Standouts from the #PlayForPassion U16 Tournament – Bassano

A big opportunity for the best U16 prospects around Europe to showcase their talent, this was the #PlayForPassion tournament hosted in Bassano del Grappa from the 3rd to the 6th of March. We had the opportunity to follow the competition live at PalaAngarano, so now is the moment to talk about the most interesting profiles that battled in the event, well-organised by the Orange1 Bassano. Let’s have a closer look at the players who impressed me the most in these days.

1st place – Real Madrid

Ismaila Diagne – 212 cms – 2006

Stats: 16.8 PPG, 58.3% FG, 13.3 RPG

The most dominant player in the competition, being named MVP after looking literally unstoppable all-tournament-long. Not incredibly skilled, but basically too big to be slowed down, had a huge impact both offensively and defensively. Can be developed as an elite rim protector/runner, has already a great floor, but I’m not that high on his ceiling. Centers at his age are obviously more eye-catching, but he deserved the Most Valuable Player recognition, blocking and dunking all over the court in every single game. He also showed a solid jumper from the mid-long distance, which enabled him to win the match-up against Tiefing Diawara (starting a dualism between these two big men that will last in the next years).

Hugo Gonzalez – 197 cms – 2006

Stats: 14 PPG, 5 APG, 4 RPG, 3.8 SPG, 1.5 BPG

Personally, the real MVP of this #PlayForPassion if he doesn’t get ejected in the final game. Not totally sure if the best prospect, but certainly the best all-around player we saw in Bassano. He still had a good tournament, being included in the tournament Top 5 and winning the 3-point shootout. A player who is used to play at a higher level (U18), looked like there isn’t anything he can’t do in this category. Scoring, shooting, passing, rebounding, blocking shots and stealing balls, are all above the average abilites for him. On the other hand, he needs to focus on the mental side, since there is a lot of work to do with his attitude.

Declan Duru – 198 cms – 2007

Stats: 10.3 PPG, 59.1% FG

Choosing the player who had the best performance in the most important game (and even the better one, the final against Bassano), but I could have chosen any player from Real Madrid, one of the best U16 I’ve ever seen. He’s a 2007, so his physical and athletic tools are even more impressive, reminding me of a light version of Zion Williamson. A very powerful player, with a scary vertical and an innate skill to finish strong at the rim. Opens his spacing with some outside shooting, then he’s really dangerous using both post-up and penetrations, almost like a train in transition.

Other interesting prospects: Kyllian Michee (’07), El Hadji Gueye (’07), Mitar Bosnjakovic (’06)

2nd place – Orange1 Bassano

Tiefing Diawara – 211 cms – 2006

Stats: 11 PPG, 6.3 ORPG, 2 BPG

Probably the prospect with the biggest upside in the entire tournament and one of the biggest attractions of the event. His ceiling has no limits, has outstanding physical and athletic tools for his age. Potentially an actual freak on both ends, defensively he is already scary, combining a great rim protection with the ability to switch on the perimeter with a disarming facility. Still pretty raw, but appears as a hard worker, trying to build a consistent shot and showing intriguing passing flashes, especially from the post.

Dame Sarr – 198 cms – 2006

Stats: 11.3 PPG, 2 SPG, 2 BPG

Tough shot-maker with an impressive wingspan. Skinny profile who has great glimpses of pure talent and can be built as an impactful defender due to his chance to deflect and block almost everything. Employed as a primary scorer, knows how to create separation and has an advanced skillset. He’s quick, in terms of lateral speed and even talking about explosiveness, but might need to work on his shot selection.

Jairo Van Den Berg – 204 cms – 2006

Stats: 5.3 PPG, 69.2% 2FG, 1.3 SPG

Very personal pick about a very useful player. A key factor for Bassano’s balance, really important for the team, contributing with intangibles, deflections and in general an “invisible” effort within the system. Another player with a notable wingspan and an above average athlete, brings versatility on the two phases, can score by running the court and using his ability as a smart cutter.

Other interesting prospects: Leonardo Valesin (’06), Matteo Rinaldin (’06)

3rd place – Olimpia Milano

Samuele Miccoli – 190 cms – 2006

Stats: 9.8 PPG, 3.5 APG, 5.8 FDPG

Skilled guard, leading the team that surprisingly finished 3rd. Had an impressive scoring run in the first game against Stella Azzura. Can be defined as a combo, had playmaking assignments, but struggled to fully manage the offense. Very good-looking shooting form, transition player, and a really quick sprint. He’s able to find mismatches against weaker guards, playing post-up and using fadeaways, tends to force too many shots.

