In the latest edition of ‘P.I. Pulse’, Pro Insight’s Jason Filippi compiles his scouting notes after spending multiple days evaluating the top prospects playing in the recent #PlayForPassion U16 tournament in Bassano del Grappa, Italy:
Following my recent trip to Belgrade for ANGT, I made the short jaunt to Bassano, Italy, to check in on some of the top U16 prospects in the world at an event hosted by Orange1 Basketball Academy called #PlayForPassion. In case you missed it, we outlined the unique setup at Orange1 in two articles earlier this year: check out part I and part II, here. #PlayForPassion lived up to the hype and featured some of Europe’s top clubs, like Real Madrid, Barcelona Basket, Bayern Munich, and Armani Milano, just to name a few. It was another fruitful trip, highlighted by the ability to get an in-person look at aspiring college and pro players and write up detailed reports for the Pro Insight database. I’ve included a condensed version of those reports below for the purposes of this article. For more detailed scouting reports — and intel — on these players, as well as reports on some of the other younger prospects I saw in Bassano, subscribe to our database, here. With any questions or comments, shoot us an email: email@example.com.
With that, here are my scouting takeaways after spending some time evaluating the top prospects from #PlayForPassion:
2022 U16 #PlayForPassion Top Prospects
Ismaila Diagne (SEN) | 7-0 Big | Real Madrid (Spain)
Diagne looked like a very improved player and was deservedly named tournament MVP. He has gotten much stronger since I last saw him and he is playing with so much more confidence now. He has elite size/length and is pretty mobile/agile as well, despite not being an explosive athlete (his legs need to get stronger). Diagne has become more of a focal point of his team’s offense now compared to last year. His game is simple but effective and should translate well to higher levels of competition. In the low post he can both post-up or turn/face to knock down baseline shots. He is a good finisher at the rim off dives to the basket and he can score off lobs. He also ran the floor hard to finish some plays in transition throughout the event. At this point in his career he is still just an inside player and doesn’t show much shooting range, yet. He’s very active on the offensive glass and follows his own shot well. Diagne also had a major impact on the defensive end. He can really affect the game with his length: he contests entry passes, deflects some passes and blocks some shots, showing legit NBA rim protection ability. He rebounds his area well, too. I think he still has considerable upside and, along with Tiefing Diawara, he was the top prospect in this tournament from an NBA perspective.
Hugo Gonzalez (SPA) | 6-6 Wing | Real Madrid (Spain)
Gonzalez was one of the most polished players in this event and was actually on course to being tournament MVP before a subpar performance in championship game. He has decent size and a strong build along with above-average athleticism (good leaper). Gonzalez has a versatile well-rounded game and can seemingly do a bit of everything. He has excellent ball skills and does a nice job acting as a secondary ball-handler (he could be a facilitator for the pro level, too). Throughout #PlayForPassion, he showed nice court vision and an advanced feel for the game (high BBIQ). He is more of a slasher than a shooter and can score one-on-one. He takes it to the rim strong, draws a lot of fouls and can score with contact – he is a good post-up player, too. He is also a very nice open court threat both as a handler and as a finisher. His weak spot is his three-point shooting which is very erratic and he needs to improve his pull-up game, as well. He plays aggressively on both sides of the court and looks like a real competitor although he also seemed to let his emotions get the best of him at times which resulted in him getting in scuffles with opponents as well as getting called for technical fouls. He can defend bigger wings well but will have to prove that he can handle more athletic wings at the pro level. Gonzalez is a good prospect for both college and the European pro level.
Declan Duru (GER) | 6-7 Forward | Real Madrid (Spain)
Duru had a solid tournament and confirmed my first positive impressions from last summer. He has pretty average size for the position but he compensates with his long arms and decent athleticism. Duru is a versatile combo forward who will probably be more of a 4-man long-term but he does show some potential even as a small forward. He can play both inside or out on the perimeter. He can score one-on-one and in general does a nice job at taking advantage of favorable mismatches. He takes it strong to the basket and is an athletic finisher at the rim off basket cuts. His jump shot is still a work in progress but he is not afraid to pop out for three-point shots and will knock down corner treys. Duru is a very good open court player who bursts out to score on fast breaks (he can handle it well in transition). He was active on offensive glass here and scored on tip-ins. He needs to be more patient on offense as he forces a lot of plays – his shot selection must improve. He is pretty versatile on the defensive end, too – he may be a bit undersized at the 4-spot for the pro level but he is long, strong and also did a nice job containing smaller players away from the basket. He reminds me a bit of Sekou Doumbouya at the same age. Duru is an interesting prospect for both high level college programs and pro leagues alike.
