Roundup: Markoishvili on Fire

Roundup: Markoishvili on Fire
Nov 27, 2007, 09:00 pm
Georgian shooting guard Manuchar Markoishvili came out red hot this past week with consecutive 27-point performances in the ULEB Cup and Ukrainian Superleague, which has provided him our nomination for Player of the Week honors. Ricky Rubio deserved the honour as much as him, though, after recording a career-high 25 points and improving to third place in the efficiency ranking of the ACB League.

Player of the Week: Manuchar Markoishvili

It seems like Manuchar Markoishvili has been on the radar forever now, but he’s still an eligible player for the draft. Very distant now seems that 2003 Euroleague Final Four in Barcelona where enjoyed some meaningful minutes with Benetton Treviso. Although he might not have lived to some excessively optimistic expectations, he has grown into a very solid player on the European landscape while moving from one team to another. That’s how Manuchar has ended playing for a wealthy team like BC Kyiv, even if the Ukrainian league is not the most glamorous around.

After a solid but unspectacular season start, Markoishvili erupted this week for back-to-back 27 point performances. He first hit in the ULEB Cup, where his team cruised past Pau Orthez, and then continued the scoring effort in the Ukrainian Superleague against MBK Mykolaiv. He also had 3 rebounds in each game while adding 3 assists in the domestic competition. Although both were easy victories against rather average squads, he just needed 25 minutes in each game to get the job done. He since added another 19 points game to his resume just yesterday in the ULEB Cup at Lukoil Akademic, albeit in a loss.

2743[c]Photo: BC Kyiv[/c]

Although falling a bit short for the NBA when you combine his size, athleticism and skill repertoire, he nicely fills the bill for the Old Continent. He’s a strong guy with good size at 6-6 and solid legs that he successfully uses on the defensive end. Offensively, his jumper emerges as his best weapon. He’s a pretty effective player releasing his high-arching shots off the dribble from mid-range. Still, the most notable progression in his game lately might be his improved long-range accuracy. Not only is he more prolific from three-point range, but this last week he hit at a fantastic 9/13 clip, and so far this season he’s netting almost half of his attempts from behind the arc.

Beyond his shooting abilities, although he can consistently put the ball on the floor, you might miss some off-the-dribble creativity in his game to be considered a top-shelf shooting guard prospect. Still, if he manages to keep his shooting percentages up, and considering his solid defense, he might have a chance at hearing his name called somewhere in the second round of next year’s draft.

A Look at…


When Ricky Rubio scored 51 points in the finals of the U-16 European Championship, collecting tournament top-scoring honors in the process, you couldn’t help but wonder yourself how much of that massive performance was due to the quite average level in the tournament, both because of the obvious youth of the participants, but also because of the relatively weak competition. As obvious as his amazing talent and potential was, Rubio basically scored layups at will against inexperienced, underdeveloped, usually undersized and often unathletic kids.

It’s been only 15 months since that memorable game, since that unforgettable championship. That’s not even a year and a half.


When he drives to the basket now, Rubio can eventually face a 7-1 massive center that statistically tyrannizes the strongest domestic league in Europe and answers by the name of Marc Gasol. No big deal for Ricky. He has learned to shoot the ball, even increasingly better in off-the-dribble mode, has adjusted his slashing game in order to sneak between any kind of defense, and has figured out how to finish around the basket against serious opposition. This weekend, he came up with 25 points, 2 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals against Gasol’s Akasvayu Girona, to lead his team to another victory that secures Joventut another week leading the ACB League.

Yes, you could say he’s a leader on the leading team, which makes him pretty much a leader in the whole league. And actually, besides being a leader on the floor by taking decisions and stepping up when things get ugly, his stats tell a similar story. At the tender age of 17, he ranks third in efficiency ranking in the ACB (only behind, precisely, Marc Gasol and his teammate Rudy Fernández) despite playing only 25 minutes per game. Of course that feat at that age is something completely unheard of in the competition, and nobody has ever come close. In the end, every stage of Rubio’s career is so far a piece of basketball history.


