Players to watch: Kaunas Tournament, 2014

Feb 10, 2014 by David Hein, Print
Players to watch: Kaunas Tournament, 2014

Zalgiris Kaunas: Kristupas Zemaitis

Zemaitis played last summer for Lithuania at the FIBA U18 3x3 World Championship in Jakarta. He helped Lithuania reach the semifinals, where they lost to eventual winners Argentina. The 1.91m combo guard can shoot the ball really well. He is prone to hot streaks and can decide a game from long range. Zemaitis has good court vision and is very good in transition. He is thought of as a very good passer and boasts great leaping ability, which has landed him in dunk contests. At the other end, Zemaitis plays solid defense with quick hands and a good ability to grab steals.

Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius: Regimantas Miniotas

Last summer Miniotas made a name for himself when he was names the best player at the Adidas Talent Camp in Kaunas. Though the 2.06-meter center has not played for the Lithuanian junior teams, he was invited to the U18 national team training camp last summer at the age of 17. The Kedainiai native moved to Vilnius two years ago and played at the NIJT in Siauliai and London. Miniotas averaged 8.3 points and 4.5 rebounds in 16 minutes per game during the qualifying tournament. In London he played a smaller role and went scoreless in 22 minutes over two games with 4 rebounds. How facing against players his age, big things could be on the horizon. Miniotas is considered very athletic. He’s a good runner with a good motor and an aggressive drive to the basket. He also can spot up for the three-pointer and rebounds well.

VEF Riga: Ervins Meznieks

Meznieks played last summer at the U18 European Championship for Latvia, where he averaged 2 points and 1.3 rebounds as an underclass player. A summer earlier, the 1.99m forward collected 14.5 points and 4.3 rebounds at the U16 European Championship. The Riga native played one game for Riga in the NIJT last season with 3 points in five minutes of action. He can play both forwards positions and is a good shooter. He has good leaping ability and can finish strong at the rim on the break. He’s a good team player who is very coachable and makes smart decisions with the ball. Meznieks played with VEF’s first team during the pre-season and competed against the likes of Zalgiris, Budivelnik and Odessa amongst other teams.

Porsche B Akademie Ludwigsburg: Jan Niklas Wimberg

Wimberg played last summer for Germany at the U18 European Championship Division B and collected 8.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.0 steal and a team-high 1.7 blocks per game despite playing as an underclass player. The 2.04-meter forward possesses a well-rounded game. He actually plays in the EWE Baskets Oldenburg system. The Oldenburg native is a two-time German U19 All-Star and was the NBBL U19 league Rookie of the Year in 2013. Wimberg can drive to the basket or shoot from beyond the three-point stripe while playing tremendous defense – both on the wing and under the basket. He also has excellent playmaking skills, always looking for the extra pass and playing with poise and basketball IQ far beyond his years. Wimberg has also recently earned playing time in the third division ProB.

Budivelnik Kiev: Oleksandr Tarasenko

Tarasenko nearly made the Ukrainian national team for the U18 European Championship last summer despite being underclass. The 1.99m forward is a good rebounder who does an especially good job on the offensive glass. The Dnipropetrovsk native can shoot a bit outside and has shown the ability to pass the ball. Tarasenko, who has played this season in the Ukrainian second division despite being just 17 years of age, plays good defense with quick hands and a knack for blocking shots.

CKSA Moscow: Alexander Gavrilov

Gavrilov played last summer for Russia at the Under-18 European Championship as one of three underclass players. The 1.93-meter point guard averaged 4.0 points, 1.3 rebounds and 0.9 assists per game. A summer earlier the Sergiyev Posad native averaged 8.5 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.9 assists at the U16 European Championship. Gavrilov played for CSKA at the NIJT last season in Siauliai, where he averaged 3.0 points, 1.3 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.0 steals in four games. The playmaker is considered one of the most promising prospects in CSKA’s junior ranks. The 17-year-old plays for CSKA’s second team in the U21 VTB Junior League. Gavrilov has strong playmaking abilities with great court vision and passing skills. His strong work ethic and desire to improve could help transform him into a star for the next generation.

USK Future Stars Prague: Ondrej Sehnal

Sehnal played last summer for the Czech Republic at the U16 European Championship Division B and averaged 6.3 points, 2.1 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.7 steals. The 1.91-meter Prague native is considered one of the Czechs’ top point guard prospects. He has a good combination of size, athleticism, creativity and quickness. The 17-year-old has good ball-handling and shooting skills with the understanding and ability to read the game with his good court vision. Sehnal can drive, pass and shoot and shows a good mix offensively of interior and perimeter play.

MSM Pzkosz Wladyslawowo: Mateusz Fatz

Fatz did not play for a Polish national team last summer after playing at the 2012 U16 European Championship. He is expected to play this summer at the U18 European Championship. The 2.04m power forward is a very versatile player. He is able to play both facing and with his back to the basket. The Bydgoszcz native has a pretty good mid-range shot. He is one of the leaders of SMS Wladyslawowo, which plays in the Polish third league, where he averages about 20 minutes played per gamewith about 12 points and 5 rebounds.