El Hadji Gueye (SEN) | 6-8 Big | Real Madrid (Spain)
Gueye is only 15 years old and was one of the prospects with the most upside in this tournament. It was my first time seeing him live and I came away with a positive impression. Although he came off the bench and didn’t play much, he always seemed to impact the game whenever he was on the court. He has a long body (with long arms) that needs to finish filling out (I would expect him to grow another inch or two, easily). He is not an explosive athlete but he is mobile/agile and runs the court well for his size. Right now he looks more like a center than a big forward. He plays mostly inside and doesn’t show much shooting range although his shooting touch looks promising in warmups. He is a good finisher at the rim off dives to the basket and can score off lobs. He has a decent feel for the game and seems to have good instincts in general – Gueye has a knack for being in the right place at the right time. He also showed decent ability as a passer big-to-big. Gueye can impact the game on the defensive end, too, with his length (good shot blocker) but he needs to get stronger physically and will also have to improve his lateral mobility to play at higher levels of competition. He will need time to develop and looks like a kid who would benefit from going to play college ball in the USA.
Tiefing Diawara (MAL) | 6-11 Big | Bassano (Italy)
Diawara continued his recent stretch of excellent performances at this tournament and has clearly established himself as one of the top international prospects born in 2006. Literally looks better every time I see him! In addition to his good size and mobility, Diawara is also developing a nice skill-set on the offensive end: he looks to score more aggressively than in the past as his confidence is skyrocketing right now (hit game-winning shot in semifinals vs. Barcelona). In the low post he can put the ball on deck to go one-on-one as well as hit turnaround shots. He’s a good finisher off lobs (he is now finishing stronger than in the past). He is also looking to expand his shooting range and can hit mid-range shots consistently. He’s a good passer out of double-teams and has a nice feel for the game (good court-sense). Diawara is also a major presence on the defensive end. In addition to being a serious physical presence in the paint (he can block shots and shows legit potential as a rim protector for the pro level), he does a nice job defending pick-and-rolls while showing the ability to switch onto a small player effectively. In general, his game should translate well to higher levels of competition. Although he lost the head-to-head matchup with the tournament’s other top NBA prospect Ismaila Diagne, I think that Diawara may have more upside than Diagne thanks to his more versatile skill-set.
Dame Sarr (ITA) | 6-6 Guard | Bassano (Italy)
Sarr had a solid tournament and looks like an improved player on both sides of the court. He has interesting physical tools with good size/length (still growing – just needs to get stronger) and decent athleticism. Sarr is a combo guard who is showing improvements in his playmaking and is playing much more under control than in the past – he creates for others off the dribble well. He is more of a scorer than a shooter at this stage. A good one-on-one player – he takes it strong to the basket and gets to the free throw line at a decent rate. His jump shot can be very streaky (he did not shoot it particularly well in this tournament). He is more of a spot-up shooter from three-point range (needs to improve his pull-up game). Sarr is a good open court player both as a passer and as a finisher. He also showed nice versatility on the defensive end, with a comfort level guarding bigger players as well as helping pressure the ball. He was disruptive out on the perimeter, deflecting a lot of passes and showing quick hands. Sarr isn’t afraid to take a charge from a much bigger player. His game continues to develop and I think he would be an excellent college player, not to mention a good Euroleague prospect.
Fynn Schott (AUT) | 6-8 Forward | Bayern Munich (Germany)
Schott was one of the surprise players of the tournament! He is an under-the-radar guy who was playing on loan from little-known Furstenfield, a team in a lowly Austrian League, but he definitely looks like a guy who is ready for higher levels of competition. Schott has just average size/length but he has a strong frame and is very mobile (quick off his feet). He showed a very polished offensive game at #PlayForPassion. He has good hands and a clearly advanced feel for the game. He can both post-up or face-up and put the ball on the deck or shoot it from out to three-point range. He plays mostly in the high post but he will exploit favorable mismatches in the low post, too, if given the opportunity. He’s an effective pick-and-roll player who can just as easily pick-and-pop. He’s showed to be a good passer from the high-post area, too. Schott plays hard on the defensive end and despite being a finesse player on offense, he isn’t afraid to mix it up inside. He really rebounds his area. Schott is an underrated prospect and I like his potential as a spread 4-man for both the college level and the European pro level.
Dayan Nessah (SUI) | 6-5 Wing | Barcelona (Spain)
Nessah was one of the most intriguing prospects of the tournament as well as one of the players with the most long term upside. Nessah has a mature body/frame with long arms and nice athleticism to go with it. He displayed a very versatile game basically playing positions 1-through-3 and intrigued me with his potential as a secondary (if not primary) ball-handler. He’s an unselfish team player who doesn’t need to score to be effective – he can do a bit of everything although he doesn’t necessarily excel at anything. Nessah is a good slasher who can score one-on-one. He can drive-and-kick well, too. He’s a very good open court player who needs to improve in the half-court game. His one glaring weakness is his perimeter shooting: he can score with mid-range pull-up jump shots but he lacks three-point shooting range (currently, he doesn’t really even look to shoot it much from deep). I also like his versatility on the defensive end as he was able to defend positions 1-through-3 throughout the event. He was also able to hold his position against much bigger players after switching. It’s also worth noting that he’s a very good rebounder for a guard. Nessah is definitely a guy to follow closely for both college and pro teams alike.
