Nike International Junior Tournament Kaunas: Elite Prospects

Nike International Junior Tournament Kaunas: Elite Prospects
Feb 14, 2012, 03:47 pm
A recap of the top prospects from the Nike International Junior Tournament in Kaunas, Lithuania.

Rasmus Larsen, 7-0, Center, Vaerlose BBK, Denmark, 1994

Jonathan Givony

Rasmus Larsen only played 27 total minutes at this tournament due to a groin injury that has reportedly been plaguing him for a few months now, but he nevertheless had no problem showing off his significant talent level.

Having added around 20 pounds of bulk to his frame since the last time we saw him at the adidas EuroCamp in Treviso last July, Larsen simply looks like a different prospect now. His confidence and ability to make his presence felt on both ends of the floor have skyrocketed, allowing him to emerge as one of the most talented young big men we've seen this year on either side of the ocean.

Standing around 7-feet tall, with a solid wingspan and a terrific frame, Larsen looks the part of a NBA big man prospect and then some. His upper body is extremely well developed in particular, while his lower body is solid. He's very mobile for a player his size, running the floor well, being capable of playing above the rim, and looking extremely coordinated.

Offensively, Larsen possesses a versatile skill-set, appearing capable of impacting the game in every way you'd want a big man to. He can establish solid position in the paint and has the footwork and ball-handling skills needed to create shots for himself, usually opting to finish with a hook shot or turnaround jumper. On the perimeter, he's a very proficient ball-handler, able to put the ball down and attack his matchup, and even looking capable of passing on the move with either hand. His jump-shot looks excellent, both with his feet set or off the dribble, and he shows range out to the 3-point line. He uses shot-fakes well, makes his free throws and generally seems to have a very good feel for the game to go along with his excellent fundamentals, a testament to the coaching staff that has worked with him.

Defensively, Larsen's size, length and mobility make him a huge presence inside the paint, particularly at this level of competition, where he's simply a man amongst boys. He shows good timing as a shot-blocker, and can even step outside and hedge screens out on the perimeter, not looking out of place when forced to step out of the paint like many big men often do.

There aren't that many question marks about Larsen's physical attributes or skill-level at the moment, but some concerns do exist about his approach to the game. For one, he looks far more interested in playing out on the perimeter at the moment, which would be a shame if that continued at the senior level considering how much potential he has as an interior scorer. Pretty much every time he sets a screen, he prefers to pop outside for a jumper rather than roll into the paint and receive the ball where he could attempt a much higher percentage shot.

Defensively, there are some question marks about his toughness, as he doesn't look exceptionally active crashing the glass and seems to avoid contact at times. Part of this might have to do with his injury, but he was noticeably missing on rotations inside the paint and didn't look very physical setting screens on the other end of the floor. Like most players from Scandinavia, he'll have to overcome the perception that he doesn't play with enough emotion on the floor.

Nevertheless, Larsen is likely to be considered one of, if not the, top prospect in the 1994 international class when it's all said and done, as players with his combination of size, mobility, smarts and skills are difficult to come by. Even if at one point Larsen considered taking the NCAA route, it appears that now he's leaning more towards signing somewhere in Europe next season where he can continue to develop against higher level competition than he's currently able to find playing in Denmark.

Tomas Dimsa, 6-4, Shooting Guard, Zalgiris, Lithuania, 1994

Jonathan Givony

Scoring nearly a point per-minute over four games and converting 79% of his attempts inside the arc, it's safe to say that this was a successful showing for Lithuanian wing prospect Tomas Dimsa, who was also named the tournament's MVP.

Slightly undersized for a shooting guard at 6-4, with a fairly narrow frame, Dimsa doesn't look like much on first glance, but quickly changes that perception as soon as he steps out on the court. He's simply an exceptional athlete for a European prospect, quick in the open floor, bouncy around the basket, and regularly playing above the rim in highlight reel fashion.

Dimsa gets most of his production at the moment in transition and cutting off the ball for explosive finishes. He's a developing shot-creator who can beat his man off the dribble with an excellent first step, being mostly a straight line dribbler who struggles at times with changing directions with the ball. Due to his skinny frame, he has some issues finishing through contact, but is such a great leaper that that's rarely an issue at this level of competition. Dimsa has a good feel for the game and appears to be a very solid passer as well, rarely forcing the issue and making some impressive drive and dish plays.

As a shooter, he can get streaky but appears to have good potential, making a handful of jumpers over the course of this tournament, and even showing some ability to create separation in the mid-range area off the dribble.

Defensively, Dimsa is highly competitive, using his lateral quickness to put good pressure on the ball and regularly making plays getting in the passing lanes. He had some impressive moments skying through the air for above the rim rebounds, but will likely need to continue to add strength to his frame as he gets older to handle the physicality of European basketball.

One of the older prospects in attendance, already having turned 18 in January, Dimsa produced accordingly relative to this talent level. He appears to have plenty of room for growth in various parts of his game, and is surely a prospect scouts will want to keep track of down the road due to his supreme athletic tools.

Khadeem Lattin, 6-9, PF/C, Canarias Basketball Academy, USA 1995

Jonathan Givony

Surely one of the most interesting stories at this event, Khadeem Lattin is a rare prospect who elected to take the diametric opposite route most players here are looking to—leaving the US for Europe at the tender age of 16. Lattin and his support group were reportedly not happy with the pace of his development in Texas and the grassroots world of summer basketball and opted to spend his final two and a half years of high school at Canarias Basketball Academy.

