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20 Under 20: Who are the rising stars of Europe?



MUNICH (Germany) – With the likes of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Luka Doncic and Nikola Jokic dominating the global basketball landscape and a wealth of talent across the continent, it certainly is a good time for hoops in Europe.

And considering that the most recent first overall pick in the NBA Draft is from France and there are multiple European players near the top of the projection boards for 2024, it looks like the future is bright as well.

Youth basketball expert Ignacio Rissotto has taken on the impossible task of identifying the continent’s brightest rising stars who are destined to make the biggest impact at the highest levels of competition over the next few years. On the international stage, for a few of them, the next edition of FIBA EuroBasket may not even be too soon.

As the name suggests, the 20 Under 20 list spotlights the top players born in 2004 or later, taking into account their achievements so far and, even more importantly, projecting their potential for the future. 

The selection of players is not ranked, with players listed in alphabetical order.

Izan Almansa 

Almansa has been one of the most impactful players for Spain at the youth level over the past few years and his FIBA resume speaks for itself: three tournament participations, two gold medals, three MVPs. The former Real Madrid and Overtime Elite prospect shows a really smooth game for his 2.08m size, being able to selectively handle the ball to create his own shot in the paint, as well as to make short and mid distance drives. Almansa also shows really good vision, which allows him to find teammates from the post. Defensively, he makes an impact as a rebounder and by contesting shots around the basket.

Considered as a potential selection in the 2024 NBA Draft, Almansa has been one of the most solid player’s for this year’s Ignite squad in the G League. His production at every level of competition has been undeniable and he will look to make a similar impact at the NBA level.

Berke Buyuktuncel TUR

At just 19 years of age, Buyuktuncel has vast experience, having played over 50 games for Tofas at the senior level, and taking part in five different FIBA competitions between 2021 and 2023, in which he racked up multiple accolades. Standing at 2.06m, the Turkish forward makes an impact with his versatile defense. The Turkish forward is strong enough to contribute as a rebounder and secondary rim protector, but he also shows the mobility and length to defend wings and forwards in the perimeter. Offensively, he’s able to handle the ball, make passes on the move and space the floor for his teams.

Currently playing his freshman season in the NCAA for UCLA, Buyuktuncel is one of the most versatile young players in Europe, and he’s well on his way to become a successful pro player in the near future.

Matas Buzelis LTU

Born in Chicago to Lithuanian parents, Buzelis committed to play international basketball for the Baltic Giants in 2022. Since then, Buzelis went from being one of the best players in High School basketball, to a projected top 10 pick in the 2024 NBA Draft. Currently playing for G League Ignite, Buzelis’ combination of 2.08m size, versatile shooting profile, ball-handling and his ability to find open teammates have earned him comparisons to Orlando Magic’s Franz Wagner. Defensively, Buzelis is currently having the best output of his career, putting up 0.9 steals and 1.7 blocks per game.

Despite Ignite struggling to win games during the current season, Buzelis is still an unique prospect with the mix of size, shooting, ball-handling and defense that is always coveted by NBA teams.

Sidy Cissoko FRA

A former standout for Baskonia’s junior squads and the first European player to sign with the G League Ignite, Cissoko was selected by the San Antonio Spurs in the second round of the 2023 NBA Draft. Standing at 1.98m, the French wing has really good size and strength for his position, playing with a good level of physicality as a driver and as a defender. Offensively, he also adds value with his ability to convert three-pointers off-the-catch and to move the ball. Despite seeing little playing time so far in his rookie season for the Spurs, Cissoko has shown at every step of his career, the combination of athleticism, size, defensive impact and perimeter offensive skills to someday thrive as a wing at the NBA level.

