Tom Digbeu, 6-4 SG/SF, F.C. Barcelona, 2001
Statistics: 16.3 ppg, 57,1% FG, 2.8 rpg, 3.8 apg
Tom Digbeu, the son of former ACB and LNB standout Alain Digbeu, has played at a better level here in Hospitalet than he did in the Valencia ANGT a couple of weeks ago. An unfortunate injury kept him out of the second half of the semifinal against Joventut, but Digbeu still had a solid tournament, averaging 16.3 points per game on 57.1% shooting from the field and performing well in the key first round loss against eventual champions Gran Canaria, scoring 20 points, grabbing 5 rebounds and dishing out 9 assists in a game that was quite even till the final minutes.
Standing 6’4 with a 6’6.5 wingspan, Digbeu’s main draw is his mix of raw athleticism and playmaking ability. Digbeu has a great vertical jump, and the combination of that with his long wingspan gifted us a few highlight-reel dunks and blocks during the Hospitalet tournament. Despite having a good frame that should fill out in time, Digbeu remains quite thin right now. He gets dislodged easily at this point in time, and was somewhat fearful of attacking the rim against bigger opponents, shying away from attacking Gran Canaria’s Khalifa Ababacar on occasion.
Tagged as an iffy shooter in the pass, Digbeu seems to be making solid strides in that area. He shot 33.3% from 3 in Hospitalet, but perhaps more importantly, he displays solid shooting mechanics both from deep and from the midrange, with a very repeatable motion and enough confidence to pull the trigger when left open. He gets good rise on his jumper too, allowing him to elevate easily for pull-up jumpers if the defense gives him space to neutralise the threat of his jumpshot.
In Hospitalet, Digbeu was asked to be the primary generator for a Barça team that had no other guards able to create shots for others. Digbeu responded with mixed results: on the one hand, he is able to create good shots for himself with his pull-up jumper and his finishes in the lane; on the other hand, he had 9 turnovers in the tough game against Gran Canaria, and couldn’t generate offense consistently against a better defensive team.
Overall, Digbeu continues his steady progression. He has already played a few minutes for Barça’s B side in LEB Gold, the Spanish second division. Despite his lack of strength, his game is ready for that level and we should probably see him making his debut for the first team at some point soon if Barça decides to switch up their youth team policy to more player-friendly tendencies.
Miguel Serrano, 6-8 F, C.B. Gran Canaria, 2001
Statistics: 9.4 ppg, 39.1% FG, 2.4 rpg, 1.8 apg
Gran Canaria’s sleeper wing Miguel Serrano continued with his all-around progression with a very solid Hospitalet tournament.
Serrano’s intrigue revolves around the combination of his outstanding physical tools and his willingness to play winning basketball. Showing excellent wing size at 6’8, with solid length, good lateral quickness and an excellent vertical jump, Serrano consistently put his physical tools to good use in Hospitalet. He left us a few highlight reel dunks in transition, using his speed to leak out after steals for impressive finishes.
Very importantly for his overall progression, Serrano was able to use his physical tools to make a very big impact defensively. Beyond his ability to notch blocks and steals, he displayed the ability to effectively defend both big men —he was essentially Gran Canaria’s backup 5, guarding the opposing team’s C when Khalifa Ababacar was on the bench— and perimeter threats. He was able to front post players to prevent them from making easy catches and then use his strength, length and vertical jump to play solid post defense despite giving up a few inches and pounds in the match-ups. On the perimeter, Serrano showed the ability to get in a stance and displayed good lateral speed staying in front of smaller players. Continuing to develop this is key for his development; obviously, professional big men are a lot bigger and stronger than those in Hospitalet, and perimeter threats are quicker and craftier too, so Serrano will need to continue working in order to be able to have a similar effect at the next level.
On offense, Serrano is mostly limited to a finishing role at this point. His athleticism makes him a good finisher in transition and cuts, but he has not shown the ability to generate any sort of offense for himself so far. He needs to continue to improve his decision-making, as he seems lost on offense both on and off the ball in the half court. He did, however, show solid improvements in his shooting in Hospitalet — a key aspect for him going forward. He gets excellent rise on his jumpshot, showed a very repeatable motion and was confident enough to let them fly even after consecutive misses in the initial part of the tournament. His shooting kickstarted Gran Canaria’s 23-0 run in the final against Joventut, with two back-to-back corner 3s at the start of the quarter that forced la Penya to call a quick timeout. Overall in Hospitalet, he shot 8/14 from deep despite a few initial misses — not a conclusive figure given the small sample size, but a good indicator nonetheless.
Looking forward, Serrano is already getting consistent minutes for Gran Canaria’s B side in EBA (Spanish fourth division), allowing him to continue his progression playing against grown men. He will need to continue improving on both his strengths, becoming a better shooter and being able to impact the game on defense consistently against more athletic players, and his weaknesses, with special emphasis on his decision-making and ball-handling skills in order to become a viable offensive generator at the next level. Given the dearth of wings both in Spain and in Europe, Serrano will have opportunities to play at any level if he continues working hard and doing all the little things that contribute to winning basketball.
Zsombor Maronka, 6-7 F, Divina Seguros Joventut, 2002
Statistics: 18.2 ppg, 44.8% FG, 3.6 rpg, 1.2 apg
Hospitalet was essentially the coming-out party for Joventut’s Hungarian 2002 wing Zsombor Maronka. Listed at 6’7 but looking closer to 6’8 in person, Maronka was one of the most impactful players on the floor despite his limited strength and somewhat limited game at this stage of his development.
