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 BEST YOUNG PLAYERS - FAN SELECTION

Who will be the next Manu Ginobili, Dirk Nowitzki or Lebron James?

Voting for the best young player of the 2006 FIBA World Championship is now open and will close on 2nd September 2006. Come back every day and vote for the young player you think is having the best impact on his team and on the FIBA World Championship. Its your chance to vote for the next big internationnal superstar.

 PLAYER PRESENTATIONS

 Josh AKOGNON (Nigeria)                        
 Josh AKOGNON (Nigeria) Career: Washington State (USA-NCAA, 2004-06)

This streaky shooter was leading the Cougars in scoring this season with 10.3 points per game. But he decided to transfer at the end of this season and will join California State Fullerton next fall. He will be red-shirt in 2006-07 and will not be allowed to play by the NCAA until the 2007-08 season. Playing the 2006 FIBA World Championship in Japan with the Nigerian National Team would be a good opportunity to gain experience. ...

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 Brad NEWLEY (Australia)                         
Brad Newley (Australia) Career: Forestville Eagles (Australia-ABA, 2002), AIS (Australia-ABA, 2003-04), Townsville Crocodiles (Australia-NBL, 2004-06).

Brad Newley may be the next Australian to play in the NBA as he declared himself eligible for the 2006 NBA Draft. He is compared to Argentina's Manu Ginobili by the NBA scouts as he is a very talented player able to shoot from beyond the arc or drive to the hoop. Entering the NBL in 2004, he was named both Rookie of the Year and Best 6th Man. Selected to the 2005 NBL All Star Game, he won the MVP award after posting 35 points, 4 rebounds and 7 assists...

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 Chris BOSH (USA)                         
Chris Bosh (USA) Career: Georgia Tech (USA-NCAA, 2002-03), Toronto Raptors (USA-NBA, 2003-06)

On draft day in 2003, nobody thought too much about Chris Bosh since he was entering the NBA with two teenage superstars, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony. Still, Bosh went fourth in the draft. A year later, another player from that 2003 draft had come into the spotlight - as Dwyane Wade had reached the second round of the playoffs, hitting one pressure shot after another. But Bosh was still far from stardom. Shy, incredibly respectful and well mannered, the young forward needed time to become the player he really was...                                                                   

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 Chris PAUL (USA)                         
Chris Paul (USA) Career: Wake Forest (USA-NCAA, 2003-05), New Orleans / Oklahoma City Hornets (USA-NBA, 2005-06).

An instant success in the NBA, Paul is an old school kind of point guard in a new school kind of body. Extremely quick and tough, he can drive to the hoop anytime, anyway. He was the leader of a young Hornets team which was expected to finish dead last in the Western Conference but almost made it to the playoffs. Paul can set the right pace on offense, has a great sense of spacing, and has proven reliable - as a 20-year-old NBA rookie...

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 Dimitrios DIAMANTIDIS (Greece)                        
Dimitrios DIAMANTIDIS (GRE)

Career: Iraklis (Greece-ESAKE, 1999-2004), Panathinaikos (Greece-ESAKE, 2004-06).

Has been named the Euroleague's Best Defensive Player for two years in a row. Diamantidis proved his big-game ability in the dramatic semi-final against France last September in Belgrade. His three-pointer just seconds before the buzzer sent Greeks into the Final against Germany and later into seventh heaven with the EuroBasket title...


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 Ersan ILYASOVA (Turkey)                         
Ersan ILYASOVA (Turkey)

Career: Ülker (Turkey-Div. 1, 2003-2005), Milwaukee Bucks (NBA, 2005-…)

He might have been the greatest talent ever to wear a Turkish National Team jersey. But that was at the cadet level. He was so dominant back then that he was expected to be drafted in the top five. But two severe injuries to his right ankle severed his development. He spent last season in rehabilitation but this only helped his physical injuries. His mental scars may take more time to heal, if they ever do. He spent the latter half of the season in the NBA's D-League with the Milwaukee Bucks' affiliate, the Tulsa 66ers, and put up good numbers. But ever since the second broken ankle he shies away from contact...                                                       

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 Jianlian YI (China)                                                                             
Jianlian YI (CHN)

Career: Guangdong (China-CBA, 2001-06).

Yi Jianlian has long been considered the next big prospect from China. He revealed himself in 2003, at the early age of 16, at the FIBA U19 World Championship in Greece, leading his team with 18.9 points and 11.5 rebounds per game. He has been under the radar of the NBA since that competition and has to live with the pressure. He debuted in the CBA in 2002-03 with the Guangdong Tigers and won the Rookie of the Year award...

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 Johan PETRO (France)                                                                              
Johan PETRO (FRA)

Career: INSEP (France-N1, 2000-03), Pau-Orthez (France-Pro A, 2003-05), Seattle Supersonics (USA-NBA, 2005-06).