Avtandil Bakhtadze – 205 cms – 2007

Stats: 8.3 PPG, 4 RPG, 2 3PG

After playing the ANGT in Belgrade as the youngest of the group, he’s still far from being one of the oldest in the U16 category. Arrived from Serbia just some time before the tournament in Bassano, he seemed like he had difficulties to find a role in a team which isn’t his real one, playing out of schemes, on his own, trying impossible isolations. By the way, remains really interesting, showed material to work with, elite offensive rebounder, big hands and long arms, age is a positive thing for him. Generally, a crafty big man with a good margin of development.

4th place – FC Barcelona

Dayan Nessah – 196 cms – 2006

Stats: 14.3 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 2 SPG

Barça was, without a doubt, the biggest let down of the tournament, disappointing team performances and none of their players impressed me except for Dayan Nessah. Just like Gonzalez, but more quietly, I’m not the biggest fan of his attitude, but he remains an explosive and athletic forward with main-creator potential. Has 1v1 skills, above the average passer and rebounder for the role, feels comfortable while playing fastbreaks and transitions, can float to the rim while finishing to the basket and withstanding contact.

Other interesting prospects: Alejandro Diez (’06), Iker Garmendia (’06), Edgar Moure (’06), Ousmane Alpha (’06), Kasparas Jakucionis (’06)

5th place – Stella Azzurra

Axel Piccirilli – 200 cms – 2006

Stats: 7.8 PPG, 3 APG, 3.8 SPG

Not really good at something in particular, but can do a bit of everything. Solid body structure and control, can be developed as a point forward, sufficient touch at the rim, can create for teammates, good ball-handling, effective frontal crossover, not so quick but can read the game, doesn’t suffer that much with contact (good rim finisher). Has his defensive identity thanks to Stella Azzura’s mentality, but has a lot of work to do.

Other interesting prospects: Deyan Kolev (’06), Jerome Kalenga (’06)

6th place – Bayern Munich

Fynn Schott – 2006

Stats: 6 PPG, 6 RPG, 1.5 BPG

Emerging as a sort of “sleeper” of the tournament, putting up solid efforts for Bayern. Not incredibly God-gifted, but a very efficient and polished big man, fighting under the rim, using the pivotal step, catching positional rebounds, carefully guarding the basket, scoring from the post and from put-back situations. Confident in outside shooting, can put the ball on the floor, margin to be developed as a power forward, not much influenced by contact, defensively looks pretty strong, he can decently switch on guards.

Mateo Vigneault – 165 cms – 2008

Stats: 5.3 PPG, 1.5 APG

Has deservedly won the Rising Star award, a kid staying (well) on the court against grown guys. Almost 2009, still a lot undersized, proved to be able to absolve playmaking tips, having a crazy ball-handle and an already dangerous shooting from distance. Obviously had no chance to be a factor when entering the paint and has been a minus on the defensive end, but that’s absolutely irrelevant. Personality is a good point to start from.

7th place – Ratgeber Academy

Gabor Lukacsi – 193 cms – 2007

Stats: 15.7 PPG, 41.7% 3FG, 3.3 APG

The most positive surprise in the whole showcase and, in my opinion, the player which raised most his stocks during the tournament. Ratgeber’s go-to-guy, played as a mature floor general and mega-creator, good offensive balancer, significant IQ flashes, able to create separation, dangerous from distance, good handler in p&r and passer, ready to lead an offense even if he’s born in 2007.

Stanislav Hinkov – 194 cms – 2006

Stats: 10.3 PPG, 46.2% 3FG

Another player struggling a bit because of not playing for his usual team. He still made us watch his shooting qualities, evidenced by his ability to get space to find his shots. Had a very intriguing blow-out against Stella Azzurra, scoring five consecutive threes and ending the game with 26 points, hitting some hard shots.

8th place – Promitheas Patras

Nikos Soilemetzidis – 190 cms – 2006

Stats: 15.7 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 3 APG

Solid point guard, who can run the offense, play pick&roll and score, great penetrator, able to manipulate the defense and to sustain a high usage. Lacks of athleticism, for this reason he sometimes falis to take an actual advantage against average defenders. Good rebounder for his size.

Matija Stevovic – 193 cms – 2007

Stats: 11.3 PPG, 41.7% 3FG, 4 RPG

Streaky shooter with a compact shooting form. Showed out is soul as a fighter on the court, but tended to follow the game’s trend to be effectively impactful. Indeed, he never found the way to the basket until the game against Bayern, when he arguably had one of the best individual performances of the tournament.

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