By: Sam Meyerkopf / @HoopLikeDrazen
This season I will try to get a weekly notes column out on what’s going on in European and International basketball. It will be full bullet points with some opinions, analysis, and possibly even some hardcore facts included. This could be about stories I hear, ideas stemming from basketball conversations, or just some live game observations.
I will be splitting my year between Europe and the US so there will also be some NCAA, D-League, or the league that shall not be named notes. But I will be following the NCAA or “future Euros” the most during my time in the US, so surely there will be notes on them. There will be some guest notes and no question you should see Rob Scott dropping some real English on here from time to time. There also might be some advertisement notes in here on occasion but someone has to pay for all this travel and it’s the price we all pay for what will be better content from actual games. In Navarro we trust and just for the sake of distinctness, BRING BACK THE TRAPEZOID!
- Holland’s Eredivisie League
Took a trip up to Leeuwarden to watch Aris Leeuwarden play SPM Shooters Den Bosch last weekend. Even though this isn’t even near the mid-level of Euro ball, it’s fun to see the level of a league in person, especially one that is damn near impossible to find via streams or video.
Overall the level is a fair bit below Belgium and maybe even the German Pro A. There are definitely some talented players but what was most striking was the lack of physicality. There was just very little physical play and at the mid to top level of Europe there is so much of it, that seemed to be a big difference. That and what usually happens in a lower level where just a few players are counted upon heavily to score for themselves and set up the team.
Den Bosch is one of the tops teams most years in Holland and this season is no different (they’re 5-1 in the league). Their American imports are their key scorers with rookie Chris Denson’s elite ability for this league to drive left and finish and the potentially 300+ pound Reggie Johnson converting with ease in the post. Brandyn Curry pitches in but he runs the show more than scores. This team also has some interesting domestic players too.
Kees Akkerboom can really hit some shots from just about anywhere, Stefan Wessels is the team veteran, Ralf de Pagter is a pretty gritty 2-way player, Arvin Slagter is their stationary spot up 3-point shooter, and young point guard Mike Schilder (1994) is already entrenched as the backup point guard and has some flair to his ball handling game. The pieces fit together really well and this is a team that plays EuroChallenge too. It’ll be really good to see them against teams from around the continent.
While Den Bosch functions as a real together team, Leeuwarden is not quite there yet and the import talent is also not quite there. Miles Jackson-Cartwright is their rookie American PG who can’t create a lot, Ryan Watkins led the NCAA in offensive rebounding last year and plays very hard but just doesn’t have the scoring game needed for an import in this league, and Marquise Simmons is a good, solid, quick action power forward but he’s overworked. Simmons played some 10+ minute stretches and was counted on for heavy activity on sides of the ball, he gave his and all and was the most impressive player on the team but it was too much work.
For domestic talent young guard Dexter Hope (1993) has some hope and creativity in his game but is very skinny. He’s not a domestic talent, he’s from Sweden but Torgrim Sommerfeldt can really stroke it from deep. Overall the team isn’t quite ready, they’re 2-5, and just needs a bigger scoring burst but I’m just not sure where it’ll come from.
- Early Season Overreactions
With Twitter and insta-media nowadays it just seems we are so invested into every game, every possession and have a voice to constantly say something about it that the early part of the season can get into “overreaction mode”. I’m a culprit of this too sometimes following Euro ball minute by minute and keeping track of all the little details that can potentially be overblown.
A good example is a team I’ve watched a lot live over my recent time in Europe, Teleokom Baskets Bonn. They started the season 1-3 in the BBL and lost their first two Eurocup games. People were getting impatient and wondering if changes needed to be made and if the new acquisitions were good enough. I liked most of the new players but was even wondering when they were all going to put it together.
Now they’ve won three straight in the BBL and just nipped perennial ACB playoff contender CAI Zaragoza in the Eurocup and if not for a questionable moving screen call and an Antoine Diot game winning heave, they’d be tied atop their Eurocup group.
So things are back on the rails in Bonn. New point guard Mickey McConnell has been a creative wizard off the dribble and absolutely fantastic at getting to the rim. New but personally old Tadas Klimivicious started out the year injured but has been excellent at creating space on the pick and roll and has been very active defensively as he gets into rhythm. There are no guarantees as to where Bonn will end up but acting like one game means the season is over so early (It’s not Olympiacos and Maccabi fans), is just depriving yourself of enjoying the full season long journey a team takes.
- Who’s This Year’s Breakout Draft Prospect?
A couple years ago Giannis Antetokounmpo burst out of nowhere, Jusuf Nurkic was on European radars but dominated the ABA in the early going (and the rest of) last season, and Bogdan Bogdanovic who we all knew and loved took a couple giant steps from really solid young European to first round draft pick last season. So the question remains as we have started the new season, who will be this year’s breakout draft prospects?
The answer, for now, is just Mega Vizura. A team made to showcase prospects has done a damn good job doing that so far. They play fast, they play their young guys a lot, and stats pour out like wine at an Italian business lunch. Last year Vasa Micic turned in some spectacular passing performances along with Nenad Miljenovic and I even wrote a piece on them last season. Their teammate Nemanja Dangubic jumped right onto the breakout Euro prospect scene last season as well. And by jump, I do mean JUMP!
This year the leaders are Miljenovic and Nikola Jokic who are both back from last season. Jokic was drafted by the Nuggets last season and Miljenovic (a personal favorite player of mine) has been tearing it up. Miljenovic’s lean frame probably means he has a more Euro career trajectory over the NBA (and we’ll keep him please and thank you). Miljenovic has been really good with his elusive driving ability and creative play, he looks like a kid with a brand new yo-yo out there trying a bunch of cool new moves. Jokic plays like a damn veteran. He’s dominant on offense, jumpers, rolls to the rim, and everyone’s favorite, his masterful passing ability for a guy that large.
But we are here to find the ‘breakout players” and Miljenovic and Jokic are well known basically everywhere at this point (Real Madrid even took a visit to watch Mega). The players below I’m not sure if they’re on NBA or Draft or whatever radars but they’re intriguing and worth paying attention to when you watch Mega.
Rade Zagorac, Athletic Scoring Slasher, 1995 - Zagorac doesn’t ever back down on offense and attacks the rim pretty fearlessly. Once he gets there, he has has a great ability to contort his body in a variety of ways to finish. Usually these type of players flourish in transition, which Zagorac does but he also is solid at finding driving lanes in the half court. If he keeps scoring, he’ll get noticed, and I’ll be really interested to see how is off-the-ball game develops. Go watch him, he’s a really, really fun player.
Ongjen Jaramaz, Scoring Point Guard, 1995 - Jaramaz probably isn’t a draft prospect until, like Miljenovic, he really starts to put on some muscle or just general bulk. But he has some hooper in him and is great at creating his own shot off the bounce. He’s also a fairly athletic and active player who makes little effective off the ball plays when he’s not running the point. The playing time and exposure on this team is great for him.
Aleksander Marelja, Skilled Mobile Big, 1992 - Marelja is a 1992 so he’s past his auto eligible draft year. But when watching Mega games he constantly stands out. He is quite athletic and has some blocks or finishes at the rim or cuts to the hoop that really catch your eye. It’s not reliable yet but I even saw him step out and take some three point shots. He’s probably a center but he and Jokic are both kind of PF/C’s so they just are basically constantly switching positions when they play together. He’s a real exciting player and playing up front and next to a passer like Jokic is really cool to watch.
But why take my word for it when ABAliga.com has basically every full game stored and ready for you to watch. And if you think there is a youngster I should be paying more attention, tweet me anytime. Happy Prospecting!