By: Sam Meyerkopf / @HoopLikeDrazen
Get your dancing shoes on because it’s that beautiful time of year we call March Madness. The NCAA Tournament Bracket is out and the Round of 64 starts on Thursday. As college rosters grow deeper with International players every year, here is a breakdown of all the foreign players that are going dancing this year. Some of these players I saw in person this year, most I watched on TV, and all will be on display over the next few weeks for your viewing pleasure. Side note: Canadian players at this point are fully engrained in college hoops, almost every teams has a few Canadians, and they were not included in the Guide. If you want to see all the Canadians playing in the Dance, there’s a full list on Zagsblog. Also thanks to college basketball writer/guru Gus Elvin who filled me in with info on some of the lesser known players.
In total there are 65 International players in the bracket from 32 different countries. If you want a full country breakdown and an All-International Team, scroll down to the bottom.
Will Yeguete, PF/C, France – Florida’s energy big man is also their senior glue-guy. He plays power forward and center, operating a lot from the high-post. Yeguete’s bread and butter is getting on the glass and being active on defense. He fits right into Florida’s swarming system with his length. mobility, and ability to defend all the front court positions. Florida is the tournament’s #1 overall seed and one of the favorites to make it to the Final Four and win the whole thing. While he won’t be huge contributor on offense, Yeguete is a key player for Florida and a guy for ProA teams to watch as an undersized big man for next season.
Luke Devlin, F, Australia – A key players for Albany, a first four team that had to win a play-in game to even get a #16 seed. Devlin is a senior and may be the guy to start this big Aussie rush to Albany. He’s a classic case of a guy who needed to play more than he was ready for his first couple seasons but had to take a smaller role as the team got better during his upperclassmen years. But I’m sure Devlin had no problem opening the door for other Australians and working together to make the big dance.
Anders Haas, PG, Denmark – The brother of prospect August Haas, Anders has played a small role in his sophomore season. As a back-up guard he often doesn’t sub into games.
Peter Hooley, G, Australia – If you haven’t guessed it yet, Albany has an Australia pipeline and Hooley is the best of the bunch. Leading the team in scoring in just his sophomore season (15.8 points per a game), he also chips in a variety of areas on the court. He’s got the offensive arsenal to play every wing position and is also a smooth perimeter shooter even even though defenses are usually keying on him.
Sam Rowley, PF, Australia – The big Aussie fills up the stat sheet. Rowley is a good low post scorer who has a few moves down on the block. Now he needs to mentor his freshman brother so we can see an all family affair up front for the Great Danes.
Mike Rowley, F, Australia – Sam’s brother and still learning to play. Only a freshman.
Levan Shengelia, F, Georgia – He barely plays, he’s from Georgia, but sadly he is not Toko’s brother.
Talib Zanna, C, Nigeria – One of the strongest players in the field of 64, Zanna is a classic defensive Pitt center. He’s got astronomically better at finishing and getting to the line in his four years at Pittsburgh. As the only consistent post presence for Pitt on both sides of the ball, Zanna is heavily relied upon. He doesn’t block a ton of shots but more gets to the right spots on rotations, flashes out to stop penetrating guards, and gobbles up missed shots on the boards. If Pitt is able to get by Colorado and big man Josh Scott in the first round, a matchup with Patrick Young and Florida in the second round would be the muscliest battle college basketball has seen in a while.
Joseph Uchebo, C, Nigeria – Doesn’t Play. Only a sophomore.
Stephen F Austin
Nikola Gajic, F, Bosnia – Can really stroke it. Playing on a team that has only lost two games all year. Hit five treys twice in a game this year and four once, so can heat up at anytime. Will play major minutes.
Sooren Derboghosian, C, Iran – Doesn’t Play. A senior. But look at that name!
Amedeo Della Valle, G, Italy – The fiery Italian guard ripped through this summer’s FIBA Europe U20’s, winning it all for Italy and being named MVP of the tournament. So there were heightened expectations for his sophomore season as a Buckeye after barely seeing the court as a freshman. Della Valle did step up and become part of the rotation, it just happens to be a guard rotation that consists of three of the better ones in the country in Aaron Craft, Shannon Scott, and Lenzelle Smith Jr. Della Valle has gone off for scoring spurts this season (12 points in last week’s Big Ten Tournament game vs Nebraska and 11 points when Ohio State beat Nebraska in early February) but he hasn’t been much of a consistent force. Look to see Della Valle get a few minutes of play in the tournament and he’ll stay on the court if three shot is going in. But the crucial year for him will be his junior year, next season.
Alex Gavrilovic, F, France – Doesn’t Play.
