Starting from the bottom and working to the top, today we rank the Point Guard’s from the Nike Invitational Junior Tournament in London.
No 14 – Etienne Ory – INSEP – 1.78m – 1996
One of the few 1996 prospects taking part at this years NIJT Etienne was a key part of the INSEP offence when he was on the court, however his inexperience showed and his height is a clear disadvantage, listed at just 1.78m he was one of the shortest players in London. His assist numbers are the most disappointing of any PG with just 1 assist across 3 games in 17 minutes per game! this is part due to the offence mostly going through Charly Pontens, Damien Ingles or Stephane Gombauld who combined for 26 assists out of 40 total assists across the whole tournament for the INSEP squad, this also had a factor on his impressive 3 turnovers which is the lowest for any of the PG’s ranked.
Offensively he struggled from the field both inside the 3 point line & beyond hitting 1/5 (20%) on two point attempts and 1/5 (20%) on three point attempts, his saving grace in terms of points was his 3/4 (75%) from the charity stripe. Defensively he had his obvious struggles on the boards collecting a grand total of Zero boards, understandable for such a small player however his 3 total steals is also a disappointment on that end of the floor. Overall not a great tournament for the French Point Guard I look forward to seeing him bounce back next year.
No 13 – Sergi Costa – Joventut Badalona – 1.91m – 1996
A solid outing or Sergi with the Tournament Champions Joventut, he managed to play some decent minutes (14 per game) across 4 games for the Spanish powerhouse, his 8 assists across 4 games do not strike as huge numbers but for one of the younger players at the NIJT his 7 turnovers is impressive. Offensivley his scoring was not a major problem as the majority of the teams points came from Agusti Sans or Tournament MVP Alberto Abalde and his 2.3 points per game on 33.3% 2pt FG & 20% 3pt FG will improve next year while his 100% FT cant get any better.
Defensively Sergi managed to use his size well on the glass & his 1 rebound per game is ok considering his minutes, age and experience while his 1 total steal could use some improvement, as a team Joventut did very well in their help defence and worked exceptionally well as a team, Sergi himself will hopefully improve over the year and could become a solid defender next year.
No 12 – Adi Zahiragic – OKK Spars – 1.88m – 1995
The first of the Eastern-European Point Guards to appear in our rankings Adi did a solid job for OKK Spars alongside Aleksej Nikolic his numbers are not all that impressive considering his 36 minutes per game across 3 games, averaging just 3.3 points per game and 3.3 assists while committing 11 total turnovers, percentage-wise his numbers again would strike fear into the minds of any opposition shooting just 33.3% pt FG, 22.2% 3pt FG and 0%FT’s.
Considering his height & team mates (Doko Salic & Nedium Buza) Adi managed to collect an impressive 3 rebounds per game to go along with his 1.25 steal per game, for a 1.88m point guard those numbers, especially the rebounds are impressive & hopefully his offence wont be quite so bad in the future.
No 11 – Pau Cami – Regal Barcelona – 1.61m – 1996
The smallest player at the NIJT had a great performance in London, his team play, his hustle and his leadership were all solid qualities to see in a point guard although he struggled to score 0/8 (0%) 2pt Fg & 2/9 (22.2%) 3pt FG while he shot 5/6 (83.3%) from the free throw line, as a passing guard however Pau really excelled in just 16 minutes per game he managed to lead his team in assists with 2.5 per game (14 total) and really helped get his team mates involved.
On the glass Pau’s 1 rebound per game is not all that bad for the shortest player at the tournament and in 16 minutes, while is 1 steal per game were mostly due to his tenacity and ability to deflect passes by being a solid denial defender. Overall a very strong tournament for one of ths shortest and youngest players at the Tournament & I really look forward to seeing him again in the future.
No 10 – Lukas Ganas – Lietuvos Rytas – 1.86m – 1995
Despite a poor performance from Rytas, missing their star man Edvinas Seskus, Lukas had a respectful outing in London coming in solid across the board averaging a 5 points, 3.3 assists & 4.3 rebounds over 24 minutes per game in 3 outings, offensively his 43.8% 2pt FG is a big improvement over the players ranked so far while his 0/9 (0%) performance from beyond the arc was disappointing and his 1/2 FT’s was just a case of too few attempts to justify hitting a better percentage. Rebounding was a very good positive grabbing 4.3 boards per game including around 1.2 offensive boards per game, good for a 1.86m point guard however his 0 steals and 0 blocks show a massive flaw in his game.
For Lukas his numbers are solid however his main problem for the weekend was his poor turnovers, 15 turnovers across 3 games in 24 minutes is atrocious including 7 turnovers against the event winner Joventut, strange considering that his turnover average at the Siaulia was just 1.8 per game over 4 games including a 1 game with 0 to’s in 27 minutes action.
