While the biggest names of our basketball were in Madrid, for the Adidas Next Generation Tournament, and Euroleague F4, last week I had the opportunity to watch live the Nordic Basketball Championship. Well known by many scouts and GM's who often find good prospects there, this tournament brought together the U16 and U18 generations from Sweden (organizers), Finland, Iceland, Norway, Estonia and Denmark. Also Estonia and Sweden U20 played two games during the weekend.
The terrible news about Rasmus Larsen passing away struck everyone in Solnahallen, where so many people who knew him well and saw him play in this same tournament were devastated. Everyone had nice things to remember about the young player.
About the tournament, from an outsider's point of view, along with a lot of comments heard, it may seem there wasn't as much talent as in past editions. Lauri Markkanen, considered by Eurohopes as one of the best 20 players from 1997, was injured and couldn't play. But from a coach's point of view, I've seen many players which, considering my experience coaching in European leagues (Hungary, Slovakia, Portugal, Spanish LEBs), will be ready to play at a good level (or very good) if they have the right development and work properly during the next seasons.
NBA prospects? probably not, but for sure there were kids whose talent, size, or both, put them in a very good position to keep growing as players and to fight to reach Top European competitions. At least one of the players we saw is been already recruited by Joventut Badalona, so we will see him in Spain pretty soon.
The basketball was high paced (with a couple of "run and gun" teams) with some full court press teams, more 2-3 zone than I'd like (mostly because of the low intensity and execution mistakes), teams showing good spacing when playing pick and roll situations, lots of three point shots, and not too many situations to feed the big players, which surprises me as some of them had a clear advantage inside.
One of the main problems (I've been finding it in different countries and Championships, as the U18 Spanish I watched two weeks ago, for example) is the passing quality. Youth teams coaches should give much more emphasis to the pass. Talent shouldn't be the only factor to have good passers in our sport and my perception is we need a lot to work to develop this fundamental skill.
Overall, a really good experience, many names in my agenda to follow for the next seasons, and an appointment for the future editions of an exciting tournament.