By Simon Dresden
The 2008 Albert Schweitzer Tournament was for some reason depleted of it’s usual talent level from the past. The US team apparently was affected by the McDonald’s game taking place at the same time, Russia only sent a second unit, and European powerhouses Lithuania and Serbia didn’t bother to show at all. Of the teams that attended, most were missing their star players like Spain’s Ricky Rubio who had to bigger fish to fry with his pro team than dominating his age group once again.
This development made it difficult to follow the early rounds as it quickly became apparent there was a great divide between the teams that had a real chance to win it all and those who didn’t. Four teams were destined from the beginning to make a run at the crown. Those were Greece and Turkey, who brought arguably their best squads. Australia, which was not the most talented team out there, but due to the fact that they live and train together in the AIS program, always presents an in tune team that is tactically above any other here. And the USA team, coached by former NBA star Lionel Hollins, that despite not having the best personnel at hand, always brings a high level of athletism to the table, that lets them stay in a game until the very end, but usually misses out in the sync department, especially in the early stages of the tournament.
The real final of this tournament in my view was the semi-final encounter between Greece and Australia in which Greece edged out the Aussies in overtime behind the outstanding performance of tourney MVP Nikolaos Pappas. He was the difference maker scoring an eye popping 39 points and 10 boards, with 11 of those points coming in the clutch during overtime.
In the other semi, Turkey won a close game against the US team due to a more team-oriented scoring approach, as opposed to USA’s one-man-isolation-style approach in which Irving Walker went for 30 points but only two other players scored in double figures. Turkey also won the rebounding battle, edging the US team by 10.
On the final day’s third place game, Australia used a platoon approach to harass Walker into only 10 points while being in charge of the game at all times using superb execution to dissect whatever defense the US was using. The ball seemed to be flowing through multiple hands until somebody was free for an uncontested shot or a lay up that caught most of the US players off guard, watching such a in sync execution. The lone bright spot in this game for the US was Withey who had 7 blocks, 8 rebounds and 16 points. Walker as usual flashed his speed and lethal crossover only to run into the perfectly executed defensive rotations by the Aussie squad that left him with no chance for one of his trademark floaters. Australia was spearheaded by floor general Dellavedova who had 20 points, 9 rebounds and 6 assists while always coming up with the right pass or shot, and always being in charge of every move his team had to execute. Australia was clearly the second best team in this tournament.
The final was prepared with hundreds of fans from both countries cheering on their respective squads. Germany has large populations of Greek and Turkish immigrants who love to support their national teams whenever it is possible with songs, drums and cheers. The gym was packed for this encounter with multiple fans being left out of the arena for overfilling. The first quarter was an open affair as Greece was powered by MVP Pappas’ intelligence in playmaking and Turkey living off Mahmutelus three point prowess. In the second quarter, the Greek team took over, outscoring Turkey 30:14, especially on the defensive side, allowing the Turkish team only one shot per possession while containing Mahmutelu. Pappas was all over the court, always in the right position for the deciding steal, rebound, assist or score. It is amazing to see a player with his kind of athletic shortcomings dominate a game with pure intelligence, always being one or two steps ahead of everyone else on the court. The game seemed to be over but the Turkish team, supported by a raucous fan base was not about to give in. It took Greece 5 minutes to get their first points of the second half and Turkey used their superb frontcourt of Kanter and Kilicli better to get Greece into trouble. Pappas and Jankovic had to take trips to the bench with foul trouble and point by point the lead melted until it was only four. Unfortunately Turkey was not able to convert on two consecutive possessions and then it was Pappas who took his team on his back willing his team to the title, be it by scoring himself, setting teammates up or even coming up with the important loose balls. He finished with 16 points, 9 board and 6 dimes in the end.
All Tournament Team:
PG Irving Walker USA
One has to make a choice between US PG Irving Walker a speed power sparkplug, who is listed 510 but that is a little questionable. and Aussie PG Dellavedova who is by far the best floor leader. Walker is small but compact, blessed with outstanding speed and the ability to change directions on a dime. He loves taking jumpers from three-point-land and is solid in form and accuracy. He has an uncanny ability to get into the lane and finish with all kind of floaters against even the tallest players. And sometimes he even figures how to set up his perimeter teammates for open threes, but this is not his focus most of the time. He has ankle breaking crossovers and superb handles. As we compare him here to other AST alumni he is a shorter version of Kyle Lowry, now with the Grizzlies in the NBA, who played here 4 years ago, but their aggressive, driving styles of game are similar. He is apparently committed to the University of Florida and that is a good thing for him since the style of play there will suit him. Australia’s Matthew Dellavedova is what one would call a true floor general. He possesses good length, he seemed to be more in the 6-4 range than the listed 6-2. He possesses a picture perfect stroke and the ability to make his teammates better. He is an unselfish passer without the tendency of getting to too fancy or playing risky. He has solid handles and a knack for defending the opposing guard which he does pretty solid using his length and good speed to his advantage. If you want someone who can run a team, the Aussie is your choice no doubt. If you want a player who can change and take over the game on any given moment, Walker should be your man. We give the edge here to Walker, because he was not surrounded by great teammates and still carried the US team to the semis almost on pure will.
