More EuroCamp Content
-adidas EuroCamp Preview and Roster Breakdown
The day started with some stretching and light drills, giving the hundreds of members of the basketball industry assembled here a chance to re-connect and put faces to names before competitive action tipped off.
This year's roster held up well, with only a couple players who had declared for draft withdrawing after being on the original camp roster, a testament to the hard work and planning of Maurizio Gherardini and his staff. There were three defections this year: Benjamin Sene, Senegalese mystery man Issa Dieng, and German forward Paul Zipser, who will be suiting up for Bayern Munich in the BBL Finals starting tomorrow. French power forward Kevin Dinal and Latvian scoring guard Davis Geks were the two late additions to the roster. Many NBA executives in attendance mentioned how strong this camp is from a 2016 and 2017 Draft scouting perspective, as there clearly seems to be a greater emphasis on getting talented youngsters in rather than simply load up on draft-eligible players who aren't NBA prospects.
Two players had to limit their participation at this year's camp because of injuries. Gipuzkoa forward and top 1993-born prospect Daniel Diez will be doing interviews with the teams in attendance, but an injury he suffered in the last game of the regular season will hold him out of competitive action. Sevilla point guard Nikola Radicevic tweaked his hamstring recently, and while he gave it a go this morning, he will not be participating in the competitive portion of the camp either.
Day One Activities
The first day of the adidas EuroCamp included drills and team practices to go along with a total of four games featuring all four teams of campers, the French U20 National Team, the Greek U19 National Team, the adidas USA Select Team, and an all-star team of the day's top performers.
When players aren't competing, they go through a gambit of athletic tests and measurements administered by BAM, the same company that runs the testing that NBA Combine, on a separate court. We'll analyze those numbers in detail when they're released in the coming days.
Playing in a setting that separates them from the comfort zones they've settled into with their respective clubs, day one always offers an interesting frame of reference into how well a player can survive off their instincts and adapt to their surroundings.
Named MVP of the Basketball Without Borders Global Camp at NBA All-Star Weekend in February, and averaging 23 points and 10.8 rebounds at this year's adidas Next Generation Tournament, Bender is a player NBA scouts are already deeply familiar with. He's been dominant at times at the junior level, but wasn't particularly impressive when he suited up at the Eurocamp as a 16-year old last year, looking very passive for the most part.
That was not the case today, as the 6'11 forward was simply outstanding in the evening session. His body appears to have improved noticeably from February, especially his legs, which is a very promising sign for the slender young talent, and he made a major impact today. Converting a number of floaters with deft touch while flashing improved shooting mechanics from the 3-point line, creating angles to the rim off the dribble, pushing the break himself, handling the ball like a wing, and making some superb passes, Bender's offensive skill set was on full display. Though he finished with only 9 points and 3 assists, his number belie the impact he had and the number of impressive moments he recorded, some of which didn't quite work out but were still very memorable.
He also had some fantastic moments defensively recovering to close out shooters on the perimeter and in one memorable sequence, stayed in front of a much smaller player he was switched onto before swatting away the player's attempt at the rim. His lower body strength appears to be improving, but he still gave up position to Greece's stronger big men as his frame still has a ways to go.
Though this was just one game, Bender's strong play will leave a lasting impression on the scouts in attendance. There simply aren't many 7-footers gifted with the same type of offensive skill and promising defensive ability as Bender. Not turning 18 until November, Bender has gotten an early jump on building his resume for the 2016 NBA Draft where he figures to come off the board sooner rather than later.
Though the USA Select team got contributions from a number of players, it was New York's Rawle Alkins who had the strongest showing today, as he poured in 18 points in 25 minutes while going 7/8 from the floor. A powerfully built 6'4 shooting guard with terrific athleticism hailing from Christ the King Regional HS in New York, Alkins showed why he's one of the top scorers in the adidas Gauntlet where he averages 24.3 points per game for the NY Rens. Possessing terrific strength for a 17 year old, Alkins did an impressive job creating opportunities for himself by being aggressive attacking the basket. Converting a number of very athletic finishes to go along with a couple of makes from beyond the arc, his efficient scoring was a big reason the US Select Team was able to get the best of an older, more experienced French squad.
On top of his scoring, Alkins came up with a number of rebounds (5), along with a handful of assists, and did a nice job defensively. Using his quickness to pressure the ball and contesting a number of shots effectively with his leaping ability, Alkins stood out today, despite being one of the younger players on the floor.
Lacking great length and being just a fair athlete, the 6'6, 95-born swingman had a number of shots rim out, but did a little bit of everything, as he figures to be one of this team's top players at the 2015 FIBA U20 European Championship after averaging 10.5 points per game at last year's edition of the event. A bit of a unique player in that he attempts a lot of midrange jump shots but very few 3's, Bouteille will need to continue to improve his consistency as a set shooter to help prepare himself for the higher quality competition he'll face at the senior level, but his overall skill level and scoring instincts should certainly pay dividends for him in time in the European game and could give him a shot at getting drafted down the road. He didn't declare for this year's draft, but won't be automatically eligible until 2017.
Defensively, De Paula was a menace, picking up full court and coming up with some superb steals and blocks. Making things extremely difficult for the smaller Greek guards, De Paula had a nice showing despite this being his second game of the day (as well as testing and drills in the morning) and his status as one of the most well-traveled prospects in this draft, having been on the road non-stop for almost 2 months.