Kasparas Jakucionis (LIT) | 6-3 Guard | Barcelona (Spain)
Jakucionis was one of the most hyped prospects going into this tournament but I have to say I was a bit disappointed with his performance (although he did improve over the course of the event after a very shaky start). Jakucionis has good size for his position with a strong build for his age but he is not as functionally athletic as advertised, in my opinion. He is a combo guard with legit playmaking ability but I would also worry that he seemed to struggle a lot against full-court pressure. He uses more strength than quickness to get by his man and is more of a slasher than a shooter. He showed nice court vision and made some flashy passes (he can drive/kick well). He’s a good open court player who can play both fast or slow, as necessary. He has a nice step-back move but his jump shot is currently very inconsistent. He will need to prove that he can defend quicker, more athletic guards at the pro level. Overall, Jakucionis has a very Euro-style game that may be better-suited for Europe than for the NBA.
Axel Piccirilli (ITA) | 6-7 Forward | Stella Azzurra Rome (Italy)
Piccirilli was the most consistent player on an otherwise underachieving Stella Azzurra team. He has decent size and is already quite strong for his age but I would rate him as just an average athlete overall. Piccirilli is a versatile combo forward with a very mature and polished game. He has good ball skills and shows some potential as a facilitator (he can handle the ball well in transition, too). He can score in one--on-one situations and does a nice job taking advantage of favorable mismatches (he has some nice post-up moves). He showed to have a nice mid-range game and is a crafty finisher around the basket. He uses more strength (along with fakes and changes of speed) than quickness to get to the rim. He definitely needs to improve his range shooting which is very unreliable at this stage. Piccirilli plays bigger than his listed height on the defensive end and is a good rebounder, but he will have to prove that he can guard more athletic wing players at higher levels of competition. I am not sure how much long term upside he has left, but he projects as a nice college player.
Andrej Jovanovic (BOS) | 6-6 Wing | Stella Azzurra Rome (Italy)
Jovanovic was one of the best shooters in the tournament and showed some interesting potential as a 3-and-D guy. He has decent size/length but needs to get stronger (thin build with a rather narrow frame). He is a perimeter-oriented player who has a nice looking easy stroke from three-point range. He is more of a catch-and-shoot guy than a pull-up jump shooter. He moves well without the ball and is a good finisher off cuts to the basket, has good instincts and knows how to get open for quality shots. He needs to improve off the dribble – he got to the rim a couple times but doesn’t seem to finish well with contact. He’s a good open court player who leaks out to score on fast-break. Where Jovanovic really needs to improve is on the defensive end. He often plays too stiff/erect (with just average lateral quickness) and he doesn’t look like much of a physical player. All that said, he’s definitely a nice college prospect thanks to his shooting ability.
Gabor Lukacsi (HUN) | 6-4 Guard | Ratgeber Academy (Hungary)
Lukacsi was one of the surprise players of the tournament…as well as one of the most fun to watch! He has decent size and is deceptively quick with the ball. Lukacsi is a combo guard who plays more as a scorer now but showed legit playmaking skills, too. He is very creative with the ball and is a three-level scorer. He hit some nice floaters and is crafty around the basket. He draws a lot of fouls and gets to the free throw line often. He can score with pull-up jumpers and has a quick release on his shot. He’s a good open court player both as a handler and as a finisher. He was also very assertive and was clearly his team’s go-to guy despite playing a year up. Lukacsi plays aggressively on both sides of the court and looks like a tough kid. He has quick hands and can help pressure the ball on the defensive end. He’s also a plus-rebounder for a guard. I really like this kid’s style of play (and demeanor) and think he would make an excellent college prospect.
Samuele Miccoli (ITA) | 6-3 Guard | A/X Milan (Italy)
Miccoli was one of the top scorers in attendance at #PlayForPassion. He has just average size but tends to play bigger on both ends. Miccoli is a combo guard who is definitely more of a scorer than a playmaker at the moment, but he is very assertive and also stood out as a vocal leader. He can score both on drives or with jump shots. He can post up smaller guards and is a crafty finisher around the basket. He needs to prove that he can finish as well at higher levels of competition. He can drive/kick with effectiveness, too. He’s a good open court player who can go the length of the court to score it. Miccoli can play off the ball, too – he moves well without the ball and is a good finisher off basket cuts. He’s a tough kid who competes on both ends. Miccoli has quick hands and knows how to play angles. He is only 16 years-old, but looks like a nice future prospect for D1 programs.