The U18 European Championship has taken center stage

The U18 European Championship has taken center stage

Well, Day One of the U18 European Championship is in the books. As usual when you come to these events as the website journalist, you miss a certain amount of the action while you are writing game reports or transcribing interviews or whatever.

Still, the first day of action in Konya was very good – a fact helped by the high level of many players here at this tournament.

Here a few of my notes from the U18 Euros.

The first game I watched was Greece vs Bosnia and Herzegovina. Considering that many people are high on Greek big man Georgios Papagiannis, I was quite surprised that the 17-year-old wasn’t in the starting line-up. I thought maybe coach Ilias Papatheodorou brings him on with the second unit. Five, six, seven minutes into the game, still no sign of Papagiannis. Okay, well, let’s shift the focus to someone else.

It wasn’t hard to notice the über-smooth Vasileios Charalampopoulos – another 17-year-old. Wow, what a sweet lefty jumper. There’s something about some lefties – it’s kind of like left-handed hitters in baseball. So silky and smooth (see Okben Ulubay from Turkey as well). So Charalampopoulos definitely had his full array on display. Though he’s not quick, he was able to get to the lane a bit. He seemed to see the floor very well and definitely understood his part in the system. Another very  promising scene was Vasileios looking over at the Greek bench and barking at them and clapping his hands at them to urge on the guys on the court.

Papagiannis finally came at the 6:44 minute mark in the second quarter. He played 5:41 minutes and did not attempt a shot, grabbed two rebounds, dished out one assist, turned the ball over once and blocked one Bosnian shot. Then he came off. Still in the first half, Papagiannis was barking back and forth with guard Dimitrios Stamatis. I’m not saying it meant anything, but it did happen. And Papagiannis did not play any more the rest of the game.

When asked why Papagiannis played so little against Bosnia, coach Papatheodorou said: “It was tactical, only tactical. Nothing else. We need energy on defense and the press on defense. He is a very strong player for us. I believe in the course of the tournament he will play more time and help us so much.”

Looking at Papagiannis and Charalampopoulos as well as Dionysis Skoulidas, Vasileios Mouratos and Antonios Koniaris (the latter who just signed a five-year deal with Panathinaikos – all I could think about what good Greece will be at the 2014 FIBA U17 World Championship, which tips off in Dubai on August 8. All five of those guys are 1997-born and eligible for the U17 Worlds. Ouch!

Bosnia really didn’t look that good, Edin Atic showed once again what he can do – a great shooter – like he did at the Albert Schweitzer Tournament.

I didn’t catch much of the Italy vs Latvia game – at the other court in the arena just about 30 seconds away (thank you FIBA Europe on that!). But I saw a lot of Federico Mussini and Diego Flaccadori – perhaps the best backcourt duo in the tournament. I tweeted out the two-person nickname – “Mussidori”. What a duo! Though the Italians are far from that. I absolutely love Alberto Cacace – a great glue guy. And I think very highly of Andrea Spera as well. Italy will go far in this tournament.

Serbia vs Russia was next on the big court – Yeah baby! Stefan Lazarevic and Stefan Peno and the rest of the gang. Fantastic ball. Lazarevic does everything – though he still is working on his shot (needs to stop thinking and just shoot) – and I really like Peno though I seem to be in the minority. The other guy I just cannot stop watching is Danilo Ostojic. Love his athleticism and he can shoot the ball as well. This is a fun team to watch – and it will be better once they play a higher level than Russia, who I think could be in a fight for relegation.

While watching Serbia v Russia, I missed most of the Lithuania vs France game. I did see France’s Isaia Cordinier turn the ball over on a drive with 2.6 seconds left with a chance to tie the game. Unfortunately can’t say too much about the players, though France’s Cyrille Eliezer-Vanerot had to be helped by teammates to the locker room after the game. After talking to the French coach, he said he’s still worried about Etienne Ory, who did not play a single game this season – only with the U18 team.

Don’t ask me about Poland vs Belgium since I didn’t see one second of the game. The main guy I’ll be looking to see is Marcel Ponitka, the younger brother of the Polish international and Euroleague player Mateusz.

In barely beating Montenegro, Spain were underwhelming – the same thought I had after seeing them at the Albert Schweitzer Tournament though they have since added Francisco Alonso, who I really didn’t get a good look at. Marc Garcia was bottled up a bit and hampered by fouls while Yankuba Sima was solid in the blocks for Spain. One disturbing note about the Spanish team. While Serbia had three guys who won the NIJT title with Crvena Zvezda, the Spaniards only have three guys who were at the NIJT Finals in Milan, despite there being three Spanish teams in the eight-team field. Diego Gallardo was with Cajasol while Marc Bauza and Francesc Iturria were with Joventut Badalona.

At the other end, Montenegro didn’t seem to have a lot of talent – though my look was a bit limited. Zoran Nikolic fought foul trouble all game. He didn’t score until his first points until the 4:26 minute mark of the third quarter and scored seven points. But he was tired from a series of misses right at the rim, which helped him rack up 10 rebounds. And instead of just giving up a basket by Sima, Nikolic picked up a silly fourth foul with 33.6 seconds left in the third and took himself out of the game in the fourth quater.

The day’s two last games saw two blowouts by probably the two top title contenders.

Turkey vs Czech Republic was at the big gym and Turkey clearly out-classed the Czechs. Man, Turkey are LOADED. Ugurlu, Güven, Ulubay, Olmaz, Korkmaz among others.

And Croatia played England on the other court, and it wasn’t much of a contest either, especially since England were without top gun Jules Dang Akodo. But it wouldn’t have made a difference. Croatia a just as LOADED as Turkey – Bender, Arapovic, Mazalin, Slavika, Zicic. The Croatians’ talent level is downright scary.

So, that’s a wrap of the first day. I don’t know if I will get to daily updates, but I’ll try

Til later





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