Standouts from the 2021 Australian U18 Nationals

Photo: Sports In Focus

Australia held their under 18 Nationals from April 10-17 in Werribee, Victoria. The tournament was a great chance for young prospects to be seen against other talented prospects for the first time in a while as they didn’t have u18 or u16 tournaments last year. All of the players at the tournament were born in either 2004 or 2005. I was able to be in person at the tournament for the first four days, seeing all of these players multiple times. The players below stood out the most during the tournament.

Tyrese Proctor – Guard – NSW Metro

Coming into the tournament Proctor was the clear star of this generation. It didn’t take him long to confirm this, scoring 18 points in the first quarter of the first game of the whole tournament. Proctor ended the tournament averaging just under 21 points per game, giving him the second highest average. Other than scoring he chimed in with 4.6 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.9 steals while having 2.8 turnovers per game.

Proctor’s best skill and main appeal as a prospect is his shot making ability. All tournament long Proctor was hitting shots with confidence. He can take his man off the dribble and shoot from both the mid-range and from three. The shots that he takes can often be difficult but he has been efficient for his age considering the difficulty of the shots. Proctor went 20/60 from three over the tournament and 33/44 from the free throw line.

One of the most impressive parts of the way Proctor played is that he didn’t force anything. He let the game come to him and was always making the right play. Teams were trapping him out of pick and rolls and showing him multiple bodies. Proctor adapted and played more of an off ball role which is important for his long term projection. Being able to play off the ball will be crucial for his future as at 6’4 the positional flexibility opens up so many options.

Proctor was a force on both ends of the floor, showing a great impact defensively. With his size and athleticism he has the ability to make plays on defense. His point of attack defense was great all tournament long. Going forward this is great to see him engaged on the defensive end. The value he has as a shot maker is increased as he is able to not only stay on the floor defensively but is a positive on that end.

It’s hard to nitpick too much of Proctor’s game considering how good he is at this age. I would like to see him improve his left hand though. It’s starting to look like college coaches may not be successful with recruiting efforts for Proctor. As long as Proctor wants to play in the NBL, it seems like his next step. As far as his potential goes it seems like the NBA is definitely on the cards for Proctor.

Rory Hawke – Guard – QLD North

The best player on the runners up, Hawke had a great tournament for Queensland North. Hawke averaged 22.1 points, 8.8 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.3 steals with 3.4 turnovers per game. His level of play is even more impressive considering he has only been playing basketball for about three and a half years so far. A relatively new player at the CoE it is clear that Hawke is a talented player who is getting better every time I see him play.

Hawke’s playstyle is very aggressive and physical. He is constantly driving the ball and putting pressure on the rim. When he gets a head of steam and gets downhill Hawke is incredibly hard to stop. As he is bigger and and stronger than smaller guards they aren’t effective defending him as he can either bulldoze his way to the rim or shoot floaters over the top of them. Hawke led the competition by far in free throws attempted with 53, second had 44. Against the better teams Hawke was tasked with creating offense in the half court. This mainly came in the form of pick and rolls.

Hawke is a great two way player thanks to his ability on the defensive end. As he is about 6’4 at the guard position his size and strength help him to wall off opposing drives. Not only is he a strong defender at the point of attack but he is also a smart team defender. Hawke drew multiple charges and blocked shots from making smart rotations.

As far as areas to improve, the shooting and possibly athleticism could improve. He shot just 9/42 from three, however he showed some variety in his shooting with not all of them being spot-up jumpers. If he is able to improve his athleticism then it will make him even harder to guard. Improving these two areas would give him a shot at playing in the NBA in the future. His next step however seems to be college where he would be a great fit for high major schools.

Ethan Elliot – Guard – WA Metro

The best player on the winners of the tournament. Elliot was the leader of the WA Metro team even when he was struggling to shoot. The lefty point guard was great scoring the ball as well as distributing the ball to his teammates. This is seen with his 17.6 points and 4.0 assists per game.

Elliot struggled to shoot the ball over the tournament going 15/66 from three, 22.7%. I think Elliot will be a good three point shooter in the long term. The touch appears to be there as he shoots floaters at an efficient rate. The volume is also there as he was getting up 8.25 threes per game.

Elliot was patient with the ball and made smart decisions. He gets his team out in transition and keeps pushing the pace. When he had the ball in his hands he was comfortable getting a step on the defense and then kicking out to open shooters. While he is quick to get a step on the defense he can struggle to get to the rim. This can be problematic as he doesn’t always pressure the rim but he is quite good at shooting floaters which helps him here.

I think Elliot will make a great college player. His ability to create off the dribble as a lead guard is always needed by teams. Hopefully we will get another chance to see Elliot next year at the u20 Nationals. I expect his college recruitment to really heat up if he performs well at that tournament.

Alex Toohey – Forward – ACT

As a member of the NBA Global Academy, Toohey is clearly a talented player. He has already played for Australia in the AsiaCup Qualifier against New Zealand. During this tournament Toohey averaged 17.9 points, 9.9 rebounds, 3.6 assists with 3.6 turnovers per game. As a forward he showed a lot of skill and vision as a passer, which makes him a great prospect in my opinion.

Toohey is incredibly skilled for his size. He has great vision as a passer which compliments his skill level. He can put the ball on the floor and has the ability to find open players while possessing the vision to see them open. Toohey prefers to operate as a passer on the inside, he made some great passes to cutters and big man Bowyn Beatty.