Rafael Hettsheimeir is a Brazilian big born in 1986 who has been on the scouting radar for several years now. Actually, he took part in the 2006 Nike Hoop Summit and made his debut on the senior National team very early in his career. However, he has always been the typical guy who misses a little something to become an intriguing prospect (this time, skill repertoire) but who you always keep an eye on just in case he blossoms and becomes a legit NBA prospect.

Playing this season in the competitive LEB league (Spanish second division) with a strong team such as Plus Pujol Lleida, Rafael is becoming an increasingly useful player in Europe. This weekend, he had 21 points and 6 rebounds in barely 26 minutes coming off the bench, to help his team clinch a valuable road victory over Fundacio He’s averaging 10.8 points and 5.2 rebounds in less than 23 minutes per game so far in this campaign.

However, as he becomes more productive at this level, his ceiling as a player seems to be growing thicker, and not precisely at a very high point. Standing 6-9, looking really strong, Rafael has evolved into a very inside-oriented player, virtually a center in a power-forward’s body. He has gained a lot of weight lately, which is hurting his quickness, leaping ability and explosiveness. While he used to be considered a good athlete, he falls into the category of just decent at this moment.

This physical evolution is driving Rafael even closer to the basket, making him a pure center. His first offensive option is usually the low post. He uses his big body pretty well, and his first objective is usually to bang with his match-up without the ball, pushing him as close as possible to the hoop, so he can receive and just turn around to leave the ball on the glass. If he’s not close enough to the basket by the time he gets the ball, he’s not nearly as effective, usually opting for turnaround jumpers or just to pass the ball, which he does nicely. Rafael doesn’t enjoy great footwork, just some basic stuff, and neither is he skilled releasing jump-hooks.

Rafael is basically an off-the-ball player. You won’t see him putting the ball on the floor to attack his opponent. Instead, he looks for open shots near the basket, often finding space from the baseline when a teammate slashes, while being able to finish with powerful dunks whenever he receives under the rim. He’s actually quite aggressive attacking the rim, and he won’t hesitate to try a dunk, even against opposition if he thinks it’s reasonably possible. He’s also pretty active in pick-and-roll plays as the screener, although he’s not the most effective guy in these situations. Being an inconsistent spot-up shooter, he enjoys range out to the three-point line, but so far has failed to turn his stroke into any serious scoring weapon.

An OK defender, you won’t see Rafael being outmuscled around the basket. However, he can eventually get beat by skilled post players who go strong inside and execute moves that Rafael, focused on not being banged, doesn’t expect, and doesn’t contest. He’s a solid defender on pick and rolls, nicely flashing out to stop the dribbler, but he’s not always equally effective on defensive rotations, sometimes a bit shy when it comes to stepping into the way of an opposing slasher. Besides, he’s not particularly intimidating, given his limited size and leaping ability. A decent rebounder, he takes advantage of his body to gain position, although he sometimes doesn’t properly box-out.

Being automatically eligible this season, there isn’t really much justification to rationalize spending a draft pick on Hettsheimeir. Unless he can make an impression in the NBA pre-draft camp or the EuroCamp in Treviso (showing up in better shape would help), his options are close to none.

State of the Prospect: Who’s Hot

Elmedin Kikanovic had a breakout week showing up with strong games for Red Star both in the ULEB Cup and Adriatic League. With 15 points against Dynamo Moscow and another 18 against Geoplin Slovan, he showcased his ability to put the ball in the net. Standing 6-11 and enjoying long arms, the 1988-born Kikanovic is a physically underdeveloped inside player, who looks really skinny and indeed suffers against physical play, particularly on the defensive end. However, he’s guy who doesn’t back off contact, and tries to stay aggressive. It’s particularly evident on the offensive end, where he shows excellent ability to finish continuations and anything that falls in his lap near the basket, not hesitating to throw himself against the rival to get closer to the basket, and still being able to convert the two points despite the contact. He also seems pretty skilled with his right-handed jumphook, and there’s some promise in his mid-range stroke. On the other hand, he’s still not much of a rebounder, usually getting outmuscled, but he could have some decent potential here down the road, as he nicely throws both arms up in the air and might end up with good hands once they get stronger, although he needs to show more activity hitting the glass.