No 9 – Tyrell Isaacs – England – 1.88m – 1995
In my opinion Tyrell didnt get his fair share at the NIJT in the final game for England vs OKK Spars he played 0 minutes in the first half yet finished with 8pts on 4/4 from the field, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 assist & 1 turnover in 15 minutes of action, how he managed to get 0 minutes in the first half is beyond me. Across the tournament as a whole however he did preform well averaging 21 minutes across the 3 games he finished with 7.3 points and 2 assists per game while collecting 1.7 rebounds and shooting a very impressive 61.1% on 2pt FG attempts, offensively Tyrell has always been known as a scorer and its where he excels even against some of the best opposition in Europe however due to his size he has to be a point guard, for England he played off the ball a lot, something he wont be able to do if he plans on making the change to an NCAA school or a move to Europe.
The strange stat from Tyrells weekend was his inability to get to the line and draw fouls, obviously as he was playing off the ball the majority of the time with both Jules Dang Akodo or Luke Nelson being the primary PG’s but Tyrell has been known for his slashing ability and his Zero free throw attempts looked strange to me.
No 8 – Augustas Suliaskas – Lietuvos Rytas – 1.80m – 1995
Augustas in my opinion had a better tournament than Rytas main PG Lukas due to a few main statistics, he averaged more points, less turnovers, slightly fewer rebounds& a much better 3pt and FT percentage in fewer minutes (21 mins per game) while averaging a very similar number of assists. His tournament totals of 6.7 points, 3 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game are solid across the board while his 25% 2pt FG is a little worrying he did manage 37.5% from beyond the arc and hit 100% of his 3 free throw attempts.
As with Lukas however turnovers were a major problem with 13 turnovers within 3 games, as a team Rytas had the joint highest number of turnovers within the whole tournament at 71 and an average of nearly 24 turnovers per game!
No 7 – Ludde Hakanson – Regal Barcelona – 1.90m – 1996
Swedish prospect Ludde was one of the top 1996 born players taking part at the NIJT, one of the primary ball handlers for 2nd place Barcelona he had solid numbers to help his team complete the group stages un-defeated, although predominantly a scoring guard Ludde did well to distribute the ball to team mates and rarely made mistakes, although his shooting percentages are well below average his low turnover levels and high assists totals more than made up for it. over the 4 games Ludde managed 6/23 (26%) 2pt FG, 3/9 (33.3%) 3pt FG and 5/6 (83.3%) FT on route to 6.5 points per game in 24 minutes per.
As a point guard Ludde’s 2.5 assists are solid considering that they have such a team offence while his 1 turnover per game is also a great stat considering some of the solid defence he was faced with as the primary ball handler, especially when playing against the long and athletic INSEP squad. Defensively his rebounding numbers of 3 per game could do with some improvement especially considering that at the NIJT he was one of the taller PG’s taking part however no a major issue considering his team mates (Milovan Draskovic, Adria Cantenys & Mario Hezonja).
No 6 – Charly Pontens – INSEP – 1.89m – 1995
Charly performed well in London following from a break out performance at the NIJT Belgrade where he averaged 14.6 points per game, while it could be argued that he is primarily a Shooting Guard his numbers in London were in contrast to those in Belrage where he had almost Zero assists per game, in London however he chalked up 3.3 assists per game while scoring at a rate of 7.7 points per game on 35.7% 2pt FG, 33.3% 3pt FG & 50% FT.
His 1.7 rebounds are nothing too impressive while his 5 steals across 3 games made him one of the tournament leaders, INSEP tends to always have solid defensive recruits with long limbs who can grab rebounds and steal, defensively Charly could really impact a team on that end of the floor.
In comparison to his earlier appearance in Belgrade Charly had a solid but not spectacular tournament his shooting ability was limited by the return of Damien Ingles who missed the final game in Belgrade allowing him to score 33 points against a solid Partizan squad. While his PG abilities were tested by some solid competition he certainly has the ability to be a solid scorer and potentially distributor at the next level.
No 5 – Jules Dang Akodo – England – 1.88m – 1996
The top 1996 PG prospect at the NIJT and arguably the top 1996 prospect across all positions Jules performed very well as one of England’s main distributors alongside Luke Nelson, his experience at such a high level showed considering he has previously played within the NIJT at the qualifying tournament in Hospitalet against the likes of Joventut & KK Split. Statistically his 9 points per game were solid after starting slowly against Barcelona on day 1 where he managed just 5 points while his final game against OKK Spars saw him go off for 17 points on 8/13 from within the arc while distributing 4 assist and grabbing 3 steals and 2 rebounds.
