Tymoteusz Sternicki, born in 2006, is one of the best young Polish basketball prospects. He is still developing and isn’t forced to play a particular position – he’s just an all-around perimeter guy standing 6′ 3″ with the ability to play any position from point guard to forward. I scouted Sternicki live at the U14 Polish Championship in September and watched the U16 Championship online two weeks later, these are my notes.
Shooting is the part of the game in which he excels the most. Catch&Shoot, off dribble, spot up – it doesn’t really make a difference for Sternicki. He shoots threes with really impressive ease – his shooting form doesn’t change even when a shot is heavily contested or taken from deep. Keeps right hand high, footwork is good too, he also knows how to move without the ball to create space for a shot.
Sternicki is a very aware player at such a young age. Despite being a superstar at u14 level, he is more than willing to pass to an open teammate. He reads the defense so well and takes advantage of his scoring gravity. His reaction time also plays an important role here, Sternicki makes decisions much quicker than a typical 14 years old. His excellent decision-making puts teammates in position to shoot the ball in the right spots. The only part of playmaking that he hasn’t shown yet is the pick & roll – he didn’t run any p&r plays at all during the most recent tournaments. I believe that Sternicki can become a p&r threat due to his ball handling, shooting range, and change of pace ability.
Sternicki is a very good ball handler overall, especially in the open court, where he changes the directions at a full speed with ease. He likes using some advanced moves like hesitation and spin moves. Even so, he is not always confident with the ball in his hands and can struggle against aggressive defense, especially older and better competition. Even during the U14 semifinal game, Sternicki had some difficulties handling the ball against the full court press. He also made several predictable passes and committed a few surprising unforced turnovers.
Sternicki loves attacking the rim, especially at U14 level. He is able to score with both hands, against contact and using a variety of moves. What’s more important, it all comes very naturally. Every stronger or taller guy at the U14 level tries to muscle their way to the basket at all costs, which often ends up with a charge, turnover, or badly missed shot. Sternicki is different – he never plans what he’s going to do during a particular play, he just immediately responses to defenders’ moves. Sternicki nearly has a full finishing package. It will become tougher to score at the rim with such regularity going forward, so his developed floater game should be a solution here.
Despite a young age, he really knows the fundamentals of defensive positioning, off ball movement and reads the game really well. Moreover, he is a joyful teammate, who never shows any symptoms of anger and always tries to make his teammates better. For instance, during one warmup shootaround he noticed that his teammate was practicing some post moves. A few seconds later he instructed him how he should do those moves to avoid traveling call.
Opponents at the U14 level don’t force Sternicki to play hard on defense – with his size he just doesn’t have to make an immense effort. However, playing up two years is a different story. His lack of physicality is visible at the U16 level, but that’s normal for 14 years old kid.
The biggest issue of Sternicki’s defensive game during the U16 tournament were definitely his closeouts. He didn’t manage to contest 3 point shots well on many possessions, but what’s worse, he was also giving an opportunity to blow by him at the same time. He will be gradually eliminate this from his game as he grows, because he currently has disproportionately long legs in comparison to his torso.
Another defensive area where he had problems was focusing on his man. He has to turn his head quickly and often to observe the ball and to keep up with his man.
In spite of aforementioned issues, Sternicki has shown that he is at least a decent defensive prospect. There were a lot of plays where he made a great effort while guarding stronger guys and used his height and wingspan to get many steals and blocks.
He always makes additional effort – diving for the ball and attacking the offensive board.
Overall, Sternicki has an incredibly high ceiling due to his physical tools, young age, understanding of the game, and perfect skillset for modern basketball (a lot of threes, good court vision, and getting to the rim ability). Despite receiving some offers from foreign clubs, Sternicki plans on staying at Arka Gdynia for the time being. Arka is one of the top development programs in the country, and should be able to dominant youth leagues going forward. His coach believes that he will be able to make his debut in the EBL, the highest professional basketball level in Poland, in the next two years. At his age, he is likely to continue to grow. In a scenario where he is 6′ 5” he would be able to play as a SG/SF against the pros straight away.