By: Sam Meyerkopf / @HoopLikeDrazen
The overall execution for both teams at this level was really solid. You could see most guys knew their role and were comfortable with their offensive sets. A really impressive thing was that these guys are playing with a 24 second shot clock. With young players ability to over dribble and get themselves into trouble quickly, this is not a lot of time to find a good look. There were a few times when players panicked a little early and locked into just isolating to try to get a shot late in the clock. But the guards did a good job of trying to get into sets quickly and finding guys who can create a decent shot as the clock is winding down is rare at every level.
Sometimes the shooting in youth games can be pretty bad and the Championship game was no exception. Spain was three of 21 from three and missed there first 17 until Lopez-Arosteguj banked one in late in the fourth. Serbia wasn’t a whole lot better at five of 25 from three. This is a lack of strength thing too but the vast amount of bricks were evident.
Spain has a lot of long, tall, and athletic wings. You could probably call some of them face-up big men too. Spain didn’t really have a main distributor but relied on multiple people to create offense for others. Four players averaged over two assists a game. This allowed a lot of freedom in the offense for wings and bigs to make decisions. So that means players like Xabi Lopez-Arostegui, Santiago Yusta, and Samuel Rodriguez were main creators. They all do a good job of both finding their own shot and finding their teammates for good looks. This allowed Spain to move guys inside and out, while being able to push the tempo with a lot of flexible fast break players. Those three saw a lot of time together at the SG-SF-PF spots. They finished with nine assists combined (AVG 5.3) but the free flowing offense can also lead to some erratic decision making. Lopez-Argostegui had four turnovers and Yusta had seven, including two huge off the dribble cough ups with under two minutes left in over time. It’s a very intriguing but risk taking group.
You can just pencil Pablo Perez into the next generation of Javier Salgado, Albert Oliver, and other Spanish point guards who take care of the ball, run the pick and roll, are steady ball handlers and find the open man. He’s not that big but Perez played 43 of 45 minutes and had three assists with just one turnover. He was the constant heart beat for the Spanish team.
Xabi Lopez-Arostegui was the All-Tournament guy from this Championship team. He may be the best shot creator and attacker on the team but he’s not necessarily the most important player. Really there are a lot of guys on this Spain team that are close to equally as important.
Big man Roman Vila was a nice piece. I would call him a fluid bruiser. While he is fairly mobile for a big, he also mixes it up inside. Doesn’t have bad touch inside but shot 29.4% from the free throw line for the tournament.
Santiago Yusta was maybe the most intriuging player on the court. For the tournament he led Spain in scoring with 13.3 ppg but put in only seven against Serbia. He has a little bit of that Sergio Rodriguez flair in him but is just a lot taller (1.98m). Just has a really slinky game. Really long, has a very wide crossover, can pull-up, can go all the way to the rim, and just keeps attacking. He’s a very creative dribbler and passer who had executed and failed at some really fancy moves in the lane. His seven turnovers were maddening and they also had an effect on him as his confidence seemed shot in the fourth quarter and overtime.
Samuel Rodriguez was the guy I walked away most impressed with. As a face-up four he has a full skill tool box. Finishing with 15 points, 14 rebounds, and 4 assists, including missing would could have been the game winning free throws in the fourth quarter and then comes back in overtime to win the game on a put-back. Overall he was nine of 12 from the free throw line. A hard worker who can play all around the court on offense and has a nice feel for passing and seeing the court. He can play in transition, have the offense run through him, spot up (kinda), hit the offensive glass, and be used as a cutter. Rodriguez is one to watch out for.
Serbia was a fair amount different than Spain and both teams were little microcosms of how players from their countries often play. Serbia was a solid passing team with physical guards and good shooters. Everything was operated from the backcourt with doses of All-Tourney Forward Milos Glisic mixed in.
It all started with tournament MVP Stefan Peno. While he can play on or off the ball, he initiated a lot of the offense. Counted on to be a primary ball handler and shot creator, Peno was aggressive early but picked his spots less and less as the game dragged on. He played 41 minutes against Spain, 38 the game before, and 37 the game before that while averaging 33 minutes per game overall. Fatigued played a role but he kept fighting. Peno seems to have a distinct physical advantage at this level, especially when matched up with other point guards. He’s just a lot bigger and stronger which allows him to get in the lane and finish very well and contain his man on defense. He also is a heck of a rebounder, finishing with 10 here and averaging 7.1. Peno though isn’t very quick for his size, which could really end up hurting him long term. He could just be a player farther along in his development and will be much more interesting to evaluate when everyone else has caught up in a few years.
Nikola Rakicevic came out of almost nowhere to score a team leading 19 points. He had been averaging 3.8 points a game up to until the Championship. Rakicevic got to the hoop with ease. He wasn’t that fast but pretty crafty and strong. Tough to see a correlation between his tournament and this game but he kept getting Serbia baskets when they needed them and was extremely confident driving to the hoop.
Milos Glisic is the big time prospect who is only a 1998. He played the power forward spot and even some center when Serbia went small late in the game. Glisic is super mobile for a big, can really finish, cuts hard to the rim, and has a really nice feel for spacing and positioning. You couldn’t tell he was a year younger than almost everyone as his play makes him seem more advanced. He played a little out of control at times in this game but the talent is there.