On a negative side his 11 turnovers jump out as a pretty poor statistic and mostly came from a terrible first game for Jules where he coughed up 6 turnovers in just under 28 minutes, while his game against OKK Spars was a positive with just 1 turnover in 26 minutes. As with Tyrell a question could be asked as to why he only played 9 minutes against INSEP despite the fact that he could have benefit the team in the close game especially with his defensive capability and his scoring efficiency.
Overall Jules showed again why he is one of the top ranked 1996 born prospects in Europe and his tournament averages of 9 points, 2.7 assists, 2 rebounds & 1 steal are all positives which hopefully can show some improvement next season while his 52.6% 2pt FG and 77.8% FT percentages are impressive in comparison to his 0% 3pt percentage. Jules displayed a clear level of understanding in London and really helped England pick up their only win of the tournament against OKK Spars and really was a leading light in that game.
No 4 – Qian Wu – China – 1.90m – 1994
Why is Qian on this list? Despite not being a European prospect and being a year older if not more than the fellow participants at the NIJT, his ranking on this list is due mainly to that, he did participate, he was one of the better point guards at the tournament and despite my opinions on weather he and the rest of the China squad should have been allowed to take part that is in the hands of the Tournament organisers.
Offensively his 14 assists per game was among the Tournament leaders, his 8.7 points were solid as was his 37.5% 2pt FG, 25% 3pt Fg & 71.4% FT percentages, they should be better considering that he was playing against younger and in most cases smaller opposition while his 4.7 assists were again amongst the tournament leaders.
Defensively his 2.3 steals per game was his key areas and his 2.7 rebounds per game showed that he can occasionally crash the boards, generally his hustle and leadership were the main thing that stood out from Qian, his ability to dive on lose balls and really lead his team, the China squad needed him and I wouldn’t like to imagine how their tournament would have finished without him.
No 3 – Aleksej Nikolic – OKK Spars – 1.88m – 1995
Another point guard/shooting guard who highlighted his passing ability at the NIJT in London, Aleksej knocked up 14 assists across 38 minutes per game in 3 games with an average of 4.7 assists per game, as a scorer he was again solid averaging 15.7 points per game and finishing among the Tournament leaders for points alongside team mate Doko Salic, averaging 50% 2pt FG, 33.3% 3pt FG & 82.6% FT. Against England he was one of the main offensive threats for Spars and was on fire in the first half keeping the game close, however he could get his shot to drop in the second and ended up with England finishing with their only win of the tournament.
As a rebounding presence Aleksej did exceptionally well averaging 7 boards per game this helped him lead all PGs in rebounds by a considerable margin, his all around game is certainly one to keep an eye on well into the future the 15.7 p.p.g 4.7 assists and 7 rebounds made it incredibly surprising that his team mate Nedim Buza made the All-Tournament squad in his place.
No 2 – Nikola Rebic – Red Star – 1.88m – 1995
23 points, 2 rebounds, 5 assists & 3 turnovers on 5/7 inside the three point line & 3/7 from beyond the arc, hitting all of his 4 free throw attempts and almost getting his team the Win against the best team taking part in the Tournament, Nikola showed up, holding Agusti Sans to 4 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists, unfortunately for him, his team mates didn’t show up in the final quarter, that game could have been theirs for the taking instead Joventut clawed out a 10 point game mostly in the 4th quarter.
If they got the win things may be a whole lot different right move, Nikola would probably be All-Tournament possibly M.V.P, if they got the win, instead, Nikola played no more games and finished with averages of 17 points per game, 5 assists, 2.5 turnovers per game and 3 rebounds per, he shot 76.9% on 2 pt FG’s, 25% 3pt FG’s & 100% FT’s in 32 minutes per game.
No 1 – Luke Nelson – England – 1.90m – 1995
Luke started slow, similar to most of the England squad, his worst game, 11 points, 5 assists and 2 turnovers against Barcelona in the first game. Flustered against INSEP he finished with 6 turnovers, 16 points and 8 assists while almost getting England the victory over a solid French squad coming alive in the second half and sending the game to overtime. His final game was another solid outing finishing with a personal tournament high of 20 points,4 assists and 5 rebounds.
Tournament averages of 15.7 points, 3.3 rebounds, a tournament leading 5.7 assists, 3.7 turnovers and 2 steals per game all helped Luke to the number 1 PG rank at the NIJT while his 38.9% 2pt FG, 30.8% 3pt FG & 87.5% FT percentages are all positives that he will continue to improve at the next level, for Luke that will come in the form of an NCAA Div 1 scholarship to UC – Irvine and a Div A U18 tournament this summer with the rest of this England squad.
A very strong performance from England at this tournament, competing against some of Europe’s top young prospects shows a solid step for the England squad this coming summer, for the last year Luke Nelson has been at the forefront of that movement and his play at the NIJT was just another reminder as to why he is one of the top young prospects in Europe.