The U20 B championships are over in Sarajevo with Estonia and Georgia moving up to class A. It was another disappointing showing for Bosnia as they ended up in 6th place getting beat by a much less talented group from Portugal. The injury to Nikola Gajic was the end of any hopes of promotion for Bosnia. Which made their decisions after that point even more confounding.
Bosnia a country brimming with basketball talent, has failed to materialize results commiserate with the talent that they produce. This was another blow to what should be a proud basketball state that consistently is in the top 8-10 teams in Europe. Too much talent bleeds off to other countries as Croatia, Serbia, Slovenia, Montenegro, Austria, Turkey, Spain and so many other nations benefit from the talent Bosnia produces. This tournament was more proof as Alen Omic was the most dominating center in the U20 A level competition for Slovenia. An agile 7'0 19 year, he put up some big numbers for the Slovenes and would have been a difference maker for Bosnia. You can't lose your best players and still compete at a high level if you are a country under 4 million. Bosnia produces more talent than many much lager nations, but has little to show for it results wise.
What has ended up all too often is Bosnia doesn't have the depth to compete in a tournament were you are playing practically everyday. Also the teams they produce tend to run 4-6 deep talent wise. Once you add in an injury or an off game by one or two players then the game is completely out of reach. The lack of proper competition in practice also hinders their development as the first team is usually practicing against players who don't have the ability to be European professional players. Once they get into game conditions there is an adjustment for these players that are now facing stiff competition for the first time. The coaching lacks proper strategies and ideas about how to play basketball at a level as well. The coaching approach is not professional and they don't have international experience as well. So many more logical choices could be made for coaching youth selections in Bosnia. The lack of proper coaching and training is evident in the lack of defense, rebounding, post offense, shot form and three point shot selection. Bosnian players are generally talented enough to compete at a higher level, but aren't prepared in anyway to win games when their shots aren't falling and the game flow isn't moving their way.
Once Nikola Gajic was injured they had zero chance to advance to A level competition and the focus should have shifted to playing the most talented player on the team Adnan Vrabac who at 17 was one of youngest players in the tournament and by far the most talented Bosnia. He could have used the exposure in real game pressure and situations. Instead he continued to ride the bench and receive about 10 minutes a game. The team instead thrusted players into the starting five that don't have the skill, talent or drive to be professional players. The management should have two goals 1) get promoted to division A 2) develop talent for the future so as to move up to division A next time. What there goals and focus are, I am not really sure and it is perplexing watching people without a plan run Bosnian basketball into the ground. What is the difference if they end up in 5th or 6th place in B level? It really makes no difference at all.
Here is a recap of the players performance and grades...
Nikola Gajic: The team was 3-1 with him starting, the only loss to Belguim when he injured his hand. The team went 2-2 the rest of the way and was exposed by their lack of depth. Nikola has a good future in Europe especially if he develops a better shooting stroke. He has good size and frame and European athleticism. He attacks the basket pretty well but needs to refine his shooting form and outside touch. The difference for him could be playing in a mid level league and a higher league (and better paydays). He will benefit greatly from playing in the US college basketball system.
Srdan Loncar: A major weakness of this team (and all levels of the Bosnian National team) is point guard. Srdan gave effort with little results. He really isn't a professional basketball player and I would doubt that he has a long career ahead of him (even in Bosnia). There is nothing you see on the court that translates into a quality basketball player, size, athleticism, shooting, ball handing (his strength, but below average overall). It's a shame Bosnia was exposed and had to play him so many minutes. He did turn in a decent performance against Iceland, that is more a result of the competition than his talent level.
Ranko Ivic: Another player who was a major contributor to Bosnia's weakness at the guard position. Ranko doesn't do much well, but has decent size. He had a nice game against Belarus, but again that is due more to competition level than his play. Besides the one anomaly game, he did little to help Bosnia achieve their objective of moving up to Divison A. Could have been a decent 10-12th man on the team. The fact he played so many big minutes is more of a reflection on BiH than him. He should play domestically in BiH (for free) for as long as he wants.
Miralem Halilovic: Miralem carried the team, even with questions about his health going into the tournament. He has been invited to the senior national team (even though he is unlikely to make it and would benefit from some time off). Miralem showed his heart by playing and leading his team through the adversity he experienced. It would have been easy for him to take this tournament off because of injury. Miralem is from Tuzla and has been mentioned as the next Mirza Teletovic, that has always been a large stretch. His game is more similar to Emir Preldzic. He is more of a distributor and ball handler than a volume scorer and physical presence. Miralem should have a solid career in Europe for a lot of years to come. For all of his mention as a great young talent, this was his first time being a showcase talent and a focus on offense and he acquitted himself well. He had a great tournament up until the last game against Portugal, which should have been a showcase for the younger players on the team anyway. His outside shooting remains weak and his assist to turnover ratio is way to high at 1:1 considering his ability to handle the ball.
