FIBA U19 월드챔피언십이 한창 진행중이다. 우리나라는 마지막 경기에서 중국에게 승리를 거두고 11위를 차지했다. 본선 8강 토너먼트까지 올라가지 못한 것은 아쉽지만 결선라운드에 참가한 것만으로도 대단하다고 생각한다. 이번 대회는 리캡도 좀 보고 박스 스코어도 챙겨보려고 했었는데 여행갔다오느라고 이제서야 결과를 접했다.
드래프트 익스프레스에 U-19 대회에 대한 기사가 있어서 퍼왔다. 해석을 하려고 했는데 귀차니즘의 압박으로 쬐끔만 하다가 패스. 중간에 보면 한국팀에 대한 언급이 나오는데. 필자는 한국이 터키를 이긴 것이 이번 대회 최대 이변이라고 보고 있다.
U-19 World Championship: Early Rounds
by: Luis Fernández - Director of International Scouting
July 20, 2007
4년이 지나고 세계최고의 젊은 농구선수들이 겨루는 대회가 열렸다. 첫 두번의 라운드를 거치는 동안 챔피언 컨텐더로 떠오른 팀은 3팀이다. 미국, 세르비아, 프랑스. 반면 호주의 Andrew Ogilvy 는 평균 23.1득점으로 평균 득점 1위를 질주하며 호주를 6승 무패로 이끌었다. 첫 두 번의 라운드에서 MVP로 뽑혀도 손색이 없는 활약이었다.
Team USA, Finally a Real Team
이번 토너먼트에서 가장 기분좋은 놀라움은 바로 미국팀이다. 단순히 그들이 보여주는 재능의 레벨때문만이 아니다. 실제로 그들의 나이대의 최고의 선수들인 그렉 오든과 케빈 듀란트가 참가하지 않았음에도 불구하고 미국팀이 보여주는 재능은 우리가 예상한대로이다. 하지만 더욱 주목할만한 것은 그들의 경기에 대한 태도와 끈끈함, 헌신적인 모습과 플레이 스타일이다.
최근 두아이에서 우리가 본 미국팀의 선수들은 팀을 먼저 생각하고 진지하게 플레이하며 코트위에서 열심이었다. 공격에서 볼을 공유하고 볼없는 상태에서 부지런히 움직이며 기본에 충실하면서 오픈 찬스를 만들어내는 미국팀의 모습을 보는 것은 매우 신선했다. 그럼에도불구하고 그들이 보유하고 있는 1대1 능력도 충분히 살리고 있다. 수비를 보면 미국팀은 드디어 수준높은 수비를 보여주기 시작했다. 미국선수들은 팀 로테이션에 따라 자신의 임무를 충실히했고 좋은 지역방어를 보여줬다. 상대방의 공격 처음부터 압박을 가해 턴오버를 유발해서 트렌지션 게임으로 몰고가는 것 밖에 할 줄 몰랐던 미국팀은 샷클락 24초 내내 수준급의 수비를 해냈다.
보통 미국 선수들은 신체적인 조건과 운동능력에서 우위를 점해왔다. 현재 미국팀의 모든 선수들도 뛰어난 운동능력을 보유하고 있다. 이런 영역에서 경쟁을 할 수 있는 것은 프랑스팀 정도 뿐이다.
만약 잠재력에 대해서 이야기한다면 단연 돋보이는 선수는 Michael Beasley 다. 지금도 NBA 프로스펙트로 잘 알려져있는 비즐리는 골밑에서 뛰어난 활약을 보여주고 있다. 비즐리는 뛰어난 운동능력과 폭발력을 지닌 부드러운 선수이다. 강력함을 갖췄고 저돌적이며 농구에 완벽하게 적합한 몸을 자랑한다. 파워포워드를 맡고 있는 비즐리는 우리가 흔히 이야기하는 이상적인 신장을 갖추고 있지는 않다. 공식적으로 6-8로 기록되어있지만 신발신고 6-9정도로 보인다.
비즐리는 페인트에서 자신의 강점을 최대한 이용하고 있다. 드리블을 통해서 엘보우와 베이스라인에서 계속해서 움직임을 보여주고 아크로바틱한 레이업으로 마무리를 한다. 림 주위에서 인상적인 피니셔이다. 양손을 완벽하게 사용하며 뛰어난 채공력과 바디밸런스를 지니고 있어 수비수들의 방해를 훌륭하게 극복해낸다. He’s just a majestic player evolving off the ground. Although not prolific in this area, he’s eventually putting the ball on the floor and taking advantage of his quickness and coordination to beat his matchups, often using very quick reverse moves and showing excellent footwork in the process. He can also hit his left-handed jumper with range out to the three-point line, although he’s struggling from the perimeter. Still, he shows a notable ability to create separation in turnaround fashion and shoot over his opponent.
