By Sam Meyerkopf / @HoopLikeDrazen
As I sat down to watch the National Prep Showcase in freezing New Haven, Connecticut last Sunday I was stunned by something. I’d come to this high school basketball tournament to watch the Canarias Basketball Academy from the Canary Islands in Spain. I’ve visited the academy before and was excited to see them play against US high school competition. But as I sat on the bleachers going through the rosters of the 22 other teams at the event I couldn’t believe what I saw. In almost every roster there were players from other countries and not always countries you associated with basketball success. Sure Greece, Spain, Serbia, Canada, Australia and other relevant hoops nations had participants but I was struck by all the other international influences. There were players from Kuwait, Mali, Saudi Arabia, Ivory Coast, Bermuda, and Thailand too. In total there were 56 International players on non-CBA rosters at the tournament. We talk about basketball as a global game but it seems things are progressing even faster than we think.
Canarias Basketball Academy (Roster)
The team I actually went to go see at the tournament was very intriguing. Coach Rob Orellana brings his kids over to the States for a few games every year to get them exposure in front of NCAA college coaches. And there were tons of college coaches in attendance.
Things worked pretty well as Matz Stockman, their 7’2″ Norweigen big man signed with National Champion Louisville, while the 6’11” Shaquille Doorson from Holland signed with Pittsburgh. Two schools at or near the top of college basketball. Multiple other players picked up offers and increasing interest from schools, and they will make their college decisions as the year goes on. The team played four games during their trip, including two at this tournament. The first was a 69-79 loss to Massanutten Military Academy and the second, which was also the last game of the tournament and the one I was at, was a 73-67 win over Cushing Academy.
What first stands out about Canarias Basketball Academy (CBA) is their insane size. We already mentioned Stockman who starts and Doorson who comes off the bench but included in that front court rotation is the starter at power forward Michal Cekovsky (7’0″), Jakub Petras (6’11”), Vladimir Brodziansky (6’10”), and stretch four Carlos Zesati who comes in at a miniature looking 6’8″.
As far as current development, Cekovsky is the furthest along. He can play in the low post, high post, and even was on the wing some. Has a really nice dribble drive game for how big he is. His shoulders kinda hunk over and his arms are seriously long which leads to a low and hard to guard handle. He’s also a really solid finisher and rebounder at this point. Cekovsky has some Viktor Khryapa in him with his feel for the game as a big man. He scored 20 points and grabbed five rebounds in the game against Cushing Academy.
Offensively Cekovsky has a full bag of tricks and could eventually be deployed by a college coach in a lot of different ways. Per other sources he already has offers from Louisville and Arizona with more surely to roll in. In my opinion it’d be fun to see him a notch down from the absolute highest level of college ball so he could be a little more of a high usage player and we can see the full offensive tool box on display.
Cekovsky’s big man partner in the front court was Stockman. Standing 7’2″ at a high school game, Stockman looks like a behemoth. He’s pretty limited right now, can face up just barely with a jumper, moves pretty well considering his size, and is a force defensively, but hard to tell if that was just because of his size. At this stage as long as Stockman can establish some position in the post and get a pass, he just has to turn and drop it in. The key for Stockman will be becoming more comfortable playing in such a huge frame and with comfort will come more activity. And with more activity from a guy that big will be an endless display of lobs, put back dunks, and rejections at the rim. It’s potential more than production right now but when you are that big at that age, the spectrum of possibilities are endless.
Of the other bigs Doorson was the only other one who got any extended minutes. He is an absolute force at 6’11” and 270 pounds with some real explosiveness to his game. He had eight rebounds in 11 minutes. An absolute bull dozer of a man, Jamie Dixon is probably salivating at the defensive options he can use Doorson with at Pitt.
On the wing and in the backcourt CBA has some intriguing pieces too. Jan Svandrilk from the Czech Republic is the team’s designated shooter. He hit three out of four treys in the game I saw and while he doesn’t have the quickest release or movements but at 6’6″ has the size to get his shot off. He seemed to be one of the smartest players on the team as he played very within his role.
Rounding out the starting lineup with Stockman, Cekosky, and Svandrilk was the backcourt of Miguel Dicent from the Dominican Republic and Simon Krajcovic from Slovakia. Dicent is very skinny but has a really nice flow to his game. A very smooth player who can spot up from deep, glide around you off the bounce, or drop bounce passes to cutters. Dicent embodies the combo guard role. As he continues to bulk up Dicent could be quite the offensive player in college.
Krajcovic is the engine that makes CBA go. He played 37 of a possible 40 minutes and is the unquestioned point guard and on-court leader for CBA. Coach Orellana has full trust in his playmaker. He’s been at CBA for a while and played 33 minutes a game at the Belgrade NIJT two years ago. Krajcovic didn’t have his best game as the refs got knit picky with traveling and carrying calls but overall he controlled the flow of the game, got his big men the ball in good spots to score, and was the offensively safety net. Krajcovic isn’t the quickest or strongest guy but he plays with a lot of heart and really embodies the lead guard role. Not a high major player but someone that a mid-major fan base could fall in love with.
Other notable guys on CBA are Kingsley Obieke on the wing, stretch big Zesati, and point guard Adrian Carrion. Obieke was on of my favorite players on the team because of his uniqueness. Standing at 6’4″ he blocked three shots in the first half and was an all out force on defense. Blessed with immense ups, he could be a serious defense force as his game grows. Zesati was the other Latin player on the team as he hails from Mexico. You could see Zesati has a nice stroke and at 6’8″ has good size to be a shooting four. It remains to be seen what else he brings. Carrion was the backup point guard who liked to push the tempo and ended up with three assists in just 12 minutes.
