Players To Watch, Torneo Citta di Roma, 2014

Dec 26, 2014 by David Hein, Print
Players To Watch, Torneo Citta di Roma, 2014

Since its inception over a decade, the international junior tournament series organized by Euroleague Basketball has been a launching pad for a great many future stars. This season’s ADIDAS NEXT GENERATION TOURNAMENT will be no different, starting with the first event of the season, the Torneo Città di Roma. The eight teams headed to the Italian capital boast several players to have already distinguished themselves at the junior levels – and one to have already made his Turkish Airlines Euroleague debut! Learn more about the players to watch this weekend in Rome:

Stellazzurra Basketball Academy Rome: Andrea La Torre

The fourth time’s a charm, at least that’s what La Torre is hoping. The 2.02-mter swingman will be playing in his fourth ANGT and has gotten better each winter. He went from 2.5 points and 2.8 rebounds and a team fourth-place finish in 2011 to 10.0 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.3 steals and fifth place in 2012 to 11.8 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 2.5 steals and second place last December. La Torre will be called upon to lead Stellazzurra. He helped Italy win the 2014 Albert Schweitzer Tournament and started for Italy at the Under-17 World Championships over the summer in Dubai. La Torre is a smooth lefty, who can shoot from outside and drive to the basket. He’s trying to become a point guard, which would make him extremely valuable at his size. Defensively, La Torre is not a factor and still needs to work on that side of the ball.

Brose Baskets Bamberg: Leon Kratzer

Kratzer is back in the ANGT after a strong performance at the L’Hospitalet tournament last season, where he averaged 15.3 points, 10.8 rebounds, 1.25 blocks and 1.25 steals. The 2.08-meter center will actually be playing in his third ANGT after collecting 6.5 points and 6.5 rebounds in the 2012-13 campaign in Rome. Kratzer, who was Germany’s second-leading scorer (9.6 ppg.) and rebounder (8.8 rpg.) at the 2013 U16 European Championship, is a big man with good rebounding instincts, especially on the offensive glass. He was named to the 2015 All-Star Game for the U19 NBBL league, and although he struggles from the free throw line, Kratzer has a knack of getting to the charity stripe with his efficiency around the basket. Kratzer is not overly athletic, but he moves well on defense, has a feel for blocking shots and has quick enough hands to pick up steals.

Maccabi Teddy Tel Aviv: Dragan Bender

Bender returns to the ANGT for a second time – this time with a new team. He played for Cedevita Zagreb at Belgrade last season and had a huge third-place game against Mega Vizura Belgrade with 21 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 blocks for a performance index rating of 34. For the Belgrade tournament, he averaged 6.6 points, 6.2 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.4 blocks. The versatile 2.12-meter forward had a huge U18 European Championship for third-place Croatia, averaging 14.4 points, 10.4 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 1.1 steals and 2.2 blocks to make the All-Tournament Team. Bender had 34 points and 14 rebounds vs. Lithuania and just missed triple-doubles against Latvia and Greece. There’s really not much Bender can’t do. He’s a great rebounder and passer, he can shoot from outside and drive to the lane. Bender has been playing on loan this season for Israeli second division team Ironi Ramat Gan, where he is averaging 10.7 points, 8.3 points, 2.7 assists and 1.2 blocks.

Cedevita Zagreb: Lovro Mazalin

Mazalin’s prospect status is like a Brazilian footballer; he can almost go by his first name alone. Lovro is a flat-out winner. The 2.01-meter forward is making his third ANGT appearance – and second with Cedevita. He starred for Cibona Zagreb in Siauliai in 2013 with his all-around game, averaging 24.0 points, 7.7 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.0 steals. Last season for Cedevita, the smooth lefty averaged 15.3 points, 6.8 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 2.5 steals and 1.0 blocks. Mazalin struggled a bit at times as an underclass player with Croatia at the 2014 U18 European Championship, but stepped up in the third place game with 24 points and 5 rebounds to help Croatia reach the podium. In total, he averaged 9.8 points, 2.8 rebounds and 3.8 assists. Mazalin has the complete package, with the ability to drive the lane and shoot from outside. He is a good passer and dribbler, though defensively he is not elite. Lovro practices solely with Cedevita’s senior team – with whom he has played in seven Turkish Airlines Euroleague games and nine Adriatic League contests so far this season.

Armani Juniors Milan: Davide Moretti

Moretti is the son of former Italian international Paolo Moretti, who won a silver medal at EuroBasket 1997. The 1.80-meter guard will be playing in his second ANGT, having helped guide Stellazzurra Basketball Academy Rome to the Rome final last winter. The 1998-born shooting guard averaged 8.5 points, 1.8 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.5 steals at that tourney. This past summer, Moretti was the leading scorer for Italy at both the U17 World Championship and the U16 European Championship. He made his Serie A debut this season, playing for his father and coach, Paolo Moretti, at Giorgio Tesi Group Pistoia at age 16 years and seven months. The junior Moretti has a strong pick-and-roll game and is a good shooter. He also can drive to the basket and has a good knack for finishing.

Virtus Bologna: Roberto Vercellino

Vercellino will be playing at his first ANGT in his second season with the Bologna club. The 2.02-meter forward played last summer at the U17 World Championships in Dubai and averaged 3.3 points and 2.7 rebounds. The 17-year-old has already made his debut in the Serie A. Vercellino competed at the Jordan Brand Class in Barcelona, has a long frame and has good instincts on defense; he averaged 2.0 blocks and 1.8 steals last season in Italy’s U17 championship. He also showed his versatility with 9.5 points and 9.8 rebounds. Vercellino has a good inside game, can shoot a bit from outside and also handle the ball well for his size.

Unicaja Malaga: Romaric Belemene-Dzabatou

Belemene-Dzabatou will be playing in his third ANGT after averaging 11.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocks in 2012-13 in Rome and then 6.6 points, 2.6 rebounds and 1.2 blocks last winter in L’Hospitalet. The 2.02-meter forward will be extra motivated after struggling in the L’Hospitalet final against Real Madrid, making just 1 of 12 shots for 2 points, 2 turnovers and a performance index rating of -8. Belemene-Dzabatou, who was born in Congo, is an impressive physical specimen. He relies heavily on his superior athleticism, which allows him to make extra special plays at both ends of the floor. He still has room to develop offensively as he’s not a strong ball-handler or shooter. But he can get to the rim – thanks to his quickness – and he can hit an open shot. Belemene-Dzabatou also uses his athleticism to get rebounds. He has appeared in two Spanish League games this season.

Spars Sarajevo: Edin Atic

Atic returns for his second ANGT after a very successful individual showing in Rome in 2013 – though his team finished sixth. The small forward was the leading scorer with 21.8 points and second-best rebounder at 9.3 rebounds to go with 1.8 assists, 4.0 steals and 1.2 blocks. The 2.00-meter scorer then had a strong 2014 for Bosnia and Herzegovina, collecting 11.8 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.8 steals at the Albert Schweitzer Tournament before leading the national team in scoring (16.0 ppg.) and rebounding (5.3 rpg.) at the U18 European Championship to go with a tournament-best 2.5 steals as well as 2.4 assists. Atic is an athletic swingman who has no fear of shooting. The elite scorer is quick and explosive, can get to the rim with his good ball handling and can finish. Atic still needs to put on a bit of weight and work on his pull-up jumper to become a more finished product.