It’s not only about scoring points. Beasley is not forcing his plays either. He shares the ball reasonably, doing nice defensive work while cleaning the boards, particularly on the offensive glass. Considering his star status at this level, he’s a pretty nice example of how things are working out for the US team.
Beware of France. Don’t put too much trust on how they have fared so far in the tournament (defeated by both USA and Serbia), because we won’t know their real level until the elimination games come. Just as what happened last year at the U-18 European Championships, they have not been playing at full intensity. Actually, team effort is something that doesn’t come naturally with this group of players, globally considered. Also, they seem to feel comfortable with an underdog status to face the decisive games. All in all, you get the feeling that they didn’t care that much in those losses; the real championship begins now.
Curiously, the best performer and a very big reason why France hasn’t fared better answers to the same name: Nicolas Batum. The Le Mans swingman has been a terrific team player. Defense, rebounding, passing... actually, it’s pretty impressive that he provisionally leads France in both assists and rebounds. He has consistently created for his teammates, usually with kickout passes, giving up his own scoring options. Sometimes he has settled for perimeter jumpers, but his long-range shot is not falling in (quite a redundant problem for him). In the end, he’s not showing up when his team is struck in the offensive end and needs points from its go-to player. We would like to see a more aggressive Batum, attacking the basket and taking more scoring responsibilities.
More mixed feelings with the other top prospect in France, Alexis Ajinca (who by the way has signed with Hyeres Toulon for next season). He’s still awfully ineffective on the offensive end. Facing the basket as a power forward would do, he’s struggling badly with his perimeter stroke, and still doesn’t show good enough ball-handling skills to attack his match-up off the dribble on a regular basis. Playing down low as a center, he still suffers to get the job done. If he puts the ball on the floor to operate in the low post, defenses collapse on him and force many turnovers from him. Besides, his touch around the rim still needs work, while obviously his skinny body remains a matter of big concern. We’re still in an early stage in the long-term process of his physical development.
On the other hand, some of the stuff he displays from time to time is ridiculously impressive. We’re especially taking about the intimidation he delivers around the basket and his ability to block shots. He’s so freaking long, while also nicely athletic, that he can reject a shot from virtually at the roof, right where he sometimes comes up with some impressive rebounds. He’s gaining defensive awareness, better following his match-ups, and recognizing where and when to execute a team rotation. To summarize: still raw, still promising.
Serbia, the Host Candidate
Serbia presented its credentials for the title with strong performances so far in the tournament, particularly its brilliant victory over the French squad, but also a promising close loss against USA. The support of the local fans here in Novi Sad is strengthening what already was a very nice squad.
Serbia is basing its game on its inside power, with the likes of Miroslav Raduljica, Boban Marjanovic and Milan Macvan assuming big responsibilities. However, it’s the later one, Milan Macvan, still one year younger than most of his teammates, who has emerged as the go-to player in Serbia. As usual, we can talk about his limited athleticism and physical grace, but the truth is, he’s so far delivering at any category he plays.
As opposed to the Macvan we’ve seen this season with the FMP juniors, virtually an orchestra conductor (a role he will likely reassume on the U-18 national team later this summer), Milan is evolving as a much more clear-cut inside guy, primarily looking for the low post to take advantage of his strength, moves and intelligence.
Ogilvy Inheriting Bogut
Four years ago, the eventual #1 draft pick Andrew Bogut led Australia to the U-19 World Championship title, earning MVP honours in the process. It wouldn’t be fair to expect Ogilvy to take the Oceanic country so far this time, but the name Andrew is not the only thing both share. Regardless the fact that both are skilled and fundamentally sound big men who opted for the college route (Ogilvy is committed to Vanderbilt), the Aussie should probably be considered the provisional MVP in this edition of the championship.
Still, we feel cheated: we had seen Ogilvy a month ago in the first two days of the Douai Tournament, and although he looked nice, it was nothing compared to what he's showcasing here. He's the centerpiece of the Australian game, a very skilled 6-11 player who makes the most out of his limited athleticism. He usually looks for the surroundings of the basket, either with his low post game or attacking his match-ups off the dribble from the mid or high post. Actually, he sometimes overdoes himself looking for the way to the rim, but it basically shows how aggressive he is. Down low, he enjoys nice footwork, loves contact (he's a very strong guy at this level) and can finish with both hands around the rim showing a nice touch, even getting up pretty fast for the dunk. Not a bad shooter from the mid-range area, he's not particularly active there.
