The FIBA U17 World Championship tournament ended last weekend with expected results as now threepeat champions USA took care of back-to-back second-placers Australia in a solid 99-92 performance. So let’s look to the future – the far future, that is – with brief looks on the prospects of the, well, prospects who were named to this competition’s all-tournament team. Rest assured we’ll be hearing from this talented quintet as soon as their regular seasons start up … and beyond.
Diamond Stone and Malik Newman (USA). Of all the high-school superstars filling the Team USA roster, few shone more brightly than Stone in this tournament – unless one includes his teammate Newman. Together, the two led the U17 champions in points, assists (Newman with 13.9 and 3.0 per game, respectively), rebounds and blocks (Stone at 9.7 and 3.3).
A scary prospect faces the NCAA’s top squads going forward: With their school terms yet to finish, the two – possibly along with fellow Team USA alum Ivan Rabb – are contemplating playing college ball together, with Stone’s choices reportedly narrowed to Kentucky, Kansas, Duke, U Conn and UCLA in the mix. Stone has also announced that his decision will be revealed on November 12, with Newman and Rabb expected to commit at some point thereafter.
Dejan Vasiljevic and Isaac Humphries (Australia). Stone and Newman’s counterparts on silver medal-winning Oz were the nearly as dominant Vasiljevic and Humphries. The latter made particularly big gains on scouting radar in this edition of the U17 tourney, despite a disappointing final game against Team USA in which the rebounding machine clearly had his hands full; Humphries turned in a number of eye-opening shows, including (just to name a couple on the double-double averaging Aussie’s résumé) a monstrous 41(!)-point, 19-rebound, five-block outing against talented Canada and a 20-point, 16-board effort against Greece. As a 7-footer with a complete skill set certain to have NBA scouts salivating, Humphries is set for lottery-pick status if he continues on the path set out in Dubai.
Vasiljevic meanwhile parlayed a meteoric recent rise which included some individual training provided by Melbourne Tigers coach Nic Abdicevic into a captaincy with the Australia U17s to display some remarkable leadership in running the tournament’s second-highest scoring offense.
Both players, as well as four others on this Team Australia, were announced as among 12 recipients of the Australian Institute of Sports’ scholarship program for men’s basketball to the National Centre of Excellence, traditionally a springboard to international play from Down Under. Humphries had already attracted the attention of US schools Duke and Kansas going into the U17 tournament and will certainly be receiving more offers now; Vasiljevic has told his home country’s media that he intends to attend four years of American university before taking the next step into club ball, though he has yet to hint at offers from Stateside schools.
Nikola Rakicevic (Serbia) came off as a prototypical swingman for the traditionally power-playing Serbs in this tournament, with 5.7 rebounds per game to go along with his team-high 12.4 points and 1.9 steals. Team Serbia backers were surely pleased in the nice increase in such key stats, as the near-doubling in minutes from his turn in last year’s FIBA U16 European championship resulted in a like twofold increase in these areas in the U17s.
As is commonplace in Europe, the 6’7” lad is already working his way through the system of one of his country’s top clubs, Red Star Belgrade; youth basketball aficionados caught his play for the junior team during its NIJT-winning run last May.
Of the U17 World all-tournament team, Rakicevic appears the least likely to crack an American roster in his career, but international competition has probably not seen the last of this Serbian – on the other hand, this young man only becomes eligible for the NBA draft in 2019. In five years, lots (of further development) can happen…