Our U18 Belgian Lions finished their U18 European Championship (Div. B) with a 10th spot in the final standings after losing their final game of the tournament against Ukraine earlier this afternoon.
It’s a somewhat dissapointing and unlucky end result for a team that demolished the majority of their opponents and only had one off-game, against Poland. That one game unfortunately did cost them a spot in the quarter-finals though and relegated them to the classification games with a 9th spot as the highest attainable end-result.
In today’s game against Ukraine our youngsters had a tough time finding solutions offensively against Ukraine’s zone-defense. Despite this, they remained in position to win the game but while Ukraine managed to drain some very difficult outside shots and came up with an And-1 in the closing minutes, our boys went blank and thus lost it 57-65 to end the tournament in 10th place.
It’s a final ranking that really doesn’t do these guys justice as they showed to be a very talented, athletic bunch of guys and in my opinion could’ve easily ended up in the Top 5.
Check out their highlights of the tournament:
Here’s a little round-up of the roster and my personal impressions
Coach: Brian Lynch / Ass. Coach: Hamady Ly
Ajay Mitchell (13.3 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 3.1 apg, 1.6 spg): ended up as the most consistent player on the offensive end and led the team in scoring. Started the tournament coming off the bench, but quickly earned a starting spot. Strong ballhandler and a deadly shooter (39% from behind the arc), alternated his outside shooting well with his mid-range jumpers and floaters near the basket. At times got caught in too deep when attacking the basket, leading to turnovers but overall good decision making and his quick hands and feet got him a lot of interceptions on the defensive end as well. Clearly still needs to fill out physically but has all the tools to really make it as a pro.
Manu Musemena (6.1 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 2.5 apg): played the role as the floor general, placed his teammates where he wanted them and got the offense running. Was unlucky with his shooting touch as he made just 2 out of 19 attempts from behind the arc. Very solid defender. Brought calm to the squad when needed and ignited them with some spectacular plays when the occasion arose. All in all he seems to be turning into a very reliable point guard.
Elijah Tshibangu (7.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 1.1 apg, 1.3 spg): athletic and strong player who works hard on both ends of the floor. 3rd on the team in rebounds despite his limited size. Has a knack for getting in the passing lanes and isn’t shy about taking it all the way for the slam dunk. Has a slow release on his shot, but is very efficient with it when given time (4/10 on his 3pt shots). Got most of his offensive output on fastbreaks and drives to the basket.
Quinten Smout (4.6 ppg): the ultimate team-player. Constantly encouraging and firing on his teammates. And when he wasn’t firing on his teammates he was firing his long-range bombs as he shot 38.5% from behind the arc, getting his offensive output almost solely on 3pt shots.
Thomas van Hille (2.8 ppg, 1.1 rpg): Van Hille was the 11th/12th man in the rotation, playing only 8.8 mpg. Wasn’t really able to show much, other than his agressive drives to the basket and his lefty floater. Struggled big time from behind the arc, going 0 for 14. Continued to work hard defensively despite his offensive woes.
Tom Mark (7.8 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 2.3 apg, 2.3 spg, 2.3 bpg): showed to be the best all-rounded player of the squad, doing a little bit of everything. Beautiful athlete with an impressive wingspan. Seemed to be all over the court and led the team in blocks and steals, while also being second in rebounding. Recorded an impressive 6 blocks against Iceland and added another 4 against Ukraine earlier today. Had the most impressive statline of the tournament with a 10 pts, 10 rebs, 8 asts, 5 stls & 6 blks performance in the win against Iceland. Showed plenty of highlight plays. Somewhat inconsistent with his outside shooting though. Still, I was impressed and definitely will continue to follow his development.
Aaron Verstraete (7.4 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 1.1 spg): quick trigger and deadly on the catch-n-shoot when he can place his feet. Shot 30.8% from behind the arc. Good size and skills for a modern 4. Rarely mingled in the paint and mostly roamed the threepoint line and the top of the bucket looking for the quick shot or the occasional drive to the basket. With mixed success. When his shot was dropping, he had a huge impact, but when the shot wasn’t dropping he tended to become almost invisible on the court. Still, a very interesting player to follow.
Joël Ekamba (8.0 ppg, 2.6 pg, 2.5 apg, 1.0 spg): Very quick and shifty player who’s hard to stop when going to the basket. Has nice athletic skills which he uses to his advantage to finish against taller opponents. Can change his shot mid-air and has the touch to still finish around the basket. Mostly focusses on attacking the basket but did show to have a pretty solid outside shot as well, shooting 3/10 from behind the arc. Provides a lot of energy on the defensive end as well.
Marlon Makwa (3.9 ppg, 3.1 rpg): started the tournament with a bang with a 13 pts & 10 rebs double-double but dropped off significantly after that. Not sure whether he got a small injury or if there was something else going on, but his minutes dropped after that opening game and he was the only player to not play all games as he sat out the game at Estonia. When he did play he showed flashes of the skills he displayed in last summer’s U16 tournament where he was one of the key-players.
Godwin Tshimanga (3.9 ppg, 2.9 rpg): although one of the most experienced players of this group Tshimanga alternated between being 2nd and/or 3rd option at the center spot as he played an average of 12.6 mpg. Wasn’t really able to have a big impact on the floor but did show some of his solid post-moves and his reliable mid-range jumper.
Aubin Gateretse (5.4 ppg, 4.5 rpg): at 2m05 the tallest player of the squad and the only true center. Worked hard in the post and ended amongst our top-rebounders despite playing only 12.5 mpg. Had his best game against Romania when he recorded the 11 pts & 10 rebs double-double. Showed some nice post-moves but clearly still needs work on his shooting. Only made 1 or 2 jump-shots throughout the entire tournament and shot only 54.2% from the FT-line.
Allen Mukeba (6.8 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 1.0 apg, 1.1 spg, 0.8 bpg): our starting center despite being only 2m00 tall. Very strong and physical player with excellent athletic skills. At times ‘Lebron’esque in his drives to the basket Mukeba had plenty of highlight dunks and finishes above the rim throughout the tournament. Recorded a double-double against Iceland when he scored 10 pts and grabbed 11 boards. Needs to work on his overall decision-making and his stamina as he frequently ran out of steam in a game, having to ask for a substitution. Impressive athlete but will have to further expand his game to translate well to the pro level.