Dragan Bender has been the talk of Twitter this week on the back of his impressive displays for Croatia at the FIBA Europe men’s under 18 championships in Konya, Turkey.
James Weldon, who has won all there is to win as a coach in the Irish women’s league, is in town for the FECC and was at Croatia’s 101-81 win over Poland on Monday. We caught up with him last night to get his thoughts on the 16 year old who is averaging 16.4 ppg 11.2 rpg and 4.8 apg through five games.
BallinEurope: What were the main strengths you saw in Dragan Bender from watching him play?
James Weldon: I think for someone his size he moves really well. Bender has a good understanding of the game. He can shoot the 3 to stretch the defence and open up low post isolation for a centre. For me, and most of the coaches I talk to, the two most important spots on the floor now for any team are the 1 and 4 so to see someone with his talent coming on the scene is exciting.
BiE:Where could he do with some work?
JW: I guess you can never stop improving and I think he probably needs to get a little more consistency into his game as he has been very up and down in the games so far. Players need to be able to play more spots that one in the modern game so 5 can play 4 or 4 can play 3, this also helps teams on the defensive end.
BiE: Bender is only 16, have you any thoughts on his best path for development?
JW: I wouldn’t be the best to advise him! He’s form the Mecca of European basketball, there are many great experts form that region including our course director Svetislav Pesic (Serbia) who could offer him better advice.
BiE: What did you make of the Croatian team as a whole?
JW: They are playing with great confidence right now and look like going all the way. Looking at the other teams, Turkey have looked very impressive at times and look like the only team that could beat Croatia, they have a huge home following and will be inspired by their u20s already winning gold this summer. Should be a cracker in they meet in final.
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