Baye-Mousa Kieta, C, Senegal – Four year player at Syracuse and has continued with the same role every year: hard nosed back-up big man. Don’t look at Baye’s stats, you have to watch him play. Super long and really active on defense, Baye’s big weakness has always been his hands. He can’t catch a pass and he has real trouble finishing. He’ll play a solid 15 minutes for Syracuse, unless Rakeem Christmas can stay out of foul trouble, but the key for him will be cleaning up the glass and finishing Tyler Ennis dump-offs.
Mario Matasovic, F, Croatia – Doesn’t Play but is only a freshman.
Hugh Greenwood, G, Australia – Think of him as the college version of Evangelos Mantzaris. He’ll play the point or the off-guard spot but brings the ball up a fair amount only to hand it off to New Mexico’s V-Span (Kendall Williams) or Sloukas (Cullen Neal). No New Mexico isn’t a whole lot like Olympiacos but the backcourt similarities were too fun to pass up.
Greenwood is the team’s most trusted defender and he really focuses on D. Offensively he’s a steady ball handler who won’t make a mistake but won’t make a whole lot of plays either. He’s a guy the coach loves because he takes cares of the ball and plays hard and he’ll play most of a Tourney game if he doesn’t get into foul trouble. If Greenwood can get his jump shot going then New Mexico becomes even more lethal as they have a chance to do some damage as a #7 seed.
Cameron Bairstow, PF/C, Australia – More Aussies at New Mexico. Bairstow took a Kelly Olynyk slow-tall-white boy with a jumper step up this year. He never averaged double figure scoring numbers before this year but now sits at 20.3 PPG. What stands out most about Bairstow is his efficiency. He shoots 55.6% from the field on 12.4 attempts a game and 73.9% from the line on 8.8 attempts. Bairstow is really big but also slow, utilizing good footwork and a strong frame defenders can’t get around, to get the shot he wants. It’s really hard to throw him off his spot and once he gets the ball in good position he now has the touch to finish.
Bairstow has worked on his game immensely since coming to New Mexico and is a college success story for International bigs to look at. My favorite part of his game is his poise for a big man. Naturally in college, players get rushed and nervous late in games, leading to guards just constantly pounding the rock and throwing up bad shots. But some of New Mexico’s best late game offensive action comes from Bairstow post-ups and catches. And his scoring stays consistent throughout the course of the game. You can’t slow him down and you can’t speed him up. If New Mexico gets to the second round and plays the very young and talent Kansas team, it will be a great match-up of veterans versus freshman.
Rosco Allen, F, Hungary – Unfortunately after getting some minutes freshman year, Allen only to played one game this year before he went down for the season with an injury. The Hungarian sensation should have ample space to prove himself next year though as Stanford graduates starting forwards Dwight Powell and Josh Huestis.
Joel Embiid, C, Cameroon – At this point everyone knows the potential number one overall pick in the NBA Draft. For me watching Emiid’s progression has been extra interesting because I was able to see him at last year’s Nike Hoop Summit and Adidas Nations. And in the few months between those two events Embiid’s game grew drastically. At Hoop Summit he was just a dunker and shot blocker. At Adidas Nations he had a couple post moves, his footwork looked a lot better, and his passing had really improved. Now at Kansas he’s a full on beast in the post. The big problem now is these lingering back issues and what games he’ll be able to play in. If both teams advance, Kansas will need him to go up against Bairstow, Alex Kirk, and New Mexico’s frontline in the Second Round.
Badou Diagne, F, Senegal, Michel Enanga, F, Cameroon, El Hadji Ndeiguene, C, Senegal – Haven’t watched Costal Carolina a bunch so the three Africans bigs get grouped together. El Hadji is the true big man of the group and a senior. He’s a defensive presence and a solid rebounder with little scoring ability but also plays with some chucking guards. Diagne and Enanga are undersized or stretch bigs who are about the same size (6’6″/6’7″) with similar stats. Diagne is a better shooter and Enanga really grinds it on defense. Both are sophomores and have potential to be solid contributors as upperclassmen.
Uros Ljeskovic, F, Montenegro – Barely plays but when he does he gets boards. A really big boy at 6’8″ and 240 lbs.
Tristian Curtis, F, Bahamas – Played more last year, hasn’t seen the court that much this season.
Hippoltie Tsafack, F Cameroon – Has barely played in three years, which is how long it’s probably taken his coach Josh Pastnor to say that name right.
Miguel Cartagena, G, Puerto Rico – Only a freshman playing on a deep team. He’s gotten sparing minute here and there but struggled with his shot. Will get more playing time chances later in his career.
