10 Newcomers to Watch: ABA League

Next league under my magnifying glass is the ABA League that starts on Friday, 24th Sept with the match between Mornar Bar and Cibona Zagreb.

I will repeat the rules which players are eligible for the report:

  • 1st rule: the players will be playing for the first time in this competition
  • 2nd rule: only non-domestic players were eligible for the list
  • 3rd rule: the player must be 27 years old or younger — so only players born in 1994 or after that were eligible for the list

The players on the list are not necessarily the best but just the most interesting to me and I expect that they will not have any problems translating to their new team and league. Also the players are not in any particular order.

Hunter Hale (G | 191 cm | ’97) ~ Borac Čačak

Hunter Hale played last year in New Zealand and was with an average of 27 points per game the best scorer in the competition. It is not a secret that he is a great scorer and will probably have a big offensive role in Borac too. Left hander with smooth shooting motion of the catch and off the bounce. Likes to have the ball in his hands and initiate the offense and he could be one of the best scoring guards in the Adriatic League this season.

Marcus Keene (PG | 175 cm | ’95) ~ Cedevita Olimpija

Marcus Keene was the best scorer of the VTB League last season and should bring his scoring qualities to the Adriatic League too. He had a few ups and downs in the preparations and struggled with his shot and with creating separation against taller players but he will improve in those areas when he gets used to the new level of competition. Cedevita Olimpija is loaded on the backcourt with some great scorers and Keene probably won’t average 20+ points per game again but he will be fun to watch when he gets hot and starts making some crazy shots.

Jose Vildoza (G | 191 cm | ’96) ~ Cibona Zagreb

This will be the first season in Europe for Jose Vildoza. He was amongst the best players in the Americas Basketball Champions League and has the skill set for a good career in Europe too. A physically strong player that can play on both guard positions. Has the latino swag and flair and is very good in pick & roll and in 1vs1 actions. Also a pretty good shooter and defender on perimeter. He will need some time to adapt to the new culture but I think he will get better and better during the season. In Lovro Gnjidić he has great competition for his minutes and he will need to work hard on every practice for more playing time.

Hasahn French (C | 201cm | ’98) ~ Krka

Hasahn French is coming to Novo mesto right from the college and this will be his first professional season. He played great in preparations and showed glimpses of what we can expect from him. Undersized but athletic big, really strong and he should be the cornerstone of the defense from Krka. In offense he is a good finisher at the rim, can play above the rim too and also improving as a shooter and slowly adding some range. Has great court vision from the low post and can spot cutters or shooters and dish some assists. Pretty active rebounder on both sides of the court. Can improve by a lot in all areas and has the potential to make a nice career in Europe and definitely one of the players to follow.

Temple “TJ” Gibbs (G | 191 cm | ’97) ~ Krka

Another rookie in Krka is TJ Gibbs. The Notre Dame alumni hasn’t played anywhere last season and is motivated for his first professional season. If French should be the cornerstone of the defense, Gibbs will have more responsibilities in offense. Very good shooter in catch & shoot situations but also can create a shot for himself. He will need some time to get used to the new level but when he gets used to it, he could become an interesting player for European mid level.

Aleksander Balcerowski (C | 216 cm | ’00) ~ Mega Basket

Polish big man Aleksander Balcerowski joined Gran Canaria at the age of 14 but hasn’t got too much opportunity there in their senior team. Now he has decided to join Mega Basket, a club that is known for developing young players, especially big men. Balcerowski has all the tools that a modern big man needs. Can shoot the ball, has great court vision and passing skills for his size and also is able to play well in defense. He has withdrawn his name from the 2021 NBA Draft and I’m sure he will use this season the best way possible and apply for the draft next year. Mega Basket is the right club for something like this and now with Marko Simonović and Filip Petrušev gone, he should get enough playing time and opportunity to improve his draft stock.

Corey Davis Jr (PG | 185 cm | ’97) ~ Mornar Bar

Mornar made a lot of changes in their roster and replaced their most important players from last year. A lot of responsibility for their results in this season will be for sure in the hands of Corey Davis. Interesting two way guard that plays physical and is not afraid to take the ball in his hands and make some plays. His shot selection is sometimes a little questionable but in a fast paced system that Mornar will try to play in this season, Davis could be a great piece. Still young with room to improve and it will be interesting to follow his development in this season.

Yam Madar (PG | 190 cm | ’00) ~ Partizan

The team that made on paper the biggest signings this off-season in Adriatic League is Partizan. One of the most interesting players that signed for them is Yam Madar. He has a versatile offensive game and can fill all the stat lines. High IQ playmaker and makes great decisions like a veteran player and has the game under control. Can also play aggressive defense on the ball handler and force him into mistakes. This will be his first season outside of Israel and it will be interesting to follow how he will adapt to a more physical Adriatic League. The 47th pick of the 2020 NBA Draft played some great games in this year’s Summer League and it is expected that he will step up his game to another level under coach Obradović.

Rodions Kurucs (F | 206 cm | ’98) ~ Partizan

Rodions Kurucs is another interesting signing for Partizan this off-season. After a few not that successful seasons in the NBA, he is coming back to Europe where he should get more playing time to show his talents. A versatile forward that can be used in many different ways but loves to play outside with face to the rim and stretch the floor. Solid athlete, mobile and agile for his size and uses his mobility really well in transition or when he is attacking the rim. With his length he can make some impact in defense in terms of steals and blocks too. He probably won’t be the most important player in the team but he is still young and has the potential for a solid season in Adriatic League.

Kevon Harris (SG/SF | 198 cm | ’97) ~ Zadar

Finishing the list with Kevon Harris who signed for Zadar. Athletic swingman played in the G League last season but didn’t get a lot of playing time to show his talents. He is a solid scorer, great in transition and can make some highlight dunks on open court. Physically strong player and uses his strong body well in iso plays when he is attacking the rim. Solid defender too but can sometimes fall asleep. It will be his first season in Europe and he will need some time but he could be a solid player in the right system.

Twitter: @turkmarkoo