The 7DAYS EuroCup gives often gives players not yet known at the continental level a chance to turn some heads. Some such players may be young and getting their first shot at such a high level of basketball. Others could be players who have been waiting in the wings and now breaking through. What’s for sure, these once under-the-radar talents are now flying high.
5 – Simon Birgander, Joventut Badalona
Joventut Badalona has grown its fantastic youth system in recent years a step higher by starting to bring in promising foreign players. Swedish center Simon Birgander, who joined Joventut at age 19 in July 2017, is among the project's success stories. Birgander may not be the most athletic player, but he finishes inside by dunking as often as possible and has very strong post skills. This season, he's had the chance to learn from low-post master Ante Tomic and it is paying off. Birgander has mostly come off the bench this season to average 5.9 points on 63.2% two-point shooting and 5.3 rebounds for a PIR average of 9.6. He is seventh overall in the EuroCup in rebounds per 40 minutes (12.1). Birgander is now 22 and has a bright future ahead of him.
4 – Abdoulaye Ndoye, AS Monaco
Abdoulaye Ndoye grew up with Cholet Basket and joined AS Monaco before the start of the current season to make his EuroCup debut at age 22. Ndoye is making the most of his opportunity. He is an effective three-point shooter with a very quick release, which he uses with great timing to find good scoring options. He is also a tall guard who thrives in transition due to his speed and athleticism. Ndoye has mostly come off the bench to average 5.6 points on 83.3% two-point shooting (20 of 24) and 37.5% from downtown (9 of 24) this season. Ndoye has been even better in the Top 16 with 7.0 points and 2.3 assists for a PIR average of 9.5. An effective two-play player, Ndoye looks to keep getting better every year.
3 – Yannick Nzosa, Unicaja Malaga
A star in the making, Yannick Nzosa is Unicaja Malaga's brightest prospect. A fast, versatile big man with outstanding athleticism, Nzosa is already a full member of Unicaja's roster at age 17. He has taken advantage of the club's youth set-up and is slowly becoming a strong all-around player. Nzosa is a very mobile player who can defend players in one-on-one situations away from the basket, get the rebound and start the fast break. At the other end, he is a strong mid-range shooter with great effectiveness. On defense, Nzosa has already shocked players and Unicaja fans alike with his high-flying blocks. He has seen more playing time after the team's coaching change has averaged 10.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and a PIR of 15.5. Nzosa is just getting started.
2 – Pierre Pelos, JL Bourg en Bresse
At age 28, Pierre Pelos is a newcomer to this level, but has been developing his game in the French League. This is his second stint with JL Bourg en Bresse, with which he is showcasing his game as an outstanding two-way player. On defense, Pelos is active, blocks shots and is able to guard taller players due to his aggressiveness. On defense, he can pull the trigger from downtown - mainly from the top of the key - and is equally effective in the paint due to his very polished post moves. His qualities show in his stats; Pelos has averaged 11.9 points on 68.9% two-point shooting, 40.4% on three-pointers and 89.3% on free throws plus 5.3 rebounds and 0.6 blocks off the bench. He ranks 19th in PIR per 40 minutes (24.8), but it is his team-oriented mentality that makes him truly valuable.
1 – Alpha Kaba, Nanterre 92
Alpha Kaba has developed into a very interesting center. The 25-year-old is full of energy and intensity. After two EuroCup campaigns with LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne, Kaba spent a season with Bouzalac and returned to the competition with Nanterre this season. He is second in the EuroCup in rebounds with 8.9 per night to go with 10.8 points and 1.1 blocks, with the latter also among the top 10 this season. Kaba has been particularly active on the offensive glass with 3.8 per game. He is only getting better as the competition goes on, too; Kaba made 21 of 48 free throws in his first 11 games (43.8%), but improved to 14 of 20 (70.0%) in the last two games, in which he also averaged 18.0 points and 12.5 rebounds. Active, experienced and ready, Kaba has taken an important step forward.