From the perimeter Toohey is always attacking the rim. His handle allows him to get downhill and always be finishing around the rim. His pursuit of the basketball is impressive, especially on the offensive glass. If he missed a shot he would be battling for the offensive rebound and using his length to try and tip the ball in. This is seen with his 3.67 offensive rebounds per game.

I would like to see Toohey improve his shooting from the perimeter in the future. At this tournament he shot just 2/11 from three. He’s already a skilled player and this would add another level to his game. If he was able to keep defenses honest with his outside shooting then it would open up the floor for his driving and playmaking. Toohey’s progress will be interesting to track over the next few years as he could definitely be a high major college player or possibly go the NBL route as a next star if he keeps improving.

Cooper Osborne – Guard – SA Metro

Rocking the best mullet at the tournament, Osborne was great making plays off the dribble for SA Metro. He averaged 16.9 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 2.4 steals with 3.3 turnovers per game. It’s surprising that he came off the bench for games considering how impactful he was.

Osborne was great at breaking down defenses with his handle to make shots or find open teammates. He is a flashy ball handler and likes to string together multiple dribble moves to break down a defender. His handle is incredibly fast when he is sizing up a defender with these dribble moves. The athleticism as well as his handle were effective breaking down defenses.

After breaking down a defender Osborne was great at making shots. He showed off shooting from mid range as well as from three. These shots were difficult at times, making step backs at an efficient clip. When Osborne drew the attention of the defense, he was great at finding either an open shooter or a cutter. As a natural scorer the vision he shows passing the ball is really promising.

Defensively, Osborne is a play maker. I think this is reflected by his 2.4 steals per game. He is a good athlete and he made plays mainly as an on ball defender with active hands. On the program Osborne was listed at 183 cm (6′ 0″). Judging by my eye test this didn’t look nearly right; I’d say he is much closer to roughly 6’3. As a combo guard he has the potential to help teams out in the future with his athleticism and ability to make plays off the dribble.

Luca Yates – Big – QLD North

The big man for Queensland North had a great tournament putting up some big numbers in many games. Yates averaged 17.9 points, 13.1 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game. Yates was a consistent force inside for the runners up. His chemistry with Rory Hawke was evident as they both played club basketball together and played well at this tournament.

On the boards Yates was completely dominant. He averaged over 3 more rebounds than second place in the stat for the tournament. These numbers weren’t inflated just on the defensive end either. He was active and used his length to keep the ball alive on the offensive end. This resulted in him averaging 4.9 offensive rebounds per game, again the most at the tournament.  

On the inside, Yates was extremely strong even if he is slightly undersized to be a true center. He can score in a variety of ways in the paint: as a roller, on putbacks, or with his back to the basket. For a big man Yates has some impressive touch. Flashing to receive the ball in the paint he has soft touch with either hand.

In the future I would like to see Yates continue to develop his outside shooting. Right now he is attempting a few here and there but it is not a big part of his game. The form looks good and the touch is there for him to add this. A concern for this though is his free throw percentage as he went 21/40 from the line this tournament. If he could add a perimeter shot it would really help him, especially if he doesn’t keep growing and ends up as an undersized 5.

George Stevens – Guard/Wing – Vic Country

The numbers that Stevens put up over the tournament as well as his physical profile make him an interesting player to watch. As a 2005 born player Stevens averaged 15.1 points, 8.4 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 2.3 steals as well as 3.6 turnovers per game. The stats were great on their own but even more impressive he did this as a younger player.

Stevens’ height makes you think he is more of a guard but he has a solid frame and uses his body well with his strength. This helps him to play above his height. Offensively Stevens constantly puts pressure on the rim by driving the ball. His handle is rather limited but his frame makes him hard to stop when he gets going in a straight line.

Stevens is constantly making the right plays; he finishes the ball strongly driving to the rim. If he has an open teammate he usually always finds them. This comes in the form of drop off passes or kick outs to shooters. Stevens has instincts for the ball, you often see him just being in the right place at the right time on rebounds.

I’d like to see Stevens develop more of a perimeter shot in the future. Right now he doesn’t really need it as he is quite strong and always scoring at the rim. This is something that he will need at higher levels though. I would also like to see some more consistent scoring performances from Stevens. He had 3 games scoring 24 or more and 4 games scoring 9 or less. The inconsistent performances are understandable for a young player playing up a year. Next year will be a great chance to see the improvements that he has made to his game against players of the same age.

Honourable Mentions:

Anthony Mundine (NSW Metro – Guard): 2005 born smaller guard. Big time shooter and shot maker. Son of Australian rugby league and boxing star Anthony Mundine.

Kane Runnalls (QLD North – Forward/Big): Skilled but skinny big man with some amazing flashes. Makes plays defensively, rebounds and can handle in transition. Nice leaper, attacks the rim, made some threes but needs to move his shot pocket over as it is over his shoulder.

Joshua Dent (NSW Country – Guard): Under control point guard who can do a bit of everything, Great shooter, passer and shifty attacking the rim.

Lachlan Brewer (Tasmania – Wing/ Forward): Talented scorer on the wing. Can score on the ball and off the ball. Great slasher and makes plays around the rim. Has nice touch on shots in the paint and from mid-range.

Geordan Papacostas (QLD South – Big): Strong big man who can take over games from the post. Slightly undersized to be a true 5 but dominant at this level.

Joel De Barros (NT – Wing/Guard): Carried a huge offensive load for NT. Aggressive attacking the rim.

Kristian Ferronato (Vic Metro – Guard): 2005 born point guard. Awesome at the point of attack defensively, averaged 2.67 steals per game. Strong and physical for his size.

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