Overall the season is just beginning for CBA and they have a lot of interesting parts, especially on the frontline. Big men usually take a longer time to progress so it will be interesting to see them play later in the year. And overall it was pretty cool to see a team from Spain with players from throughout the world playing against US schools with kids from not only the US but also all around the world.
International Influence in American High Schools
19 of the 23 teams at the tournament had International players (yes I’m including Canada). I wasn’t able to see all the teams play but one team that I did see play that was very interesting was Our Savior New American from New York. On this team was a player from Guinea, Nigeria, and four players from Mali. FOUR!
On Our Savior New American was Mr. Rebound Michael Nzei who some of you might remember from my Adidas Nations write-ups this summer. A slightly undersized inside player (6’7″) Nzei plays with extreme effort and loves to spring up for rebounds. Joining Nzei up front was one of the players from Mali, Cheick Diallo. Dallo is fairly well known at this point as an intriguing big man prospect (9th overall in ESPN’s 2015 group). He is a super athletic jumper who’s main jobs are to protect the rim and finish. At 6’9″ he can rise up and slam on just about anyone. Diallo though really lacks quality hands and needs to be a secure passing option as he continues to develop.
The thing that stood out about a lot of these international players at US high schools was the quality of high schools they are at. The schools at this tournament are some of the best in the country and coming across playing time is not easy. Here’s a list of all the other International players at the tournament (all information according to National Prep Showcase Media Packet):
Lucas Barbev 6-2 G St. George, Bermuda
Marial Shavok 6-8 G/F Ottawa Canada
Nik Maragkidis 6-4 G Palaio Psichiko, Greece
Believe Prep Academy
Legend Robertin 7-0 C London England
Daron Sun 6-3 F Xuzhou, China
Isaiah Thomas 6-2 G Halifax, Nova Scotia (Canada)
Liam Mitchell 6-1 G/F Halifax, Nova Scotia (Canada)
Kaleb Joseph 6-2 PG Toronto, Canada
Connor Gilmore 6-7 F Toronto, Canada
Elev8 Sports Institute
Nikitia Shantaley 5-11 PG Russia
Max Sudarkin 6-3 SF Russia
Stas Tatsiy 6-2 SF Russia
Day Narbone 5-11 PG Thailand
Djordije (or “George”) Mumin 6-5 G/F Montenegro
Elev8 Sports Institute Post Grad
Cobby Wilson 6-1 SG Brisbane, Australia
Isaac Lawler 6-1 SG Brisbane, Australia
Fishburne Military School
Jabari Craig 6-11 C Toronto, Canada
Damian Persaud 6-2 G/F Scarborough, Ontario (Canada)
Harry Range 6-4 G Ottawa, Ontario (Canada)
Jake Bebic 6-5 G Oakville, Ontario (Canada)
Michael Poirier 6-7 F Mississauga, Ontario (Canada)
Oleksandr Otzyv 6-10 F/C Mississauga, Ontario (Canada)
Northfield Mount Hermon
Jerome Desrosiers 6-6 F St-Hyacinthe, Canada
Our Savior New American
Djibril Diallo 6-3 G Conkry, Guinea
Michael Nzei 6-7 PF Makurdi, Nigeria
Boubacar Diakite 6-6 F Bamako, Mali
Mamadou Doucoure 6-7 C/PF Bamako, Mali
Cheick Diallo 6-9 PF Bamako, Mali
Kessoum Yakwe 6-7 PF Bamako, Mali
South Kent School
Hiroto Yamaki 6-4 G/F Yamagata, Japan
Ibrahima Sankhare 6-7 F Thies, Senegal
Jules de Courtenay 6-7 PF Brisbane, Australia
Albert Christensson 6-9 C/F Lund, Sweden
Dusan Perovic 6-8 C/F Podgorica, Montenegro
Aziz Sultan Essa 6-8 C/F Abu Al Hasany, Kuwait
St. John’s NW Military Academy
Ehab Amin 6-2 G Alexandria, Egypt
Afam Osu 6-6 F Lagos, Nigeria
Ilias Theodorou 6-8 F Athens, Greece
Fred Iduwe 6-11 F Benin City, Nigeria
St. Thomas More
Yuta Watanabe 6-7 SF Kita, Japan
Francis Kiapway 6-2 G Hamilton, Ontario (Canada)
Ajou Deng 6-9 C/F London, Englad
Cameron Durley 6-8 F/C Dhahran, Saudi Arabia
Gonzalo Santana 5-10 G Las Palmas, Spain
Nemanja Krtolica 6-8 C/F Banja Luka, Bosnia
Massanutten Military Academy
Dimande Moussa 6-8 PF Ivory Coast
Prince Ricky Goutey 6-9 PF Ivory Coast
Dimitri Sousa 6-6 SF Sao Paulo, Brazil
New Hampton Prep
Nick Morris 6-8 F/C Toronto, Canada
Notre Dame Prep
Frederick Bitondo 6-5 SF Montreal, Canada
Emre Akin 6-3 SG Istanbul, Turkey
Samuel Egedi 6-3 SF London, England
Nikola Vujovic 6-8 F Serbia
Tugay Efe 6-6 F Turkey
Gnahore Bollo 6-10 C France
Diagouraga Dama 6-0 PG France