Patricio Garino, SG/SF, Argentina – A really interesting player. Garino came into college basketball last season and had one mission; shut down whoever he was guarding. He set a GW record for steals as a freshman (68) and did it guarding different positions all around the court. On the other side of the court Garino is no slouch either, averaging double figures in scoring last year and this season.
But what really stands out is Garino’s versatility, he’s in the top five of the team in almost every single stat. His passing is above average for a wing and he rebounds well defensively. Garino though really needs to become a knockdown shooter to advance his game. And there’s plenty of fellow countrymen to learn from. In this tournament his role will be vital because he’ll be asked to guard the other team’s best player, which will be one of the many Memphis guards in the first round and Joe Harris if they’re able to make it to the second round.
Kevin Larsen, PF/C, Denmark – Larsen combines with Isaiah Armwood to form a menacing front court combo. Offensively Larsen is a big, physical, low post scorer. He does most of his work before the ball gets to him, fighting for good position, and then going up strong once someone makes an entry pass. Just a beast in the paint, Larsen can muscle his shot up over almost any college defender. Possession after possession he wears you out making a living on the block. Larsen is also adept at passing out of double teams (1.7 assists per game) and is a decent free throw shooter for his size.
First round opponent Memphis has themselves their own stellar sophomore big man in Shaq Goodwin. Goodwin is a super athlete who loves to play above the rim. The clashing of styles between Larsen and Goodwin makes it one of the best player match-ups to watch in the first round.
Paris Maragkos, PF, Greece – Doesn’t Play.
Nemanja Mikic, F Serbia – Senior stretch four shoots 3.5 three’s a game in just 16 minutes on the floor. But he hits them at a 36% clip and keeps the defense honest so Larsen and Armwood can work in the paint. Mikic has had a little bit of an interesting career. In his first two years he got a lot more minutes and production but as the team got better he had to take a smaller role on a now winning team.
David Nyarsuk, C, Sudan – 7’1″ and 250 lbs was just not made for NCAA basketball. Nyarsuk is a senior, playing behind two other really good big men, and has had little chance to play this year.
Steve Moundou-Missi, PF/C, Cameroon – The undersized big man makes up for his height deficiency with major jumping ability. At 6’7″, Moundou-Missi is one of Harvard’s few true post players. He’s a vital part of the team as they feed off his blocks and put-backs. He doesn’t have much of an offensive game but is super mobile and can really hit FT’s (79%). He has a huge task in the first round having to go up against Cincinnati’s tough frontline in Justin Jackson and Titus Rubles.
Gavin Schilling, F, Germany – Only a freshman and has pretty good size. Likely won’t play in any tournament games but is on a team that has a chance to win it all.
Lee Goldsbrough, PF, England – Doesn’t play.
Brive Kofane, F, Cameroon – In three years his playing time has gone from 15 minutes a game to 10 and this year to four.
NC Central Eagles
Antonio Galaya, G, St. Martin – Doesn’t play.
Karamo Jawara, F, Norway – All-around forward averaging 7.2 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists, and 1.0 steals per a game. Team is currently on a 20-game winning streak and he starts at power forward. Not many Norwegians playing at this level and his success is promising. Another potential member of the All-Name Team.
Amida Brimah, C, Ghana – Brimah has become a huge pickup for UConn every since he arrived on campus. The first thing that stands out is how nicely he fits into to the UConn’s shot-blocking lineage (Emeka Okafor, Hilton Armstrong, Hasheem Thabeet…). UConn routinely led the country in blocks and now with Brimah around (2.5 blocks in 16.0 minutes per game) it seems they are destined to get back to that top spot.
Offensively Brimah has had a very limited role and had few opportunities on a team that is dominated by guard play. But he’s provided to be an extremely valuable piece on the defensive end not only with his sending back of shots but his presence and ability to control the paint in only his freshman year. If he can learn to keep the fouls down, contest shots without having to block them, and become a dynamite offensive rebound-put back machine, he’s got a bright future. For this tournament, Brimah will need to go head to head with the electric Ronald Robert Jr in the first round, so get ready for some serious meetings at the rim. A shot blocker versus a big time dunker.
Kentan Facey, F Jamaica – 6’9″, a freshman, but hasn’t gotten any meaningful minutes yet.
Niels Giffey, F, Germany – The stretch shooting tall wing finally had his breakthrough year this season. Giffey has shown glimmers in the past but after a solid summer with the German National Team he finally had the confidence to start hitting shots. Giffey can really only do one thing, shoot it from deep, but he can do it quite well. He’s shooting 52.5% from three on 101 attempts this year. Giffey started off the year on fire but hit a really shooting swoon mid-season. In the American Conference Tournament he went off again, hitting six three’s against Memphis, three against Cincinnati before not sinking any versus Louisville in the Championship game. But UConn’s fate could ride on how warm Giffey’s stroke is, he helps add to an offense that often just becomes a backcourt attack of Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright.
