MARKO ARAPOVIC (6’9, C, 1996, CROATIA)
Marko is a son of former Croatian star Franjo Arapovic, and the kid does have somewhat high-quality basketball basics. Alongside Hezonja, Arapovic is a key figure in this Croatian squad, that seems to be the only possible problem for the US team on its way to defend the title. Marko is one year younger than the majority of the players here in Kaunas, but still looks pretty good in the post thanks to variety of moves and a nice upper-body. Arapovic also catches an eye with his ability to play facing the basket and mid-range shooting. He’s not a great rebounder, but with his nice understanding of the game it’s likely to change soon.
GABRIEL DECK (6’8, PF, 1995, ARGENTINA)
Deck is well on the path to become Luis Scola’s successor at the PF position in the Argentina senior team. Gabriel has a great basketball IQ and natural flow to his game. A natural righty he can finish at the rim with both hands. But his best skills lie outside of the paint where he appears to be a great shooter both off the dribble and in catch-and-shoot situations. His shooting mechanics are not ideal though as he doesn’t jump high enough. Deck is a top scorer of the event after the group stage. He’s a little bit overweight for now, but moves pretty well for his size. Deck also likes to look for his partners’ cuts into the paint.
ILIMANE DIOP (6’10, C, 1995, SPAIN)
Diop is yet another African-born Spaniard, who is getting on the radar. Diop obtained his European citizenship a couple of years ago and was a star of last year’s FIBA U16 European Championships. The center is well –packed, has a great wingspan and quick legs, allowing him to run the court very well. He’s not a great post-up player, but with his size can finish at the rim quite easily. He’s not shy of shooting from mid-range and does it with a decent percent. On defense, Diop is focused on blocking shots and is averaging almost 3 a game at this tournament.
DANTE EXUM (6’4, SG, 1995, AUSTRALIA)
Exum is one of the key players in the as-good-as-always Australian team. Exum is an athletic shooting guard, likes to shoot off the dribble and get to the rim. He’s less than an average 3pt-shooter. His defensive prowess is something to be developed. But Exum is already an exciting player to watch and it’s very interesting to look forward to his development.
MARIO HEZONJA (6’7, SF, 1995, CROATIA)
One of the top ranked players at the tournament, Hezonja came up to his expectations and led Croatia to 5 wins in 5 games and the top place finish in Group B. Despite missing over 6 months with mononucleosis and a serious knee injury, “Super Mario” proved himself as a big talent. Hezonja is a very strong player, who does a great job penetrating. The Croatian rarely passes it when close to the rim, but prefers to finish in contact. He can shoot from different range, but he’s particularly good when doing it from behind the arc. He has a great court vision and dishes some fancy passes on occasions, enjoying involving his partners. However, his decision making is something to be worked on. Herzonja’s real weakness is at the other end of the court though. He doesn’t feel like giving an effort on defense, often loses his man and is not committed to run when his team loses the ball.
JAHLIL OKAFOR (6’11, C, 1995, USA)
It’s really difficult to point out one particular star of this US team which is head and shoulders above all the opponents here in terms of athleticism and speed. But, perhaps, Okafor is the man who stands out. He’s a very strong center with great legs and has a huge arsenal under the basket as he attempts to dunk pretty much everything. The American is very good rebounder and likes to start his side’s fast-breaks. On defensive end, Okafor is much more athletic than the rest of the centers here, therefore it’s quite easy for him to guard them.
EDVINAS SESKUS (6’4, SG, 1995, LITHUANIA)
The hosts are already out of the medal race here because of the surprising lack of talent on this team. Perhaps, the only man who stands out in this roster is its captain Seskus. The Lietuvos Rytas defender has a nice frame and likes to go to the rim. He’s not a greedy player and likes to involve his partner when he gets the ball. Defensively Seskus can guard both the SG and SF at this level of competition, but doesn’t seem to be a great defender.
MARIAL SHAYOK (6’5, SG, 1995, CANADA)
Shayok is one of the top scorers at the event and a key player in Canada’s team. He’s a very strong and athletic player, who relies on his physical presence. He likes to penetrate, but isn’t exactly a great finisher. He is a decent mid-range shooter, but prefers to pass a 3-point shot opportunity. Shayok also gambles a lot on the defensive end.
QI ZHOU (6’11, C, 1996, СHINA)
A very long Chinese center, who is a younger than the majority of players here. Qi is a leader of the Chinese team, the biggest surprise of this tournament – they’ve recorded 3 wins in 5 games and will face Spain in the quarter-final on Friday. Qi is a great shot-blocker, who can also be useful on the offensive end. He’s limited in the post, but is capable of making mid-range shots.