The FIBA Basketball World Cup was meant for each country's grown men and veterans. The United States can afford to throw out some of the younger kids on the floor, but not the rest of the world. This isn't a tournament typically designed to highlight the game's premier prospects.
Nobody told that to Croatia's Mario Hezonja or Ukraine's Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk.
Hezonja, 19 years old, and Mykhailiuk, who just turned 17 this summer, have both made their country's squads and even earned some minutes early on. Granted, not many minutes, but at this level, gracing the floor as a teenager should be considered an achievement in itself.
For Hezonja, the buzz started up back in 2011 when he took home MVP of the Under-16 European Championships. In the Under-17 World Championships the next year, he averaged 20.8 points and seven boards a game. Hezonja spent the next season with Barcelona's junior team before moving to its senior team in 2013.
But we haven't gotten a chance to see much of Hezonja since then, given his 9.7-minute-per-game average combined in the Spanish ACB and Euroleague.
Regardless, even in short stretches, his talent can jump off the screen like a flying 3-D object.
With a textbook 6'8" frame for a projected 2-guard or wing, Hezonja is fueled by some spectacular athleticism. He glides out there, both down the floor and through the air.
Hezonja scored an impressive 1.21 points per possession in transition during ACB play, per DraftExpress. He actually showcased the jets within the first minute against Senegal in Croatia's third World Cup contest:
He has some serious spring in those legs to match terrific hand-eye coordination, a blend that leads to easy buckets—and some not so easy—around or above the rim:
In the half court, Hezonja operates with a scorer's mentality. He can create his own shot and generate offense against a set defense—a quality that, when paired with his world-class physical tools, plays to his upside as a potential go-to option.
From step-back and pull-up jumpers to explosive bursts to the rack, Hezonja is capable of taking over portions of a game. Back in March, he torched La Bruixa d'Or Manresa with 26 points on 12 shots in 21 minutes. And it was glorious to watch.
With a confident stroke, he connected on 37.8 percent of his three-pointers this past season, though he doesn't quite sport an in-and-out quick release. Still, Hezonja clearly has promising shot-making ability, whether he's shooting straight up and down, fading away or curling off a screen.
Ironically, his strengths as a one-on-one player have also helped illuminate his weaknesses.
Hezonja's shot selection can be poor. You'll often see him try and size up his man before hoisting up a hero jumper in his grill. He failed to get to the line in 24 of his 34 games played this season.
Outside of just finding easier ways to score off the ball, Hezonja will ultimately have to learn how to score within the offense, as opposed to relying on isolation opportunities. And at the same time, he'll need to make quicker decisions when he does have the ball, as we've seen it stick to his hands while his teammates stand around.
Hezonja reminds me a little bit of J.R. Smith, whose decision-making, shot selection and perimeter-oriented attack can cloud his microwave scoring ability and neutralize his high-octane athleticism.
But at just 19 years old with excellent two-way tools and a dynamite skill set to build on, Hezonja has plenty of time to mature and loads of upside to eventually hit.
He'll be eligible for the 2015 NBA draft, and though his role next season isn't likely to skyrocket for Barcelona, Hezonja's towering ceiling should keep him in the lottery conversation.
At this point, it seems reasonable to expect another low-key year for him, but as long as he doesn't set off any alarms, Hezonja's name should heat up next May before what could be a fairly average draft.
For NBA fans, Mykhailiuk should be a lot easier to keep an eye on coming off Kansas' bench, where he'll take his talents for at least the following season.
"It was my dream to play in the NCAA and I think it's a good opportunity to show what I can do and go to the NBA", Mykhailiuk told HoopsHype's Jorge Sierra.
He's fresh off a big year that included a last-minute invite to the Nike Hoop Summit and an MVP award for his performance at the Under-18 Division B European Championships.
Recently measuring in at 6'6" in Portland, Oregon (though Kansas lists him at 6'8"), Mykhailiuk has ideal size for a guard or wing, along with some nifty agility and body control. And though not the same level of athlete as Hezonja, he can still get up and throw down.
But Mykhailiuk's game is predicated on creating and making shots from outside. He only needs an inch of room to lock in with the rim, and between his step-back and pull-up jumpers, Mykhailiuk can separate from his man and find the space he needs to release.
In 2013-14, he shot 44 percent from downtown for SK Cherkasy in Ukraine's first division. He only averaged 5.8 points in 20 minutes a game, as his scoring arsenal inside the arc still needs work, but his jumper was pretty reliable for most of last year.
Mykhailiuk can also handle the ball fairly well, with the ability to attack open lanes or use escape dribbles to free himself up. He's crafty, and though turnover prone, he has some vision on the move and occasionally dishes out a pretty dime from the perimeter.
If you're looking for a pro player comparison, ESPN's Jeff Goodman noted Nik Stauskas, which is the right idea.
On the downside, Mykhailiuk leans too heavily on difficult shot-making away from the rim. He hit just 32.9 percent of his two-point field goals this past season, failing to convert off improvisation and shots off one foot.
Mykhailiuk isn't particularly long or strong—he seems a lot more comfortable launching over the defense from outside than trying to finish through or around traffic in the paint.
And despite flashes of defensive playmaking ability, Mykhailiuk doesn't quite project as a lockdown ball-stopper.
He sports a pretty thin frame and an underwhelming wingspan, which he'll probably feel at both ends of the floor as a 17-year-old freshman. "He gets bumped off his route right now," one NBA executive told ESPN's Goodman.
However, given the value tied to shooters in the college game, there's a good chance Mykhailiuk could see some minutes next season at the back end of Bill Self's rotation.
Self spoke on Mykhailiuk's possible role next season, via Goodman.
I think that he will be an immediate impact guy. He is a guy that can play all three positions on the perimeter. At 6-8, he can play point, play the No. 2 [guard] or the No. 3 [guard]. He allows us to be more versatile next year and certainly, there would be few people that would shoot it better than him.
As a prospect, Mykhailiuk's blend of size, athleticism and perimeter firepower certainly seems first-round worthy, though he won't be eligible for the draft until 2016.
You might not hear much from Hezonja or Mykhailiuk over the next eight months. But there's a reason their respective countries have called on them this summer.
Even if it doesn't happen in this year's World Cup or next year's regular season, look for both international studs to emerge as high-profile NBA targets.
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