SG Nikolaos Pappas Greece
For the SG Position, there is a clear cut choice: Nikolaos Pappas, MVP of the tournament. He is not a SG in the truest sense of the word, as for example Mahmutelu of Turkey, he’s more of a Mr. Do it all who comes up with whatever is needed at exactly the right moment. He is not blessed with great size, as he is only 6’3. He is not speedy or athletic. In fact he has nothing that you would expect out of a MVP of the AST, but he makes up for it with a big heart and an on court intelligence that was unmatched here and seldom seen in youth competitions. He seemed to be 2-3 steps in front of everyone else, always coming up with the decisive rebound, steal or pass. Even though he is rather Earth-bound, he possessed the ability to draw fouls seemingly at will or finishing smoothly even when stuck in traffic. He led his team by example and more than once was mentioned with Papaloukas, Bodiroga and other European Stars that never challenged the NBA level because of their obvious first sight physical shortcomings. There may be a little similarity to Milan Macvan who dominated the U-19 Worlds last year with superior court awareness and intelligence. Pappas proved here that he can give a
team whatever is needed on any given moment, taking over games as he did in the overtime semi against Australia or just being the catalyst for his team to perform. He was without question the deserved MVP here, being way ahead of any other player.
SF Alberto Jodar Spain
The SF Position is a kind of toss up. There is no real frontrunner who dominated to be a standout choice. Tomislav Zubcic of Croatia has all the tools but can’t seem to put them together as he should be able to take over games at any point. His shooting needs some work and he better not dare not to become an inside player. Jodar of Spain who is a year younger than the competition, excelled with a desire to play defense and a good combination of athletism and shooting. As well as US youngster Travis Releford who possesses the athletic profile to become a dominating slashing wing down the road but needs serious improvement on his jumper to fulfil his big promise. Because of being a year younger than his counterparts and no clear frontrunner we should give this one to Jodar who has more upside for development.
PF Denis Kilicli
The PF position clearly belongs to Denis Kilicli. The way he is built, one has start wondering if he has a legitimate listed age. His arms are chiseled as if he just came out of the weight room and sometimes he seems to be overpowered by his own strength. He thinks he is a shooter but he isn’t, he solely lives off his athletic abilities but possesses a nice touch to finish after contact. His star will surely diminish as soon as the others catch up with him in physical development, but here he had no peer. The only one who deserves mention here in terms of NBA upside is Wally Judge of the US team, who has all the tools that the prototypical NBA power forward needs. He may need to grow another 2 inches as he is only 6-8 right now but his frame is excellent, as is his athletism and he possesses a little bit of everything in all the other departments. He wasn’t ready right now to rule this kind of competition, but after some seasoning at Kansas State he should become a real prospect.
C Enes Kanter Turkey
The center position without question goes to Enes Kanter. He is 3 years younger than all the others here and still was a dominating factor, not only for his team Turkey but even when matched up against all the other centers here. He was the run away favorite for the Wildermuth award for the player with the most upside. He sure is deserving. It was known commodity that Kanter was ruling in under 16 competitions due to his heavy and missive body, but that he was able to keep it up against the under 18 competition, even at this years watered down level was impressive. One saw no difference between him and all the other players here and it is impressive to see him bang with whoever was there and some people even raised some concern about his listed age. Kanter has a childish face so we don’t doubt his age and would consider him more as a freak of nature kind of player, that is extremely advanced in his body development. He has a huge massive body that he puts to use in effective ways. If he can turn his baby fat, into muscle he is truly worthy of keeping on the radar for the big time. Right now he is only using his right hand to score on post ups and he closely to never goes outside the paint. He is smart on positioning and rebounding and sometimes even explodes for a nasty dunk with an athletism that is somewhat hidden in his body, and therefore stuns the crowd when he does it. Others that deserve mentioning are Arizona bound Jeffrey Withey, besides his 7 foot frame he has strong legs and a knack for shot blocking as he proved in the semis against Australia as he rejected 7 shots through perfect timing. He should be in a good environment in Arizona for the next years and if he can fill out his frame properly, he will get a shot at the NBA.