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Saric, Ivanovic, Bertans among youngsters to shine at EuroBasket 2013 qualifiers

REGENSBURG (David Hein’s Eye on the Future) – Croatian über-prospect Dario Saric, Nikola Ivanovic of Montenegro and Latvia’s Davis Bertans were among the top youngsters to shine for their senior national teams during the qualifiers for EuroBasket 2013.

Okay, the name Dario Saric is not new to any common reader of this column. Of course there was 2010 U16 European gold (with MVP award) and then playing at the 2011 FIBA U19 World Championship as a 17-year-old. And then Saric joined the likes of Nikola Vujcic and Dalibor Bagaric (in 1996) and Roko Leni Ukic, Marko Banic and Marko Tomas (in 2002) to help Croatia to their third U18 European Championship title as tournament MVP on August 19.

Five days later, Saric joined the big boys and played for Croatia in the EuroBasket qualifiers against Hungary, finishing with 6 points, 4 rebounds and 2 assists in 14 minutes. The 18-year-old shined especially against Cyprus, Ukraine and in the second Hungary game – averaging 12.3 points, 8.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.0 steals and 1.0 blocks in those contests. All told, Saric showed he could more than hold his own at the senior level averaging 9.8 points, a team-best 6.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.2 steals in 19 minutes per game over six contests.

His 2013 summer promises some real highlights. The U18 European gold booked Croatia a ticket to the 2013 FIBA U19 World Championship – where Saric will likely be a top MVP candidate going into the tournament – before he plays at EuroBasket 2013 in Slovenia.

Not playing at the U19 World Championship next summer will be Montenegro – who failed to even earn promotion from Division B at this summer’s U18 European Championship.

Still, the 18-year-old Nikola Ivanovic should have a date in Slovenia next summer as he showed some promise in the EuroBasket qualifiers. The point guard averaged 4.6 points, 1.0 rebounds, 0.9 steals and 0.7 assists for the undefeated Group A winners Montenegro. His top moment came against Serbia as he scored 10 points including a half-court buzzer-beater to win the game 73-71.

Another youngster also had a strong tournament for Montenegro in 20-year-old Bojan Dubljevic, who was the team’s second-leading scorer (12.2 points) and rebounder (6.5 rebounds – including 6 or more offensive boards in three games), including four double-doubles while shooting 60 per cent from the field and 80 per cent from the free-throw line.

Latvia also had a great talent in their ranks as 19-year-old Bertrans had some strong showings. The long small forward, who turns 20 in November, on three occasions nailed three three-pointers in averaging 8.6 points, 4.4 rebounds and 0.9 blocks in less than 18 minutes per game – showing bursts of the NBA talent many believe he has.

Bertrans’ 21-year-old teammate Martins Meiers also played a big role in Latvia qualifying for EuroBasket 2013, averaging 10.0 points and 3.9 rebounds for the tournament, including 12.8 points and 4.3 rebounds over the final four games.

Another up-and-coming team that booked a spot in Slovenia next summer is Georgia. And a big reason was Tornike Shengelia, who will be playing in his third EuroBasket. The power forward, who turns 21 in October, was downright dominating at times – averaging 21.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, 3.0 steals, 2.0 blocks and 1.5 assists against the Netherlands and Romania – but solid in total with 13.7 points, 7.6 rebounds, 1.7 steals, 1.6 assists and 1.1 blocks over the qualification.

Switzerland failed to qualify for EuroBasket next summer, but Swiss fans have some young talent to be happy about. The main one is Stefan Petkovic, who averaged 11.5 points, a team-high 3.1 assists and 2.8 rebounds. The point guard, who turns 20 in late November, came on late in the qualifiers with 17 points per game over his final four contests, including torching Albania and Belgium for 25 points in two of Switzerland’s three wins.

The Swiss also have two solid 21-year-old wing players in Jonathan Dubas (8.7ppg, 7.1rpg 1.1apg, 1.1spg, 0.7bpg and three double-doubles) and Jonathan Kazadi (4.8ppg 2.6rpg, 1.8apg).

Switzerland lost twice to Poland, who advanced to EuroBasket next summer and also gave two of their top young players some playing time. Mateusz Ponitka, who turned 19 in late August, averaged 5.0 points, 2.3 points, 0.8 steals and 0.6 assists, including 17 points in 21 minutes against Albania.

Center talent Przemyslaw Karnowski, who turns 19 in November, not only worked out in practice against NBA star center Marcin Gortat but also averaged 4.0 points and 2.0 rebounds in three games.

If you wonder if you have heard the names Ponitka and Karnowski before, chances are yes as they were both on the All-Tournament Team for the silver-medalists Poland at the inaugurual FIBA U17 World Championship in 2010 and then starred for Poland at the FIBA U19 World Championship the next year.

That is a breakdown of some of the top youngsters at the EuroBasket qualifiers.

Here is a list of some of them (name, country, age):
Nedim Buza, Bosnia-Herzegovina, 17;
Jusuf Nurkic, Bosnia-Herzegovina, 18;
Tomas Satoransky, Czech Republic, 20;
Ondrej Balvin, Czech Republic, 19;
Nemanja Nedovic, Serbia, 21;
Dejan Musli, Serbia, 21;
Danilo Andjusic, Serbia, 21;
Sasu Salin, Finland, 21;
Furkan Aldemir, Turkey, 21;
Anton Maresch, Austria, 21;
Thomas Klepeisz, Austria, 21;
Haukur Palsson, Iceland, 20;
Alexandre Rodenbourg, Luxembourg, 20;
Stefanos Iliadis, Cyprus, 17.

David Hein


FIBA’s columnists write on a wide range of topics relating to basketball that are of interest to them. The opinions they express are their own and in no way reflect those of FIBA.

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