By Stefan Djordjevic / email@example.com
While it is certainly important for a competition to have a certain degree of quality and competitiveness, it is also important to find balance on the rosters. In addition to chasing the short-term results, the teams should also find space to develop players and give prospects a chance to grow on the big stage.
That was the idea of the Basketball Champions League since its beginnings and the competition has put in place some rules and guidelines to encourage teams to incorporate as many young and homegrown players as possible.
It is a policy that has shown promise and has gone a long way in some cases. A prime example would be Luka Samanic who through Olimpija and BCL went on to impress the San Antonio Spurs and is currently with the New York Knicks.
There are also Sehmus Hazer and Alperen Sengun who both played for Teksut Bandirma, one of the teams that were heavily focused on developing young players. Now, Hazer is playing for Fenerbahce BEKO while Sengun has reached as far as the Houston Rockets.
The 2021-22 BCL campaign also features a big number of youngsters including some NBA Draft prospects such as the 2003-born big Yannick Nzosa (Unicaja Malaga) from whom a lot is expected and is predicted as a lottery pick, perhaps even at number one. There are also Ousmane Diop (Dinamo Sassari) and Keye Van Der Vuurst De Vries (Filou Oostende).
While a lot of them deserve mention and will be analyzed later down the road, this time around Eurohoops points out three young players that have secured a crucial role on their teams and are contributing heavily stats-wise, more than any other players at that age in the competition.
Three players, three teams, three positions, born in 2000 or 2001.
Height: 193 cm
Weight: 85 kg
Team: Nutribullet Treviso
Starting the list with a shooting guard. Giordano Bortolani is a player of the Italian powerhouse Olimpia Milano which bound him with a contract until 2025 but the young sharpshooter has been playing on loans across Italy for the past four years and he was loaned to Nutribullet Treviso for this season.
Treviso has been turning heads as the debutant on the European stage, keeping a perfect record early on and Bortolani has fit in perfectly as well. The team has been showing impressive offensive prowess, leading the league in scoring as well as shooting percentages across the boards.
And it is in no small part thanks to the young guard who’s been averaging 12.5 points and has shot 71.4% from the three-point territory. Bortolani boasts a great shooting touch which he uses with a lot of versatility.
He’s capable of banking in a triple of the dribble (even with limited space to work with), off the screen and his spot-up is great as well, especially so from the corner. His fundamentals are sound and, if necessary, can fill as the ball handler.
His demeanor on the court, and style of play, remind of AS Monaco’s Danilo Andjusic quite a bit. Perhaps the same future can be expected from Bortolani as well.
Height: 206 cm
Weight: 94 kg
It’s not the first time Dalibor Ilic finds a spot on the list created by Eurohoops and for a good reason.
“Dalibor Ilic is a big but agile combo forward with solid motoric, dribbling shooting and passing skills. Although he’s capable of producing strong on offense and can match up defensively versus most frontcourt players, he lacks consistency on both ends. His off-the-ball movement and run in transition are very good along with a solid low-post technique but needs to work on creating his own shots,” says the Eurohoops text featuring Ilic from around a year ago.
The situation is similar, although Dalibor seems to have gotten even stronger physically and is using it more aggressively, in a good way. He’s playing with more contact than usual and is able to get some hard-earned baskets off rebounds and in the paint, as well as get to the free-throw line where he is solid at converting. His consistency seems to have improved but it’s still too early in the season to make assumptions.
Nonetheless, his number increased slightly as he’s now averaging 9.3 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 2.3 assists in BCL. Very good overall contribution while shooting over 70% from the field, running the floor and having a solid presence on defense.
Height: 208 cm
Weight: 110 kg
Team: Filou Oostende
Last but not least, after a guard and a forward, the list completes with a big man. And Haris Bratanovic indeed is a big man with his size.
The 2001-born center joined Filou Oostende last season, after two years with Barca’s B team in the lower divisions in Spain. His impact was visible as soon as he joined but this year, he’s gotten a bigger role, more minutes and is truly a crucial part of the team’s efforts.
Bratanovic’s been averaging 13 points and 4.5 rebounds for Oostende so far in BCL, helping the youngest squad in the competition chase the next stage of the campaign, the Round of 16.
The Belgian big owes his weight mostly to muscle mass and is quite agile for the size, although his vertical, as well as lateral movement on defense, could be better. He’s got quick feet off the screens and is fairly creative on the low post with a few moves to fool the opposition.
While he rarely shoots from a distance as his role on the team doesn’t allow it, Bratanovic showed in the past that he can make shots from deep. He can make three-pointers but seems he would be more comfortable taking shots from the free-throw circle.
An honorable mention should go to Bratanovic’s frontcourt duo in Mikael Jantunen whose upside is arguably much bigger – both physically (more agility) and skill-wise (better fundamentals, dribbling, shooting) – for modern basketball but he’s still quite inconsistent.