10 Newcomers to Watch: Italian LBA

Next league under my magnifying glass is the Italian LBA that starts on Saturday, 25th Sept with the match between Basket Napoli and Olimpia Milano.

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.

Sagaba Konate (PF/C | 201 cm | ’97) ~ Pallacanestro Trieste

Let’s start with Sagaba Konate. He started last season in Spain playing for Zaragoza but in late November changed teams and went to Greece where he played for Paok. He didn’t have statistically the best season in Spain and Greece but he showed in some games that he has the talent to play at the highest level. It was his rookie season too and he can only get better. Undersized but athletic big than can close all the doors that lead to the rim. Very good defender, able to switch in pick & rolls and showing good instincts for blocks. In offense he is great in pick & roll actions and goes for dunks whenever there is an opportunity. He was great in the Italian supercup and he will definitely draw a lot of attention in this season. A friendly advice to Eurocup and some lower Euroleague teams — follow his development in this season because sooner or later he will finish on that level and you don’t want to miss the chance to get him.

Tyus Battle (SG/SF | 198 cm | ’97) ~ Dinamo Sassari

Tyus Battle caught my attention last season and I made a scouting report on him already. Tyus has the game for the highest level in Europe and I think he will get there in a few years. Versatile offensive skill set where he can do a lot of things but still has room to improve. He played some good matches in Supercup and he will be one of the best players from Dinamo Sassari in this season. I think his game will translate great to the Italian league and I expect that he will bring his game to a higher level this season in Sassari.

Mike Daum (PF | 206 cm | ’95) ~ Derthona Basket

Mike Daum played his last two seasons in Spain for Obradoiro where he had a smaller role in the team while now in Tortona he should be amongst the leaders. A player with great motor, no ball is lost for him and goes for every rebound on both sides. Can be used as a stretch forward and due to his high release his shots are not blocked often but when he has the height advantage he goes to work down low. Also likes to run in transition and can score some points that way. Mobile and quick enough to switch in defense too and can defend multiple positions. I think he could be one of the best forwards in the Italian league this season.

Stephen Thompson Jr (SG | 196 cm | ’97) ~ Pallacanestro Reggiana

Stephen “Stevie” Thompson played in Italy last year already but in the second league for Stella Azzurra. This will be his first season in the 1st Italian League so he is eligible for the list. His offensive game is on a really high level and can put pressure on the rim and also consistently make shots from distance. A natural scorer that has the potential to be one of the best scorers of the Italian league. He will need to improve his defense because sometimes it looks like he isn’t interested in playing any defense and better teams can punish that. If he starts playing better in defense too then we get a player ready for the highest level of European basketball.

Kevin Hervey (PF | 207 cm | ’96) ~ Virtus Bologna

Kevin Hervey came to Europe last year when he played for Lokomotiv Kuban in Eurocup and VTB League. He had some good numbers there and was amongst the best players in his team in both competitions. This off-season he signed a two-year contract with Virtus Bologna and will be an important piece of this team too. Great shooter from distance, especially in catch & shoot or pick & pop actions. Has great court awareness and moves well without the ball and can easily create separation. With his athleticism he can do a solid job in defense and help his team in rebounding too. Definitely one of the most talented players in the league and he is a player to watch.

Ty-Shon Alexander (SG | 191 cm | ’98) ~ Virtus Bologna

Another great signing by Virtus Bologna in this off-season was Ty-Shon Alexander. After going undrafted at the 2020 NBA Draft he signed a two-way contract with Phoenix Suns but was waived at the end of the season. Similar as Hervey, he signed a two-year contract with Virtus Bologna. Ty-Shon is a great scorer and his game definitely translates to the European style but since it will be his first season, he will probably need some time to adapt. Great shooter and can also play as a pick & roll operator. Has the size and athleticism to play very good defense on the perimeter too. I think this could be a really good signing for Virtus, maybe even one of the best signings in the Italian league and that Ty-Shon is a great fit with Teodosić and Belinelli.

Nathan Adrian (PF/C | 206 cm | ’95) ~ Happy Casa Brindisi

Nathan Adrian is a player that is slowly climbing the levels in Europe. Started in the French 3rd league, played in Ukraine last season and now he signed with Brindisi and will play in the Italian and in Basketball Champions League. He can play on both big positions and likes to play outside and attack with drives. Really good ball handler for his size and position and usually other big men have a hard time guarding him. Has a solid shooting stroke from distance too which makes him even more dangerous. He plays hard and physical and is not afraid of contact in offense or defense. I think he is ready for this level and that he could be one of the best “under the radar” signings in Italy this off-season.

Trey Kell (G | 193 cm | ’96) ~ Pallacanestro Varese

Trey Kell is coming to Varese from Stal Ostrow where he had a really great season and led the team to the title in Poland. A guard that can fill all the stats lines and help the team in many ways. Good scorer and had a few 30+ points games last season but he will hardly repeat something like this in a more competitive Italian league. Not the most consistent shooter from distance, release is on the slower side and this is an area where he could improve. Trey is a versatile defender and can defend most players on perimeter and strong enough to hold his stance against some wings on post ups too. I believe his game will translate well to the Italian league and he will be an important player in his team.

Jordan Caroline (F | 201 cm | ’96) ~ Dolomiti Energia Trento

First signing for Trento in this off-season was Jordan Caroline. He is coming from Taiwan where he was averaging 28 points and 14.4 rebounds per game but the league quality is way lower than what is waiting for him in Italy but I think Jordan is ready for the challenge. He is versatile and can cover many positions, a very good athlete that plays physical and he will definitely be a cornerstone piece of Trento, especially in their defense. Not the most consistent shooter from distance but I think he is able to improve in this aspect. He will play hard, grab some rebounds and score some points at the rim and most importantly, he will be a big factor in defense and I’m curious if someone will be able to match with his physicality.

Tyrique Jones (PF/C | 206 cm | ’97) ~ VL Pesaro

Finishing the list with Tyrique Jones. Similar to a few players on this list, Tyrique is an athletic big that plays physical. He is capable of playing high above the rim and making some highlight dunks. Moves fluidly, great rim runner and great in pick & rolls where he rolls quickly and aggressively to the rim. A true force in the paint but not really a player that could stretch the floor and make shots outside the painted area. He will bring a lot of athleticism to Pesaro and since they have many players that can stretch the floor he will have enough space to operate in the paint. Can’t wait to see him in the Italian league because I think he is a player that will fit in this league perfectly.

Twitter: @turkmarkoo