Leon Tolksdorf, F, Germany – Doesn’t Play.
Javon Baumann, PF/C, Germany – At 6’8″ and 257 lbs, Baumann probably needs to get a little bit better shape before he can seen any real court time. He’s only a freshman though.
Papa Ndao, F, Senegal – Ndao has shot it only a few times this year but when he does pop it, it tends to go in. 12/14 from the FT line and 17/40 from three.
Tierno Niang, G, Senegal – Was getting minutes earlier this year as the backup point guard but hasn’t played since February 2oth because of injury.
Przemek Karnowski, C, Poland – One of the most interesting players on this list because unlike a lot of these guys, Karnowski came in with some actual recruiting hype. In terms of being an NBA first round draft pick, these first two years in Spokane have not proven that successful but Karnowski took a huge step forward in this sophomore season. Having to play besides another big man (Sam Dower Jr.) in a rare big-big lineup, the first couple months of the season posed a lot of spacing problems for the Zags. They have centers and guards but very few wings, creating some abnormal lineups. Karnowski, who’s biggest thing this off-season was to get in better shape, came to campus looking lighter and more mobile. It paid off as he has had most of his best games later in the year.
Having seen Karnowski play in person a couple times this year, there are still some things that he really needs to take strides in. As a massive human, Karnowski often finishes at the rim like there’s someone else bigger on the court. There isn’t! He misses some easy baskets by laying it up when he needs to go up stronger and finish above the rim. He’s a bad free throw shooter so he might be trying to stay away from the free throw line but that’s not a good strategy. Defensively he’s gotten much better with his rotations and getting in front of rim drivers. Now Karnowski needs to extend his defensive range as centers become more and more mobile.
This was his first year getting real playing time in college basketball and it was a success. But by working on his finishing and defense, Karnowski could easily see a five to seven point scoring increase and average over three blocks a game next season. In this tournament, Gonzaga’s twin towers are going to be huge, and the Zags size advantage along with Kevin Pangos’ shooting will decide how far they can go. The first round versus Oklahoma State is no picnic.
Leo Roese, PG, Brazil – Roese hasn’t played at all this year and either has already applied for a redshirt or will. The intriguing thing is his dad used to coach at BYU and San Diego. So we’ve got a Brazilian point guard (creativity), raised by a basketball coach (basketball IQ). Needless to say I’m excited for what the future might bring.
Marek Soucek, C, Czech Republic – Another 7-footer who doesn’t get any minutes. Catching any trends here? Guys like this, unless very physical, are just too big and undeveloped to play much. Oklahoma State’s big man depth has been decimated this year and Soucek still can’t really get on the floor. In 259 career minutes (3 years) Soucek has attempted 10 free throw’s.
Buddy Hield, G/F, Bahamas – Hield took one of the biggest jumps in the country this season from his freshman to sophomore year. He only got seven more minutes a game but more than doubled his scoring average (7.8 to 16.8). Hield is an attacker off the bounce, able to glide into the lane or easily pull-up for a jumper. He’s pretty crafty with his body and can contort himself into multiple way in order to finish in the lane. Two very interesting things about Hield is he played at the up and coming school for international kids, Sunrise Christian Academy and is from the Bahamas. Both places are starting to produce real basketball talent and Hield is one of the first to have college success. There are currently other Bahamas natives played at Sunrise Christian so the future pipeline will be interesting to watch.
New Mexico State
Remi Barry, F, France – Barry was having a decent year as a reserve forward but hurt his knee in December and has been out since.
Matej Bouvac, F, Croatia – Barely plays but when he does, he likes to jack three’s. 47 attempts in 193 minutes this season. Unfortunately he’s only made 13.
Tshilidzi Nephawe, C, South Africa – The big junior is having a year to match his size. Nephawe best attributes are that he’s a good finisher, cleans the glass, has length, and has damn close to an unpronounceable name. Nephawe combines with the Bhullar brothers to make up one of the biggest frontcourt’s in college hoops.
Leslee Smith, F, British Virgin Islands – Just a really big man who plays with good energy. A transfer playing his first season for Nebraska. Was getting decent minutes, scoring well, and getting to the line earlier in the year but as other players have come back from injury he has fallen in the rotation. He’ll play in the tournament games and believe me, you’ll know when he checks in.