Bilal Coulibaly FRA

Recently selected to the Rising Stars Challenge that will take place over the NBA All-Star Weekend, it’s been a meteoric rise for Coulibaly who went from playing in the U21 Espoirs league in France to potentially being a franchise cornerstone for the Washington Wizards over the course of just 14 months. The 2.03m wing is making an impact at the NBA level with his versatile defense, being able to cover multiple positions with his mix of size, quickness and athleticism. Offensively, Coulibaly is thriving in a low-usage role for the Wizards, contributing with his off-ball shooting, occasional driving and by simply playing well within the flow of the offense.

Coulibaly, who is just 19 years old, still has a lot of years ahead to develop, but from what we’ve seen this season, it’s clear that the Wizards found an absolute gem with the seventh pick in the draft.

Hugo Gonzalez ESP

Scouts have been buzzing about Gonzalez for a number of years, who has become one of the most highly touted wings to come out of the European game in the past decade. Standing at 1.98m, Gonzalez won’t stand out with his ability to create for himself, but he does a lot of things that impact winning. He’s a versatile defender who can make an impact both on and off-the-ball, he’s an elite cutter and he’s a productive driver, who can create points by attacking in transition, closeouts and drawing fouls. The jumpshot has also come around for him, having become a reliable shooter off-the catch.

Currently projected to be one of the top picks in the 2025 NBA Draft, Gonzalez will bring value with his defense, his off-ball offense and, especially the high level of energy that he consistently approaches the game with.

Jayden Hodge BEL

16-year old Hodge is the youngest name on the list. Currently playing for St. Rose High School in New Jersey, the Belgian wing is one of the top recruits in the High School class of 2026 and has shown his versatile skill set in last year’s FIBA U16 EuroBasket, where he finished in the top five in points, rebounds and steals. The 1.95m wing is a strong driver, who can get downhill with a good combination of speed, power and fluidity. Hodge also makes an impact with his rebounding, his passing and his ability to shoot the basketball from deep range. He also possesses a high-motor, playing every possession with tremendous energy.

It’s early, but the versatility, athleticism and overall talent that Hodge displays both against High School and FIBA Youth competition is undeniable.

Baba Miller ESP

One of many former standouts from the Real Madrid junior ranks,  Miller has been considered as an intriguing prospect for the past few years due to his combination of elite 2.11m size and perimeter skillset. Miller is a fluid ball-handler who can attack the rim, move the ball and shoot from deep range. Defensively, he makes an impact both as a perimeter defender and as a helpside rim protector with his size and length.

Miller struggled to find his rhythm in 2022-23 after having to sit out for the first half of the regular season, but he has bounced back in a major way as of late, being a key contributor for Spain in their title run at the 2023 FIBA U19 World Cup and making a bigger impact in his sophomore campaign for Florida State.

David Mirkovic MNE

Despite his young age, Mirkovic has been extremely productive in every step of his career, whether that’s been his standout performances at FIBA competitions, European invitationals and, this season, at the Adriatic League where he has become a consistent contributor for SC Derby. Standing at 2.06m tall and with a strong frame for his age, Mirkovic is a gifted scorer who can create offense for his team from multiple levels of the floor. He is a polished scorer in the paint who displays a tremendous level of touch and footwork. He’s also able to make things happen from the perimeter, overwhelming smaller opponents on drives with his combination of size, strength and fluidity as a ball-handler, as well as being able to hit jumpshots from range.

Mirkovic won’t be eligible for the NBA Draft until 2025, but the productivity he has displayed at such a young age on every level of competition should have multiple teams buzzing about him already.

Juan Nunez ESP

One of the most creative playmakers to come out of Europe in the last decade, Nunez can make every pass in the book, showing tremendous vision, timing, accuracy and creativity to deliver the ball, both in transition and in the half-court. In his second season for ratiopharm Ulm, the former Real Madrid prospect has shown major improvement in multiple facets of the game, as he’s now shooting a career-best 49.4 percent from the field and 34.6 percent from three-point range. Continuing to improve as a scorer will be a key to his prospects as a future NBA player, but his talent as a facilitator is undeniable; in Nunez, Spain has found their floor general of the future.