After a promising but inconsistent season in Pau-Orthez in 2004-05, Johan Petro chose to move on to the NBA at 19. In France, people were expecting him to need at least a few years to be able to contribute on the Sonics roster. And that's what nearly happened, as coach Bob Weis almost sent him to the NBDL, where he would have probably stayed all season. Instead of that, he was able to get a few minutes of playing time and even started a while when Bob Hill took over as a coach. ...

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 Leandro BARBOSA (Brazil)                      
Leandro BARBOSA (BRA)

Career: Palmeiras (Brazil, 1999-2001), Bauru Basquete (Brazil, 2001-2003), Phoenix Suns (USA-NBA, 2003-06).

Probably the most gifted player on the Brazilian national team. Scoring more than 28 points per game in Brazil as a 20-year-old, Barbosa had to keep looking for new challenges until he landed in the NBA a year before being eligible for the draft. He was lucky enough to end up with a Phoenix team whose game was made to let him shine. The Suns offense, built on pace and reactivity, was just the right environment for his tremendous creativity to blossom. After a tough second season in the league, Leandrinho had a breakout season this year, averaging more than 27 minutes per game and 13.1 points. During the Suns' long playoffs run, he made his presence felt even more, especially in the second round against the Clippers...

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 Luis COSTA (Angola)                     
Luis COSTA (Angola)

Career: Oliveirense (Portugal-TMN, 1998-2003), Belenenses (Portugal-TMN, 2003-05), Petro Athletico Luanda (Angola, 2005-06).

Luis Costa has a long and successful career in Portugal behind him. With Oliveirense, he won the Portuguese Cup and played the FIBA Europe Cup in 2003. The following season, he joined Belenenses to see more playing time. In 2004-05, he averaged 14.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game in the FIBA Europe League...

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 Marco BELINELLI (Italy)                            
Marco BELINELLI (ITA)

Career: Virtus Bologna (Italy-Lega, 2001-03), Fortitudo Bologna (Italy-Lega, 2003-06).

At the tender age of 20, Marco Belinelli has already put together numbers that top those of any of Italy's greatest shooting guards at a similar age - even the likes of Antonello Riva or Carlton Myers. In the Euroleague, Belinelli was Climamio Bologna's top scorer with 14 points per game. He also finished as the 12th-best three-point shooter in Europe's top competition with 45 percent. Marco is a product of Virtus Bologna, but he went to crosstown archrivals Fortitudo when Virtus ran into tough financial times...

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 Malick BADIANE (Senegal)                            
 Malick BADIANE (Senegal)

Career: US Rail (Senegal, 2000-01), TV Langer (Germany-2.bundelsiga, 2002-03), Frankfurt SkyLiners (Germany-BBL, 2003-06). Selected in the second round of the 2003 NBA draft (#44), by the Houston Rockets.

Malick is the Senegalese player of the future. At 16, he was part of the U18 National Team. At 19, he played in the 2003 African Championship in Alexandria, Egypt. He will compete for the first time in a world level competition. Drafted by the Houston Rockets, Badiane is working quietly on developing his game with the Frankfurt Skyliners in Germany with hopes of crossing the Atlantic Ocean to play in the NBA. Last season in the Bundesliga, he was averaging 7.4 points and 6.4 rebounds...

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 Michael GELABALE (France)                       
Michael GELABALE (FRA)

Career: Cholet (France-Pro A, 2000-04), Real Madrid (Spain-ACB, 2004-06).

Totally unknown in Europe until two seasons ago, Gelabale blossomed at Madrid under the tutelage of coach Bozidar Maljkovic. He scored a crucial three-pointer in Real's improbable rally in Game 5 of the 2005 ACB Finals. More importantly, although nobody knew him when "Boja" recruited him, Mickaël started 23 of 34 regular season games for his ACB debut. And he was always the defender assigned to guard the opponent's top offensive threat. He earned his first start ever with the National Team last summer and went on to become a regular starter, mostly because of his defence and ability to make the right choice on offence...

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 Mile ILIC (Serbia & Montenegro)                       
Mile ILIC (SCG) 

Career: FMP Zeleznik (Serbia & Montenegro-YUBA, 2002-06).

"Seven footers" do not grow on trees, indeed. But when you look at the fact that there are as many as many as half a dozen in the potential roster of Serbia-Montenegro, you begin to think that there must be something about the water in that country. Mile Ilic is tall, agile, quick big man with good hands who could easily play small forward - if he weren't that tall. The starting center for Adriatic League champions FMP Zeleznik should be included in this year's NBA Draft and is surely a legitimate candidate for a spot among the top 12 of his country....

