CHICAGO — The Basketball Without Borders Global Camp, now six years strong, remains one of All-Star weekend’s great highlights, at least within the basketball industry, with a who’s who of NBA decision-makers and execs gathering each morning to assess a group of top international-born teenagers. It’s become a must-attend event from a scouting standpoint, annually featuring future lottery picks (this year’s top two draft-eligible internationals, Deni Avdija and Killian Hayes, participated last year), and an event that’s consistently illustrative when it comes to talent, if not completely indicative of future success. It’s always well worth the time.
It was a slight disappointment that the consensus top prospect expected to attend, Jonathan Kuminga, was MIA, opting to remain in New Jersey and play for his Patrick School team over the weekend. The Congolese forward is widely expected to reclassify to 2020 and be eligible for the 2021 draft, but it continues to be tricky for teams to see him live. Another top prospect, Guinea’s Moussa Cisse, did drills but was unable to play in five-on-five scrimmages due to a Tennessee rule that limits players’ participation in out-of-state events. There was still a lot to see, and representatives from all 30 NBA teams filtered in and out over the course of the three-day event.
Below are six prospects who left notable impressions.
Ariel Hukporti, C, Germany
Height: 7’0” | Weight: 260
Fighting through jet lag after arriving from Germany on Thursday, Hukporti was probably the weekend’s biggest winner from a draft stock perspective, with some extended stretches of dominant rim-to-rim play that should put him squarely in the first-round conversation in the 2021 draft. He was particularly good on Sunday morning and deservedly earned camp MVP honors. His international profile continues to grow, following a productive run at the U18 Euros last summer and with the junior team at Ludwigsburg.
Boasting enviable size and length with broad shoulders at his listed 7’0” and a remarkable capacity to sprint the floor and stay involved in plays, Hukporti was hard to miss, and turned heads around the gym with his productivity and defensive impact. His size and heft makes a clear visual impact on ball-handlers, and he showcased a pretty good feel for rotation and positioning and decent footwork. Shoring up his ball-screen defense will be crucial moving forward, but Hukporti moves well in space for someone his size, and there’s room for growth in all facets of his game. His jumper and offensive skills are still progressing, but he exhibited strong touch with his left hand, a willingness to play physically, and great hands while crashing for rebounds and showing in the lane.
At a glance, Hukporti holds up quite well in the context of what’s shaping up as a very deep 2021 draft class. He checks most of the boxes NBA teams looking for in a modern center, with a game as utilitarian as it can be eye-popping. He’s not a freak athlete or an elite skill player, but the tools and advanced feel for his role really stood out against others in his age group. One general manager I spoke with over the weekend posited that he’d average a double-double at the college level right now. Provided Hukporti continues to trend upward, which at this rate, he will, expect him to be a hot name in league circles moving forward.
Jean Montero, PG, Dominican Republic
Height: 6’2” | Weight 172
On the strength of several confident shot-making displays, Montero was pretty clearly the most gifted guard at the camp, and his display was all the more impressive given he was also one of the youngest players in attendance. For the most part, he was exceptionally effective in spite of his wiry, smaller build, flashing a confident pull-up game, non-stop motor and an appealing degree of unselfishness. The Dominican guard averaged 30 points per game over the summer at the U16 FIBA Americas, and while he’s more shoot-first than passing-oriented, Montero is developing into a legit NBA-type talent.
Montero came to the United States last year, played in Nike’s EYBL over the summer and chose to spend this season playing in Spain with Gran Canaria’s junior team, where he’s unsurprisingly put up big numbers. Clearly, he’s way ahead of the curve in the context of his immediate age group. The fact his all-around game is relatively fleshed out in addition to the obvious knack for scoring bodes well — he competed with tenacity on defense, was willing to cut and rebound without the ball, and had a desire to involve himself in every play. This was an impressive showing that will earn him legit attention moving forward.
Juhann Bégarin, SG, France
Height: 6’4” | Weight 192
Bégarin entered the weekend as the most highly-touted international prospect the gym, as an athlete who immediately catches your attention and a potentially high-level perimeter defender. The Guadelupe native has played a modest role for Paris in France’s Pro B this season, and his performance on whole was a mixed bag. He’s competitive, covers ground well laterally and was far and away the camp’s most impressive athlete in transition. Bégarin is strong, fluid and coordinated going downhill in the open court, and given space to attack on a line, he’s capable of evading or powering into defenders and finishing with his right hand.
However, Bégarin’s offensive game in the halfcourt is very much a work in progress: his handle looked loose at times, he was turnover-prone as an on-ball playmaker, and his play was occasionally selfish throughout the weekend, and to his own detriment. He’s a capable shooter when left open, but his misses were all over the place, and he has a ton of progress to make in that regard before next year’s draft, in which he’s been pegged by some as a lottery-type talent. Based off this weekend, Bégarin may lack a degree of ingenuity and feel with the ball that could end up limiting him role-wise, particularly if his shot doesn’t progress. Still, the tools and defensive potential make him worth tracking, and if he puts it together offensively, there’s some potential here.
Sadraque Nganga, PF, Angola
Height: 6’10” | Weight: 198
Nganga rates as a five-star prospect in the 2022 high school class, and was one of the more intriguing long-term projects in attendance, as well as the youngest by birth date. The Arizona-based forward recently moved back to Compass Prep after starting the year at nearby Hillcrest Prep, where he played more of a low-usage but highly productive role as a rebounder and play finisher. Nganga got to put his full range of skills as a ball-handler on display this weekend, which points to some additional long-term intrigue. He can’t shoot much off the dribble, but had a couple nice catch-and-fire sequences, and it’s not out of the question he adds that to his game on a more consistent basis moving forward. Nganga’s shot selection was wild at times, but there’s also something to be said for giving players leeway to try stuff and fail, in the interest of eventual development. He’s a little big stiff in his upper body and has to fill out more physically, but his athletic tools and base skill set are appealing as a perimeter-oriented four man. If he can merge that with his previously demonstrated willingness to do the dirty work, Nganga could have a bright future in store.
Bennedict Mathurin, SG, Canada
Height: 6’6” | Weight 180
Committed to play at Arizona next season and a product of the NBA’s Global Academy program, Mathurin put his scoring arsenal on display and had the weekend’s best highlight, with a soaring, clutch dunk that stopped the gym and helped his team win the championship. He’s a natural bucket-getter with pop off one foot, and while his shot selection is still a bit of a work in progress, Mathurin at the very least should be in for a strong college career, and the next step for him is expanding his impact without the ball in his hands and on the defensive end, where he has the tools to be viable at a high level. His progress over the past year has been impressive, and his innate ability popped in this environment. As it stands, he likely needs multiple years of college, but his current trajectory is certainly of note.
Olivier Maxence-Prosper, F, Canada
Height: 6’8” | Weight: 200
Another NBA Global Academy product, Maxence-Prosper certainly looks the part from a physical perspective as a strongly built, fluid wing whose body holds serve on both ends of the floor. He has an ideal frame for his position and will play at Clemson next season, where he should be ready to contribute minutes in some form. Though still inconsistent and learning how to score more consistently off the drive against bigger bodies, he flashed shooting potential and defensive versatility, and looked like one of the more intriguing long-term athletes in the group. He was active in the passing lanes and on the ball, and off the tools alone, Maxence-Prosper’s continued growth will be worth monitoring closely. He had a strong weekend on whole and appears to be moving in the right direction in terms of shot creation. There’s definitely some ceiling here as he puts it all together.