He is the only player on the list to have featured at the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023, where he averaged 5.0 points, 3.4 rebounds and 5.2 assists as Spain finished the tournament in ninth place.

Zaccharie Risacher FRA

Despite not performing to his full potential at last year’s FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup, it’s fair to say that Risacher bounced back with his play in the 2023-24 season for JL Bourg-en-Bresse, living up to his pre-season hype as one of the top NBA prospects in Europe. The French wing has turned his potential as a shooter into a reality, converting 47.4 percent of his three point attempts. His defense has also taken another step, standing at 2.04m, Risacher is able to use his size, length and lateral mobility to make an impact both as a perimeter and interior defender. While not someone who has made a ton of impact as a ball-handler, he’s able to attack the rim in a straight line and move the ball, playing within the flow of the offense.

With his elite positional size, defensive impact and shooting ability, it’s easy to see why Risacher is projected to be one of the top picks in the 2024 NBA Draft. Aslo, easy to see why Vincent Collet called him up for the FIBA EuroBasket 2025 Qualifiers in an exciting squad for the February 2024 window.

Rayan Rupert FRA

Drafted by the Portland Trail Blazers in the second round of the 2023 NBA Draft, Rupert impressed scouts very early in his career with his combination of physical tools and defensive impact. An athletic wing with good size and tremendous length for the position, Rupert has shown the ability to defend multiple positions in the perimeter, as well as to create events as an off-ball defender. Offensively, he’s a powerful driver and adept passer, especially on the move. Rupert has seen limited minutes for Portland, but he has addressed his main concern which was his shooting ability, having converted 41.2 percent of his three-point attempts, albeit on a small sample size.

With his optimal tools and 3-and-D skillset, Rupert could develop into an important piece for the rebuilding Trail Blazers in the near future.

Michael Ruzic CRO

The son of former pro Tomislav Ruzic, Michael has already found a spot in Joventut’s rotation, playing important minutes both at the domestic and continental levels at just 17 years old. Ruzic makes his presence felt on multiple levels of the court. In the perimeter, he’s able to space the floor and attack the rim with the ball in his hands. In the paint, he has shown the ability to create his own shot with his back to the basket, utilizing his polished footwork and his touch in tough shots. Defensively, he makes an impact around the basket, contesting and blocking shots with his length.

One of the many talented prospects in the junior ranks of Joventut, Ruzic is an early name to watch ahead of the 2025 NBA Draft.

Tidjane Salaun FRA

One of the fastest-rising prospects in the European ranks, Salaun had a breakthrough 2022-23 season where he impressed scouts at both ANGT and the FIBA U18 EuroBasket, where he looked like France’s best player. Salaun is a wing with elite size and length, standing at 2.06m. He stands out not just because of his tools, but also with his tremendous fluidity with the ball in his hands, and especially, with his shooting touch, as he’s able to convert jumpers from deep range both off-the-catch and off-the-dribble. 

Despite his slow start in the current 2023-24 season for Cholet, the French wing has improved as the months have gone by, and his unique mix of size and potential as a perimeter scorer makes him a player to watch in the Basketball Champions League this year and one of the highest-upside prospects in the 2024 NBA Draft.

Alexandre Sarr FRA

Sarr was a key part of Real Madrid’s stacked 2005 generation before he made the move to Overtime Elite in 2021 and finally to the Australian NBL, where he’s been a key contributor for the Perth Wildcats during the current 2023-24 season. Sarr makes an impact on both ends of the floor with his elite measurements (2.16m tall with a 2.25m wingspan), which allow him to finish plays around the basket and protect the rim. His most intriguing moments, however, can be seen when he’s on the perimeter, where he’s able to attack closeouts, shoot jumpers off-the-catch and play defense against opposing forwards and even some wings.

Sarr’s unique combination of size, defensive potential and mobility make him one of the leading candidates for the first overall pick in the 2024 NBA Draft.

