It’s been a busy time of the year from a scouting standpoint as we helped host the National Prep School Invitational in Providence from February 2-5 and covered the first two ANGT stages in Munich and in Patras, Greece. We were still able to find time to sit down and have a chat with one of the next promising Finnish recruits, Olavi Suutela.
The 6-foot-9 versatile player of Helsinki Basketball Academy helped his U16 national team of Finland finish second at the U16 FIBA European Championship Division B in Sofia, Bulgaria last summer, earning them a promotion to Division A next year. He averaged a double-double – 16.8 ppg and 10.1 rpg and added 1.3 blocks per game. There he showed his solid understanding of the game, competitive spirit on both ends and the great deal of energy he plays with. Suutela ran the floor exceptionally well, showing his ability to score easy points in transition outrunning his opponents. His motor and energy could not be doubted.
In January he was selected to play on the NBA Global Academy team at the friendly tournament that took place in France during the week of the NBA Paris Game. During the games the 2006-born Suutela demonstrated versatility and creativity in his game, being able to shoot long 2’s and 3’s. That makes him even more intriguing 2025 recruit to follow in the upcoming ANGT in Zadar and FIBA summer events.
The Finnish recruit shared with us his thoughts on his expectations on the upcoming ANGT in Zadar, his long-term goals, players he likes studying, areas for improvement and a lot more. Check out the interview below:
1. Hello Olavi! Hope you and your family are doing well. Can you tell us more about how you staredt playing basketball? How did Helsinki Basketball Academy find you?
I started playing basketball at 6 years old. A family friend showed me some moves in our backyard. After that I also wanted to learn to dribble between my legs. I have always played for a club in Helsinki, Helsinki YMCA and also been on the Finnish junior national teams. I played in last year’s ANGT in Patras with Helsinki Basketball Academy. During the summer coach Hanno Mottola asked me to play for them when I started high school this season.
2. Recently you’ve been one of the sensations on the NBA Global Academy team at the friendly tournament that took place in France during the week of the NBA Paris Game. Tell us more about that experience and your impressions about the level of the event/teams there. What was your mentality coming into the event and what was the reason for you to have such a successful showing?
Playing with the NBA Academy in Paris was great, everyone played hard and the competitiveness of the games was high. Playing with and against talented players from all over the world was a valuable experience. I think I performed well as I was able to play with my own style and pace in a new environment. Also, it helps that I was surrounded with other great players!
3. What does it mean to a young Finnish prospect to learn the fundamentals of the game, playing for Helsinki Basketball Academy, a place where so many legendary domestic players started their careers from?
HBA is a great place to develop. I can say I’m in the best hands possible with the coaching, facilities and team. Every week we have high intensity team practices and individual training. We also play in the Finnish men’s first division A.
4. Thanks to your breakout performance at the 2022 U16 FIBA European Championship Division 2 in Bulgaria and your solid showing in the NBA Academy Paris Tour 2023, your recruiting process is expected to see plenty of offers from D1 schools. What do you think you can bring up to the table for a high-major program and what style of basketball do you think fits you most?
I would say I’m a versatile player and can play for different kinds of teams. I think I’d fit in a team that plays aggressive and fast paced basketball the best. I’m good at communicating on both ends of the floor, I can make reads fast and have a broad inside game. My play style is unselfish and I’m able to help teammates on the floor and on the bench.
5. What are you specifically looking for when recruited by colleges? Do you have any school preferences?
I don’t really have any specific things I’m looking for in schools yet. I hope to find a program that suits me well and can help me develop more. I haven’t really put that much thinking to college basketball as I still have a while in high school.
6. What are your expectations and goals for the upcoming ANGT event in Zadar, Croatia and the summer FIBA events? Which aspect/s of your game will you be looking to improve the most in the summer?
I know in both the ANGT and FIBA events you get to compete against the best players in Europe. During the summer I especially want to improve my outside game and perimeter defense. I’m looking forward to playing more as a guard and against guards while still getting close to the basket and getting easy buckets down low.
7. What are your long-term goals, where do you envision yourself playing in 5 years?
8. Are there any players in Europe and in the NBA you like studying/watching and why?
Right now, I enjoy watching Jokic, Embiid and Markkanen a lot. I also watch a lot of Kevin Garnett and Hakeem Olajuwon.
9. What is your basketball schedule in a normal day?
Usually, we have a longer team practice and weightlifting in the morning before school. Then after school we do some individual skills training and shoot a lot. Then I have the evening free for homework and recovery.
10. What do you prefer doing in your spare time? Do you have any hobbies?
In my free time I like listening to music and watching basketball. I try to rest as much as I can.
Thanks for your time Olavi! We hope you have a successful and healthy end of the season!