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Arizona lands top international hoop prospect

Arizona lands top international hoop prospect
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Top international basketball prospect Henri Veesaar has committed to Arizona, he told ESPN on Wednesday.

“I believe in [coach] Tommy Lloyd’s philosophy and the way he coaches,” Veesaar said. “I’ve been considering playing college basketball for a while now, and I think Arizona is a great choice to jump between youth and professional sport.”

The 7-foot, 18-year-old Estonian is considered arguably the most promising European prospect heading down the college route in the class of 2022. He has been identified as a 15-year-old at the FIBA ​​European Championship U16, where he had a solid performance playing a year in the competition, helping him land a contract with European powerhouse Real Madrid, the gold standard of youth programs on the continent.

Veesaar has progressed steadily over the past three years, winning the prestigious adidas Next Generation tournament in 2021 and earning a call-up to represent the senior Estonian national team at the age of 17, making him the youngest Estonian player to be seen. minutes. in a FIBA ​​qualifier.

Playing another year in the competition, Veesaar had an outstanding performance in last summer’s FIBA ​​U18 European Challengers, averaging 16.2 points, 11.6 rebounds, 3.8 blocks and 2. 6 assists, while hitting a 3-pointer per game.

Veesaar has an intriguing skill set for a modern big man, with a 7-2 wingspan, excellent height, mobility and perimeter shooting ability that could see him emerge as a legit NBA prospect as its lanky frame fills in over time. He’s quick for lobs or dunks, but he shows promising ball handling, passing ability and range, as well as the ability to protect the rim and clear the defensive glass.

Weighing in at 207 pounds and the same age as most rising high schoolers, Veesaar’s ability to add bulk will play a major role in how quickly he can emerge as a big contributor in Arizona. But he doesn’t shy away from contact and will change the geometry of plays due to his ability to stretch the ground – making 28 3-pointers in the 35 games he has played this season.

Arizona is coming off a promising first season under head coach Lloyd, a longtime Gonzaga assistant who took charge in Tucson a year ago and led the Wildcats to a top seed. No. 1 in the NCAA tournament and a Pac-12 championship. With Arizona likely to lose three underclass starters in the sophomore NBA draft Benoit Mathurin, Dalen Terry and Christian KolokoVeesaar will look to slip in playing time behind the starting big men Oumar Ballo and Azuolas Tubelis.

Veesaar will be one of eight international players in Arizona’s roster next season, joining Lithuanian twins Azuolas and Tautvilas Tubelisestonian compatriot Kerr Kriisa, Adama Ball of France, Shovel Larsson from Sweden, Ballo from Mali and Filip Borovicanin from Serbia. The Wildcats are also signing Canadian combo forward Leonard Miller, who is testing the waters of the NBA Draft. Veesaar said Arizona’s success with internationals was a key selling point in his signing.

“It helps to fit in with the team without being the only outsider and the style of play is different because they’re used to having different players from different continents,” he said. “The basketball experience varies a lot depending on where you grow up, so I think they have a good mix of different cultures.”

Veesaar said he will arrive at the Tucson campus in August, having spent the summer with the senior Estonian national team as part of the club’s FIBA ​​qualifying campaign.

Jonathan Givony is an NBA draft expert and the founder and co-owner of DraftExpress.com, a private scouting and analysis service used by NBA, NCAA and international teams.

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