Defensively, Oglilvy is doing a decent job, particularly coming away with a number of blocked shots (second in the tournament), where he shows great timing and an excellent control of his efforts, so he rarely risks his defensive position. That very same timing plus nice positioning help him out in the rebounding department. He's a naturally smart guy playing the game, also visible through his extremely solid passing game, feeding the weak side from the low post or rewarding cutters from the mid-range area.
However, the competition Ogilvy has found so far in this championship is average at best. He's yet to face the best teams, which happen to enjoy the most powerful frontcourts. We'll see if he lives up to the task.
The guy standing ahead of Ogilvy in the blocked shots category is the endless Nigerian center Solomon Alabi, a skinny, athletic and very raw 7-1 kid who will play for Florida State next season. Offensively, he's not effective at all; he tries and shows some promise from the low post or even putting the ball on the floor, but he's still noticeably unpolished. So he basically sticks to role-player duties such as intimidation or cleaning the boards. Similarly to Ajinca (although more wildly), Alabi can deliver some jaw-dropping blocks from an incredibly high vantage point. Besides, the guy is a nice fighter on court who will even dive while pursuing a ball out of bounds. His rebounding production is being benefited as a result, particularly on the offensive glass.
아마도 이번 토너먼트에서 가장 놀라운 사건은 한국이 터키를 이긴 경기일 것이다. 한국팀이 마지막으로 유럽팀을 이겼던 것이 언제인지 기억하지도 못하겠다.(이기기는 이겼었나?) 한국과 터키의 경기는 정말로 재미있었다. 한국팀은 그들의 신장의 열세(한국팀은 6-3이하의 선수 4명을 동시에 기용하기도했다.)를 쉴세없는 집중력과 빠른 경기스타일, 좋은 볼 무브먼트와 정확한 슈팅, 약간의 운(어려운 레이업들이 여러 번 겨우겨우 성공되었다.)등의 놀라운 코트위에서의 특징들로 상쇄했다.
Victor Claver was probably the biggest story in the preliminary round, but has faded a bit off the tournament sky these last days, somehow following the evolution of his perimeter accuracy. He has dominated while his jumpers have gone in, showcasing a great ability to create his own shot, but he has struggled in the last couple of games, right when his team needed him the most to emerge as the go-to player. He's still one of the best prospects here hands down: length, athleticism, activity, passing, rebounding, handles, it's hard not to feel very intrigued with him.
Reporting to the Championship
While we all would desire to have the very best kids from this age group in this tournament, reality strikes to show again that there’re always very important players missing the party.
The list has to be headed by two apparently soon-to-be NBA superstars, Greg Oden and Kevin Durant, busy these days with Summer Leagues. The question is, would it be so difficult to convince the players and NBA teams to skip these settings and play a fairly prestigious competition as the Junior Worlds that the US Team hasn’t won since 1991?
Probably the team suffering the most from absences is Spain. As the U-18 European Championship will be hosted in Madrid in August, the Spanish Federation has preferred to secure the success of this event with a strong Spanish squad, cutting the wings of the U-19 team. It’s not far-fetched to think that with the likes of Ricky Rubio, Pablo Aguilar and Pere Tomas on the team, Spain would even opt to the gold medal.
There’s no doubt that the most disappointing squad here has been Lithuania, easily a top-4 contender in advance and now out of the quarterfinals. While the team is very similar to the one that advanced to the Final in last summer’s U-18 European Championship, it’s hard to understand why a nice playmaker such as Sarunas Vasiliauskas is not here to replace Zygimantas Janavicius every time he visits the bench, as there’s not even a single reliable point guard to give him a rest. Even such a talented big man as Donatas Motiejunas would’ve come in handy, regardless of his youth.
France could have presented a stronger squad had they managed to add Rodrigue Beaubois to the mix, but apparently the athletic point guard was too busy with the draft process to earn himself a spot on the final roster. Meanwhile, Turkey lost a foundation piece in Baris Hersek. The forward from Efes Pilsen was included on the U-20 Turkish squad, but was apparently kicked out due to some disciplinary measures, and didn’t make the U-19 team either.
China has come to the tournament with a strange roster where you can miss some very promising guys, starting with Chen Jianghua, and following with the likes of Zhou Peng, Liu Xiaoyu, Han Shuo or Ding Jinhui. Finally, one of the very top prospects of the 1988 generation, Vitor Faverani, didn’t make the Brazilian team.