Located in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands off the coast of Morocco, but officially a part of the territory of Spain, the CBA is a basketball academy run by an American coach named Rob Orellana. The academy recruits prospects around Europe who are interested in playing NCAA basketball, helping them get academically eligible for college and giving them exposure through tournaments such as this.

Khadeem is the grandson of Dave Lattin, the starting center of the famed Texas Western Miners team (featured in the movie “Glory Road”) that broke down racial barriers as the first all-black starting five in NCAA history.

Standing around 6-9 with big hands, very long arms, and a frame that will likely fill out nicely in time, most of the intrigue surrounding Lattin revolves around his strong physical profile. He is a solid athlete who can make his presence felt in the paint on both ends of the floor, even if he lacks significant polish at this stage.

Offensively, Lattin is fairly limited, getting most of his production at this tournament by running the floor, crashing the offensive glass, and finishing any plays his guards were able to create for him around the basket. Not very aggressive in this setting with the ball in his hands, his post moves, jump shot, and overall ball skills appear to be unpolished. He scored 17 points total in his four games here, playing only 15 minutes on average, still seemingly adjusting to the very different style of play of European basketball and even looking a bit passive at times.

Defensively is where Lattin is able to make more of an impact at the moment. Although his intensity level was up and down at this tournament, he's capable of blocking shots, getting deflections and coming up with some extremely impressive rebounds when he's fully dialed in. His quick feet and excellent length allow him to step out occasionally to the perimeter, even though he still has a long ways to go in terms of gaining experience and improving his instincts and overall feel for the game.

A year younger than most of the prospects here—not turning 17 until this April—Lattin is clearly still in a very early stage of his development both physically and skill-wise. He has some nice tools to work with, and is surely a prospect worth keeping track of in the future, especially if he grows another inch or two.

Marius Grigonis, 6-6, SG/SF, Zalgiris, Lithuania, 1994

Jonathan Givony

Marius Grigonis did a solid job showing his all-around game at this tournament, averaging a terrific 13 points (59% 2P, 36% 3P), 7 assists and 6 rebounds in just 23 minutes per-contest.

A 6-6 small forward with a versatile game, Grigonis has good size for the wing to go along with a solid frame and athleticism. A very confident, aggressive offensive player, he is extremely decisive putting the ball on the floor. Showing solid ball-handling skills, body control and footwork, he got to the free throw line at an excellent rate at this tournament. Grigonis is a very adept passer on the move, doing a nice job keeping his head up and finding teammates diving to the rim for easy finishes or spotting up on the wing for open shots.

He's not quite as prolific of a shooter as he is a slasher, but is able to make jumpers both spotting up or off the dribble, sinking 4 of the 11 3-pointers he took here.

On the other end, Grigonis plays with a solid intensity level defensively (and in general), looking most adept at guarding the small forward position at the moment. He crashes the glass and is quick to ignite the fast break.

While it's difficult not to be impressed by the way Grigonis was able to dominate the (fairly weak) competition he faced on his home court in Kaunas, there are some question marks still about how that might translate to the senior level. He's not an exceptional athlete for one, and will surely need to adjust to playing off the ball more than he does for this team. His body language was questionable at times too, particularly with the referees and his teammates, which may just be a sign of immaturity.

Grigonis' upside might not be off the charts as far as the NBA is concerned, but he looks like a potentially useful player for the team that is developing him, Zalgiris Kaunas. We'll have to see how he looks over the next few years as the competition he's facing stiffens.

Clint Capela, 6-9, Power Forward, Chalon, Switzerland, 1994

Jonathan Givony

Regularly putting up huge numbers at the U-16 and U-18 Division B European Championships representing his home country of Switzerland, Clint Capela (or Clint NDumba-Capela) had a decent amount of intrigue leading up to this event. His performance here was ultimately fairly disappointing, but he did show that he has the tools to develop into a solid prospect down the road.

Capela's potential stems mostly from his phenomenal physical tools. Standing somewhere around 6-8 or 6-9, he has an incredible body for a player his age, to go along with a huge wingspan. He's an exceptional athlete on top of that, running the floor very well (when motivated) and being very explosive around the basket.

Offensively, Capela struggled to make a consistent impact at this tournament, only converting 44% of his field goal attempts and a paltry 33% of his free throws. He doesn't have the footwork to score with his back to the basket, and is far too limited on the perimeter to do anything consistent facing the rim either.

Capela's ball-handling skills are raw and his perimeter shooting ability non-existent at the moment, even air-balling a free throw at one point. Occasionally he would show the ability to beat his man from the high post off a single dribble with a quick and very long first step, but he wasn't always able to finish this moves. His basketball IQ appears to be limited, and he had trouble making simple catches at this event due to his poor hands. As the tournament wore on, he grew increasingly frustrated with his poor play, and began to display poor body language around his teammates and coaches.

Defensively, Capela has the physical tools to guard any of the opposing frontcourt positions and be an absolute dominant rebounder, but he rarely showed an inclination to give his best effort, especially when things weren't going his way on the other end of the floor. He tends to lose his focus and jog the floor lackadaisically in these moments, making some very careless mistakes.

Despite the very negative tone of this report, it's clear that Capela can easily turn things around for himself if he finds the willingness to do so. Significantly changing his approach to the game will make a big difference, as will working on his skill-level and improving his knowledge of the game. Players with his physical tools are extremely difficult to come by, so it's not out a stretch to say that he still has time to develop.

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