Elhadji Dame Sarr ITA

Sarr was a stand out prospect for the Orange 1 Bassano academy before making the move to Barcelona in 2022. Since then, Sarr has become one of the most promising Italian prospects in the last decade, making an impact at the junior levels both for his club and his national team. Sarr fits the mold of a 3-and-D wing extremely well. He has good positional size at 1.96m, a solid level of athleticism and, especially, a tremendous shooting ability; Sarr torched opposing teams at last year’s FIBA U18 EuroBasket, where he shot 40.9 percent from three-point range.

Sarr has developed into one of the most interesting young wings in the European game. He’s a candidate to have a major breakout performance in this year’s FIBA Youth EuroBasket and will start the 2025 NBA Draft cycle as one of the best international prospects on the board.

Andrej Stojakovic GRE SRB

The son of Serbian basketball legend Peja Stojakovic was born in Greece and is yet to commit to play for either national team for FIBA competitions. Currently playing his freshman season at the NCAA level for Stanford, Stojakovic is making an impact with his shooting ability, as he’s able to convert jumpers off-the-catch and has shown flashes as a tough shot maker off-the-dribble as well. The 2.01m wing has also proved to be a capable driver, cutter and playmaker for teammates on the move.

It’s still early, but with his proficiency as a shooter and his flashes as a ball-handler and passer, it’s easy to project Stojakovic as one of the best players in the college game and a potential NBA prospect down the line.

Nikola Topic SRB

Topic has seen a meteoric rise. Over the past 12 months he tied the all-time single-game scoring record at ANGT, followed that up by leading Serbia to the title at the FIBA U18 EuroBasket 2023, earning MVP honors in the process, and then became one of the most productive players in the Adriatic League, where he’s currently the tournament’s assist leader and second-leading scorer. Topic makes an impact with his combination of slashing and passing abilities for his 1.95m size. The Serbian guard is a strong driver who puts constant pressure on opposing defenders. He’s also able to make plays for teammates by utilizing the gravity he generates as a slasher, but also with timely, accurate and creative deliveries in the pick-and-roll game.

After a stint at Mega, Topic is now back at Crvena Zvezda, where he will spend the months leading up to the 2024 NBA Draft, where he’s considered as one of the best guards in the crop, and is projected by a number of outlets to be selected within the first five picks.

Victor Wembanyama FRA

One of the most anticipated prospects in NBA history, Wembanyama was selected with the first overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft. During his rookie season, the French phenomenon has more than lived up to his pre-draft hype, currently averaging 20.6 points, 10.1 rebounds and a league-leading mark of 3.2 blocks per game. The game comes easy for Wembanyama due to his truly outlier physical tools; he stands at 2.24m tall with an absolutely massive 2.44m wingspan. His skillset, however, might be even more unique than his size, as he’s able to not only dominate in the paint, but also to put the ball on the floor, shoot jumpers both off-the-catch and off-the-dribble, and find open teammates.

Wembanyama will be firmly in the conversation for the Rookie of the Year award during the rest of the season, but the long term outlook is even more enticing: he’s already the best player on his team and it’s easy to envision him developing into one of the, if not the best, player in the NBA in the near future.

Noam Yaacov ISR

Yaacov already made his debut for the Israeli national team in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 European Qualifiers, making a strong impression with a pair of games in which he scored in double digits and dished an average of 4.5 assists. Yaacov is a floor-general who is able to dictate the offense with the ball in his hands, finding open teammates both in the half-court and in transition. He is, however, more than capable of scoring for himself, using his creative ball-handling ability and his touch on tough shots to be a factor as a slasher.

Currently playing for French powerhouse ASVEL, Yaacov is seeing important minutes at both domestic and continental competitions at just 19 years of age; certainly valuable reps that will go a long way to help him develop into one of the top Point Guards in the European game.

DISCLAIMER: The above analysis has been prepared solely for the purpose of improving the experience of fans. All comments are purely of the author.

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