By Hocine LOUKKAF on 12/20/2018

Most recently, players who are not even eligible for the next draft got noticed for their performances in proven European championships. Let’s take a look at these promising blue chips before getting back to our 2019 Draft prospects.

Theo Maledon, 2001, 6-4 PG, ASVEL (French Jeep Elite)

Playing for Tony Parker-owned ASVEL alongside known US players like David Lighty or Demarcus Nelson, Maledon has erased his boss from the record as one of the most precocious talent of the last 20 years. At 17, Maledon is playing around 15min in both French Jeep Elite (7.3pts 2.3rbds 1.8as) and Eurocup (5pts 2.5rbds 1.3as). He had some breakout games in both competitions with a 20pts 4as statsheet against Le Mans and yesterday, 13pts 7rbds 3as against Zenith St Petersburg. He’s more of a scoring than a passing PG  for the moment but has displayed the instinct and leadership to be a lottery pick when he’ll decide to enter the draft. If he stays with ASVEL, he will have the opportunity to play the Euroleague next season, the perfect step before the NBA.

Usman Garuba, 2002,  6-8 PF, Real Madrid (Spanish Liga ACB)

First of all, I’ll sweep away the age question as Garuba was born in Spain and not in Africa, where birth certificates are often forged. A younger prospect than Maledon as he was born in 2002, Garuba was given the opportunity to play in the Spanish Liga ACB twice, using his second as his coming out party. An already strong and athletic inside player, Garuba has always dominated in youth competitions, averaging 16.3pts 12.3rbds 2.9as and 1.6bl during last Euro U18. Against last ranked Delteco GBC, he recorded 7pts 6rbds and 3bl in 14min, proving he could be efficient against adults. He will have time before his first draft entry possibility, in 2021, to gain playing time and experience.

Kilian Hayes, 2001, 6-5 PG/SG, Cholet Basket (French Jeep Elite)

A full time pro now, the 2016 Euro U16 MVP has seen a lot of playing time for his hometown struggling Cholet club. With 20min per game, Hayes is doing a decent job creating for the others with 3.3as for 1.7to, yet he’s struggling offensively scoring only 5.9pts on 33% FG including a mediocre 10% from three. Hayes had his best game recently in a win over Nanterre with 13pts and 6as despite 0/3 from three. A good FT shooter at 82%, the French combo must solve his shooting issue ASAP to really reach his potential.

2019 Draft prospects

Goga Bitadze, 1999, 6-11 C, Mega Bemax (Serbia)

Still underrated by most scouts, Bitadze has once again found a way to impress. Over his last three games against local powerhouses Red Star, Buducnost and Cibona, the Georgian center has averaged 25pts 6rbs and 3.3bl while shooting 4/6 from three and 16/23 from three. For the season in the Adriatic League, he’s averaging 20.2pts 7.9rbds 2.5bl and 41% from three, enough to deserve a spot in the top 20 of the next draft.

Sekou Doumbouya, 2000, 6-9 PF/SF, Limoges CSP (French Jeep Elite)

After playing only 3 and 10min in his last two games of French Jeep Elite and having to deal with a new head coach, Doumbouya had his best game of the season yesterday against Gdynia with 12pts and 4rbds to qualify Limoges for the Eurocup top 16. This game was once again the illustration that Doumbouya is more efficient now as a four scoring around the rim or on the fast break than as a shooting SF who creates game for himself. The French prospect is still very raw and has a lot of hard work to put in to establish himself as a scoring SF who can drive by his defender and shoot consistently from outside.

Luka Samanic, 2000, 6-10 PF, Union Olimpija (Slovenia)

After a tough start where he struggled to be efficient and gain playing time, the Croatian forward has been able to perform on a few occasions. He had one of his best games against French team Strasbourg in Champions League with 11pts 4rbds on 2/4 from three despite a poor 1/4 on 2pts FG. Samanic needs to improve both his outside shooting and offense around the rim as he’s only shooting 33% from three and under 50% inside the 3pt line.

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