Marko Rikalo: By far the youngest player on the team (16 years old), Marko didn't get the minutes to show much for the team in this tournament. I don't understand once Nikola Gajic was injured he didn't get substantial playing time. He needs to be given the opportunity to play a better level of competion and get a real feel for his talent level. He could end up being a decent mid level European PG, the only guard on the team with this level of talent besides Gajic and Begagic. He should have played more minutes over Ivic and Loncar. Once it was clear that Bosnia wasn't moving up to division A, the team should have played him 20 minutes a game.
Dino Begagic: Really the only one on the team with 3point shooting range. Dino was inconsistent with his shot in this tournament (not a surprise considering his age 18). When he played well so did Bosnia, when he struggled their offense often bogged down and looked sloppy. Given their lack of inside threat, the fact that he shot as well as he did is a testament to his talent. Guys that can knock down long shots is always a commodity in demand in Europe. He could turn out to be a mid level European player if he continues to develop. He turned the ball over too much and lacks great athleticism and size. The real question is does Dino want to put in the time and effort in the gym to be a professional basketball player? Will he get the coaching and guidance he needs to move his career into the professional ranks outside of Bosnia?
Mirza Bulic: Mirza came into the tournament as the most experienced player outside of Halilovic and was by far the biggest disappointment on the team. Mirza played big minutes for Sloboda Dita Tuzla and was expected to be a key to the tournament. He played terribly early and only started to come on and play well the last to games. He has good size and skill level, the question is which is he closer to, the Mirza we saw the first six games when he was awful or the one you saw the last two when he averaged about 22ppg 7rbpg 3aspg 2.5 stlpg and shot 50% from the field? Besides the injury to Gajic, the single biggest reason for the disappointing results can be found right here.
Nemanja Sladoje: Has professional basketball player size but not one skill. It is surprising they kept him on the roster and cut some other, more deserving talent. If the guy can't play you should at least bring in a younger player who could benefit from the time spent getting coached up. Has decent shot blocking ability but has poor defensive instincts.
Ernad Mujic: He is suppose to be one of the great young talents for legendary team KK BOSNA ASA. Which means one of two things, BOSNA has no idea how to evaluate talent or it has no idea how to coach talent. Ernad did nothing in this tournament and looks like a complete bust. He has good size, is a decent athlete but at the age of 18 against this level of talent should have showed more.
Nermin Buza: A very similar story to Ernad with similar results. Suppose to be one of the "next" generation of KK BOSNA ASA, Nermin showed nothing against inferior competition and may look like a basketball player, he doesn't play like one. I will be shocked if he is still playing basketball in four years.
Adin Vrabac: Adin came in as the biggest talent on the team and it was perplexing to watch him rot on the bench. A very young talent (17 years old) with good size and a high level of skill. I was surprised he didn't get more playing time and was outraged what once Gajic was out he didn't move into the starting five or at least get some serious playing time. Adin flashed his big time talent (especially after getting used to a higher level of competition). I am not sure if Bosnia was hiding him for some reason or they are just not focused on winning and the future. he only played about 10 minutes a game which is not nearly enough for a player of his talent. They wasted this tournament by not getting playing time for him. He needs to work on his physical development and to get stronger if he is to play the forward position in Europe.
Mladen Lukic: The best post player on the team, yet still played under 20 minutes a game. Should have a decent career in Europe based upon his size and skill level. He is a lunchbox type of center, not very skilled but if he works to his strengths, defending, boxing out, rebounding and scoring within five feet he could be a solid role player in Europe. I am surprised he didn't get more of a chance to show his talent since Bosnia lacked post presence. He really needs to get some decent coaching so he can put his natural physical skills to use.
BOSNIAN'S WHO PLAYED IN THE U20 A and B TOURNAMENT FOR OTHER COUNTRIES
Alen Omic (slovenia): Having recently turned 18, Alem Omic turned in a dominating performance for Slovenia in Division A. From the time he came to Slovenia from Tuzla two years ago, he immediately made an impact for the Slovenes and was the most dominating center in this last tournament. Alen shows all the ability to be an impact player in Europe and the possibility to have an NBA career. He played against a high level of competition and responded every time. Another great center who has gotten away from Bosnia, following in the tradition of Stanko Barac, Mirza Begic, Nedzad Sinanovic and so many others...
Edo Muric (Slovenia) A very good glue guy for a quality European team. Edo should go on to have a very productive, long European career.
Boris Barac (Croatia) Had a disappointing tournament after just having a breakout U19 World Championship for Croatia. You could blame the results on a higher level of competition and fatigue as Croatia was relegated to division B.
Ante Cutura (Croatia) A big man with size who likes to play on the perimeter and avoid contact.
Domagoj Bubalo (Croatia) Played well for Croatia in this tournament, another nice Bosnian player with size who is playing for someone else.