well, limiting the number of turnovers.

Union Olimpija Ljubljana: Vasilije Vucetic

Vucetic was the only 1996-born player for Serbia at this summer's U18 European Championship, where he averaged 7.8 points and 3.9 rebounds as the Serbs lost to eventual champs Turkey in the quarterfinals and finished sixth. The 2.05-meter center's best game was 14 points, 9 rebounds and 4 assists against France. The Vrbas native played for Ljubljana at the NIJT last season, averaging 10 ppg and 6.3 rpg. Vucetic really isn't that athletic but he has an old school-like game that is polished with good fundamentals and game understanding – both back-to-the-basket and face-up. Besides his big but soft hands, he still has room to grow physically and he has long arms. His mid-range shooting is solid and reliable and Vucetic also has good instincts as a passer. He can even put the ball on the floor a bit, giving him added ability to get past slower or bigger defenders.

Real Madrid: Santiago Yusta

Yusta guided Spain to the title at the U16 European Championship this past summer, averaging 13.3 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 2.0 apg and 2.1 spg. That came after he helped Madrid reach the U16 Spanish championship final and the U19 Spanish championship semis. The 2.00-meter small forward is a do-it-all guy, who is versatile, quick and athletic. The Madrid native can attack the basket with either hand and finish at the rim. He also can shoot from the outside, rebounds well and has solid passing instincts. Yusta's long wingspan helps him defensively get steals. Yusta can move up to the power forward position at times to be a stretch four but seems best to fit at the small forward spot. Physically, he will continue his develop as he gets older which will then help him in all facets of the game.

Unicaja Malaga: Romaric Belemene

Belemene has not played for his native Republic of Congo as the 16-year-old is in his third season in Malaga's system. The uber-athletic small forward, whose one-year older brother Cedric plays for Marin PeixeGalego in the Spanish LEB Silver, was one of the revelations at the Rome NIJT last season, averaging 11.7 ppg, 5.3 rpg and 1.7 blocks at 16 years of age. The 2.03-meter Belemene handles the ball well and creates his own shot off the dribble and is working hard to become a better shooter – including a decent mid-range game. He plays above the rim and does not shy away from going to the basket. The Pointe Noire native is an intimidator on defense, with good timing for blocks and the size, mobility and athleticism to guard both forward positions. Belemene is still a bit raw in his comprehension of the game and shooting skills, but he has enormous upside and potential.

CB L'Hospitalet: Carlos Malagon

Malagon has not yet played in Spain's national team system, but that will likely change in 2014. The 1.87-meter forward comes to L'Hospitalet from the Barcelona ranks, where last season he won the Spanish U16 championship. In total, he captured two Catalonia regional titles. The 16-year-old has good size physically, is quick and a very good defender. Malagon can get past his man to the basket and has confidence when he gets to the rim to finish. He is willing to take responsibility in the decisive moments, though he lacks a bit of range on his jumper. Malagon is considered a leader in and out of the locker room, also leading by example with his defensive intensity.