Ivan Paunic enjoyed possibly his best game this season with a 23-point performance in the Adriatic League against Zadar, superbly rounded out with 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 steals. Still, he couldn’t avoid the loss for Vojvodina. An aggressive and incisive off guard, Paunic will need to gain consistency with his long-range stroke in order to become more of a regular scorer.

Peja Samardziski had a bittersweet week. Although he emerged as a very solid presence in FMP’s inside game, his team lost both games in the ULEB Cup and Adriatic League. The Macedonian center had 12 points, 9 rebounds and 3 assists against Besiktas, and improved to 20 points, 9 rebounds and 4 blocks against Cibona. Samardziski has made some nice strides this season, and averages a combined 13.1 points and 8 rebounds in 24 minutes of playing time.

Danilo Gallinari seems to have provided real energy to Armani Jeans Milano since his return, and now they are starting to win games with some regularity (also thanks to some roster and coaching changes). Danilo was solid in the Euroleague, playing almost the entire game in a valuable road win against Aris to finish with 10 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists and 4 steals. However, it was in the domestic league where he blossomed for 21 points, 8 rebounds and 2 steals to lead his team, again on the road, over Snaidero Udine.

Luca Vitali led his team Premiata Montegranaro to another victory with 22 points and 3 steals. The versatile albeit unathletic Italian guard continues improving steadily, becoming a very important piece in a squad comfortably placed in the playoff area of the Italian Lega ladder.

State of the Prospect: Who’s Not

Mantas Kalnietis had a promising season start, but seems to be fading lately. He hasn’t even hit the court in the last two Euroleague games, while his production in the Lithuanian and Baltic Leagues is getting smaller (3 points and 2.2 assists in almost 19 minutes per game in the last 5). A positive sign is that he’s trying to play under control, but in the end it means giving up most of the creative game he could show at this point. Therefore, he often limits himself to taking the ball up-court, passing the ball to a wing, and kissing the offense goodbye. Whenever he tries to produce off the dribble, he ends up with mixed results, sometimes with some really nice assists, but too often with a bad pass. His perimeter stroke is still a work in progress, although he might be showing some signs of improvement (he combines for a 36% accuracy from behind the arc on the season). At least, he’s not a liability on defense, where he takes advantage of his superb physical-athletic profile.

Kalnietis showed very intriguing stuff in the last two editions of the Treviso Camp, while he earned MVP honors in the ULEB Summer League in Jesolo a few months ago. But he’s a type of player that excels in the open court, in non-organized basketball with plenty of transition play, but who struggles so far when it comes to executing playmaking duties in well-structured offenses at high-level settings, like the Euroleague, for example. In the end, he’s a long-term point-guard prospect.

Rounding Up…

Bozhidar Avramov, a 1990-born point guard from Bulgaria featured here on DraftExpress during the U-18 European Championships, played his first meaningful minutes at a high European level this past week. Signed by the Spanish team Pamesa Valencia, he’s provisionally replacing the injured Vule Avdalovic on the roster. It happened in the ULEB Cup game against Anwil Wloclawek, an easy victory for the Spanish squad that allowed the Avramov to get some burn. While seeming to belong in terms of his physical and athletic profile (he’s a well-built 6-5 playmaker with solid athleticism), he looked pretty lost on the court, unable to get anything done for the team, unable to find his teammates with any consistency, and much too tentative. However, he came up with a couple of highlight plays, both in slashing situations. The first was an and-one layup that showcased nice toughness; the second one, a rather spectacular dunk. He’s a player to follow, and hopefully we’ll have the chance to watch him extensively in the L’Hospitalet Tournament early in January.

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