Sergej Vucetic, C, Serbia – Another 7-footer who rides the bench. It takes a while for some of these heads that can touch the clouds.
Tai Webster, G, New Zealand – Webster was a pretty high profile recruit in International circles because of his national team success with the Kiwi’s. Nebraska is one of the surprise teams of the season after having some recent down years. Webster has been the Huskers starting point guard all year, leading the team in assists but only averaging two a game. His biggest problem this year has been shooting. Going 30.9% from the field and 18.2% from three. There is still plenty of promise in Webster and getting this much experience for a freshman ball handler is huge. But he’ll have to iron out his stroke this summer.
Luka Kamber, F, Germany – Doesn’t play but only a freshman.
Vieux Kande, C, Senegal – Doesn’t play but also just a freshman.
Marko Vasic, G, Serbia – On a team that relies heavily on it’s starters, Vasic comes off the bench. Vasic has really struggled shooting it and because he has good size for a guard (6’5″ 200 lbs), if his shooting improved he could see a real uptick in minutes.
Yilret Yijiep, F, Nigeria – The freshman forward got just enough time earlier this year to be considered part of the rotation but has been out since January.
Kadeem Coleby, C, Bahamas – Coleby is a backup banger for college’s only undefeated squad. He provides solid rim protection (1.2 blocks in 12.9 minutes) for a team that doesn’t have a lot of post depth. Coleby could become crucial in the tournament if Wichita St goes up against a team with a real size advantage on them.
Rob Loe, C, New Zealand – A productive four year player, Loe is having his best season this year. The Bilikens are having a great year but recently have a hit a rut and after starting the season 25-2, they’ve lost four of their last five. Loe plays differently depending upon which side of the court he’s on. On defense he uses his big 7’1″ frame (a productive 7-footer!) to alter shots around the rim and works as a paint protector. On offense he is more perimeter oriented, averaging 3.7 three attempts a game and two assists. Loe is a skilled and mobile player but struggles sometimes to rebound and catch passes in the paint. If he can bring a consistent effort it will go a long way in deciding how far St Louis advances.
North Carolina St
Jordan Vandenberg, C, Australia – Senior center is getting his most minutes and having his best season this year. Offensively he shoots a really high percentage (68.4%) but doesn’t get many looks on a team with a lot of guys who like to put the ball up. He’s around for his defensive presence and does a solid job of protecting the paint. It’ll be a great Oceania battle as he takes on Rob Loe and St. Louis in the first round.
Mangok Mathiang, PF/C, Australia – Exciting freshman who looks to be an enticing shot blocking prospect. Louisville is not an easy team to get minutes as a freshman, even if they lost a lot of players last year. Lousiville has also blown out quite a few teams this year, giving Mathiang the ability to get on the court and workout those usual first year player issues. But he plays hard and can make exciting stuff on one end and finishes on the other.
Gabriel Olaseni, F, England – A key piece for Iowa because on a team that plays little defense, Olaseni plays some. He’s averaging 1.3 blocks and 5.1 rebounds (!) in 16 minutes and putting that 6’10” frame to good use. But Iowa still needs to beat Tennessee Wednesday night in one of the first four play-in games to even get a shot at the field of 64. Luckily if they do win, they’ll be playing a very inconsistent UMass team.
Jonathan Gilling, F, Denmark – Shoot, shoot, and shoot some more. Gilling rarely get his feet inside the three point line and it seems the Arizona State coaching staff is fine with that. He’s shooting 42.5% on 4.6 attempts per a game. Gilling is also a solid passer, as he’s second on the team with 2.7 assists per contest.
Egor Koulechov, G, Russia – The Russian-Isreali has played here and there for the Sun Devils and will probably take on a big role next year when the starting backcourt either graduates or leaves for the NBA Draft. But for now he’s behind two of the better guards in the Pac-12.
8 – Australia
6 – Senegal
5 – Germany, Cameroon
3 – France, Denmark, Serbia, Bahamas, Nigeria
2 – Croatia, England, New Zealand,
1 – Russia, Georgia, Sudan, Montenegro, Bosnia, Iran, Italy, Hungary, Puerto Rico, Argentina, Greece, St. Martin, Norway, British Virgin Islands, Ghana, Jamiaca, Poland, Brazil, Czech Republic, South Africa.
As you can tell by looking through the list, it is composed of a majority of big men and post players. There’s few International guards, wings, and very few point guards. When coaches go recruiting overseas, it seems they’re looking for height. So there are quite a few big men who could have been eligible for this team.
G: Hugh Greenwood
G: Buddy Hield
F: Kevin Larsen
F: Cameron Bairstow
C: Joel Emiid