The intrigue with Maronka essentially revolves around his combination of size and shooting ability. Standing 6’8, with a seemingly above average wingspan and good mobility, Maronka looks to have good physical tools for a player of his profile at the highest level. He is quite skinny at this point in time, but he’s only 16 years old and has plenty of time to put on more strength and weight, and has a frame that should allow him to do so in the future.
As a shooter, Maronka proved to be the single biggest threat at Hospitalet. Despite a slow start, only attempting 8 shots from deep in his first two games combined, Maronka then took off, shooting 7/11 against CB Hospitalet in a do-or-die game, then 3/5 in the semi-final against FC Barcelona Lassa and 6/11 in the final against Gran Canaria for a staggering total of 20 of 35 from beyond the line for the whole tournament. Maronka was deadly with his feet set, shooting with identical mechanics every time and with a quick and high release point — all the characteristics of a knockdown shooter. He was noticeably more inconsistent shooting off the dribble, where his mechanics looked a bit shakier, but he has plenty of time to keep working on this.
In addition, Maronka appeared to have some intriguing ball-handling potential, showing very occasional flashes of dribbling and passing ability in transition and attacking closeouts. Although this is far from a consistent weapon in his arsenal, Maronka’s ability to do this against the tough competition of Barça and Gran Canaria’s junior teams definitely bodes well for his development.
Otherwise, Maronka was a fairly limited offensive player who barely attempted much beyond shooting from deep and occasionally attacking closeouts. He seemed to lack the ball-handling, strength or creativity to attack his man off the dribble, instead deferring to his teammates in that arena. Defensively, despite his size and length, Maronka did not particularly impact the game, and his current lack of strength made it difficult for him to defend the toughest assignments in Hospitalet.
Dorde Pazin, 6-5 F, Partizan Belgrado, 2001
Statistics: 18 ppg, 35.7% FG, 3 rpg, 2 apg
Partizan’s biggest star Dorde Pazin had a good showing in Hospitalet. A 2001 prospect, Pazin looked every bit one of the older players in the tournament with his blend of physical maturity and savvy. He has average size for a wing at 6’6, with a decent frame that is already mature enough for him to see minutes at a higher level. He is also an intelligent player that understands how to use his body and his skillset to get to his spots on offense, and has a good touch to make tough shots once he’s there. And speaking of shooting — that’s what really stood out for Pazin. The Serbian wing was essentially a knockdown shooter during the whole weekend. He seemed deadly with his feet set (although we at Spanishoops do not have access to stats that would validate this opinion), and looked fairly able to generate and make off the dribble looks as well.
Although Partizan didn’t fare all that well in Hospitalet as a whole, it’s safe to say that Pazin looked like a solid European basketball prospect, even if with his athletic profile —decent size, average athleticism— he will likely need to keep making improvements in other parts of his game in order to reach the absolute highest levels.
Luka Tarlac, 6-7 F, Partizan Belgrado, 2002
Statistics: 7.3 ppg, 56.3% FG, 3 rpg, 1.5 apg
Son of former European standout Dragan Tarlac, 6’4 Luka Tarlac was a familiar name for scouts already and showed enough flashes to keep them intrigued during the weekend. Tarlac looks considerably less physically formed than other teammates of his, which makes sense considering he is a 2002 born player who still has another year and a half of junior eligibility left. Despite playing at the wing here, he is probably a guard at the higher levels of basketball, and he does have good size and length for those positions at 6’4 and with a decent wingspan. He also shows the basis for an intriguing skillset, with occasional off-the-dribble moves, a couple of interesting finishes and some good flashes of shooting — although at this point he did not look consistent enough in any of those fronts to actually lead Partizan’s junior side.
Despite not being one of his team’s main generators, having Lazar Stefanovic and Dorde Pazin ahead of him in the pecking order, Luka Tarlac brought energy, skill and shot-making off the bench for a Partizan team that struggled to win games against the top teams in Hospitalet. He is in a good spot to continue his development at Partizan, and he will be a player to watch at the ANGT in Kaunas when Partizan travel there in late February.
Malte Delow 6-4 SG/SF, Alba Berlin, 2001
Statistics: 15.3 ppg, 51.9% FG, 6.8 rpg, 5 apg
German wing Malte Delow was ALBA Berlin’s clear-cut best player during the tournament. A skinny 6’4 shooting guard, Delow had to carry the very weak German side at Hospitalet, being tasked with generating offense in all sorts of situations. Although he obviously did not post great efficiency numbers in that context, he showed a good ability to take and make shots from deeps, as well as a decent handle and some creativity creating shots from his teammates, especially in the pick and roll.
At his height and with his athletic profile, Delow’s potential doesn’t jump off the page, but he has a solid foundation to be on and will surely have a few chances in coach Aíto Reneses’ ALBA Berlin if he continues developing.
Felipe Motta, 6-5 SG/SF, Stella Azzurra, 2003
Statistics: 10.3 ppg, 33.3% FG, 3 rpg, 1.3 apg
Felipe Motta, another one of Stellazzurra’s extremely young core, is a 2003-born wing player who showed the chops and shooting ability to potentially be an intriguing prospect. With decent size at 6’6 and a skinny body that indicates that he probably still has some growing to do, Motta played solid basketball, allowing the offense to come to him on one side and fighting hard on defense on the other end.
Wing prospects with solid size, good basketball instincts and a projectable shooting stroke don’t grow on trees. Motta has some toughness to go along with it too, earnt the trust of his coaches despite being two years younger than many of his rivals and performed at a decent level for a Stellazzurra team that made the semifinals in Hospitalet — a good set of tools and credentials for a player to watch going forward.