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 Nikos ZISIS (Greece)                                        
Nikos ZISIS (GRE)

Career: YMCA (Greece-3rd Division, 1996-99), AEK (Greece-ESAKE, 1999-2005), Treviso (Italy-Lega, 2005-06).

It was a pretty strange season for "Nick the Greek". Zisis was the sixth man of the National Team at Belgrade's Eurobasket, the person who hit three decisive free throws in the semi-finals against France and the player who assisted Diamantidi on his game-winning three-pointer. But just a few months later, he was very unlucky getting injured and staying away almost three months. When Benetton signed him last September, coach David Blatt said: "When my son grows up, I want him to be like Nikos". Without Zisis, Benetton failed to qualify for Euroleague's play-offs...

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 Paulius JANKUNAS (Lithuania)                        
Paulius JANKUNAS (LTU)

Career: Zalgiris Kaunas (Lithuania-reserve team, 2002-03). Zalgiris Kaunas (Lithuania-LKL, 2003-06).

Since his days as the leader of the U18 Lithuanian national team, which he took to the final game of the FIBA World Championship, Jankunas has been on the move up. He debuted in the Euroleague that same year with Zalgiris, scoring 12 points in his very first outing. His relatively short size for a power forward stopped the NBA from really making a run at him. But make no mistake, Jankunas is among the best European players at his age. He proved it again at last year's EuroBasket, making the most of his playing time. His shooting accuracy was unreal for a player who had never played at this level (72 percent)...

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 Ronny TURIAF (France)                               
Ronny TURIAF (FRA)

Career: INSEP (France-N1, 1998-2001), Gonzaga Bulldogs (USA-NCAA, 2001-05), Los Angeles Lakers (USA-NBA, 2005-06).

One of the most amazing stories basketball has seen in this past few years. Diagnosed with a potential fatal heart condition right after being drafted last summer by the Lakers, Turiaf had to go through surgery to even live a normal life - not to mention play basketball again. But Ronny never let his dream go away. He fought through rehab and not even six months after the surgery, he was able to join the Lakers until the end of the season. No player had ever come back from this kind of procedure to play in the pros. Never second guess Ronny's heart...

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 Rudy FERNANDEZ (Spain)                        
Rudy FERNANDEZ (Spain)

Career: Badalona (Spain-ACB, 2001-2006).

A star in the making. At 21, Rudy Fernández has already played at the 2004 Olympic Games and the 2005 EuroBasket. And he is ready to make a major contribution at the 2006 World Championships.

Fernández is a very complete player, who combines great scoring abilities with a team spirit that leads him to great defensive effort (excels in steals), outstanding rebounding skills for a shooting guard and point guard-like passing and court vision...

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 Sofoklis SCHORTSANITIS (Greece)                              
Sofoklis SCHORTSANITIS (Greece)

Career: Iraklis (Greece-ESAKE, 2000-03), Cantù (Italy-Lega, 2003-04), Aris (Greece-ESAKE, 2004-05), Olympiakos (Greece-ESAKE, 2005-06). Selected in the second round of the 2003 NBA draft (#34) by the Los Angeles Clippers.

Baby Shaq is… back. And back for good. The second best rookie of the Euroleague after Barnagni had his best season in his career with Olympiakos. He transferred last summer from Aris to Olympiakos and worked very-very hard to regain a lost status of European phenom. Lost more than 50 pounds over last summer and became a good scorer and a good rebounder (10.7 pts and 4.9 rbds in 22 Euroleague games). He is unstoppable under the basket, maybe the strongest player in Europe, reminding people of… the real Shaq. A pure “miracle of nature”, at the age of 21 he seems ready to reach the unlimited potential NBA scouts saw in him a few years ago...

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 Tiago SPLITTER (Brazil)                              
Tiago SPLITTER (BRA)

Career: SRE Ipiranga (Brazil, 1999-2000), Araba Gorago (Spain-EBA, 2000-01), Bilbao Basket (Spain-LEB2, 2001-03), Tau Vitoria (Spain-ACB, 2003-06).

Known by many in the basketball world since he was 16, Splitter has undoubtedly been the most highlighted Brazilian prospect ever. Even though he could have easily applied for the draft and been selected in the first round at age 18, he chose to learn the European game before trying the NBA, where he probably belongs. Splitter has been improving this year. He was a key factor on an ambitious Tau team which made it back to the Euroleague Final Four....

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 Uros TRIPKOVIC (Serbia & Montenegro)                                   
Uros TRIPKOVIC (Serbia & Montenegro)

Career: Partizan Belgrade (Serbia & Montenegro-YUBA, 2002-06).

He is a leader of Serbia & Montenegro's new generation which is about to replace its aging stars. Or so they hope in Belgrade. After failing to produce quality shooters for some time, all hopes are now invested in Tripkovic becoming the heir to the likes of Stojakovic, Scepanovic, Gurovic or Beric...

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