After the noticeable impact created by European players in the NBA in recent years, it is possible to observe the reflection of this influence in the NCAA as well. Since the Arizona Wildcats have a significant number of international players on their team lately, having European players on the roster has become one of the characteristic features of the team.
Arizona adds Paulius Murauskas as their seventh international prospect. Another NCAA team, the UCLA Bruins, seems to be following in Arizona’s footsteps this season. UCLA already has commitments from European players Jan Vide, Aday Mara Gómez, and Ilane Fibleuil for the upcoming season. The growing interest in European prospects is undoubtedly creating an incredible opportunity for young players in Europe. Let’s take a closer look at UCLA and Arizona’s new international prospects.
One of UCLA’s new international prospects is Jan Vide, who is expected to be one of the prominent names in the coming years. Vide is from Slovenia and is a combo guard. He has great positional size at 6’7. This season with the Real Madrid U-18 team, Vide averaged 20.1 points and 5.7 rebounds.
During the seasons he spent at Real Madrid, the areas where he undoubtedly improved the most were his outside shooting and mid-range shooting. In addition to this ability, one of the outstanding features of his game is his ability to drive directly to the rim, which highlights his playmaking identity. With Real Madrid’s U-17 and U-18 teams, he progressed quickly in terms of physical development. In addition to being the top scorer in the U–17 World Cup, Vide won the Adidas Next Generation Tournament Championship with the MVP title in his final season at Real Madrid. It will be interesting to see how Vide’s instinctive scoring ability will contribute to the team next season.
Aday Mara Gómez
The Spanish ACB League is one of the best domestic leagues in Europe. Although it wasn’t an outstanding season for the Casademont Zaragoza team in the Spanish ACB League, it was a season where Aday Mara Gómez was able to show his skills on the court during the playing time he got. One of his outstanding attributes on the court is his exceptional ability to see the entire court. As a result, one of the characteristics of his game is his pinpoint passing, and he is a good finisher around the rim with both hands.
During the season in the ACB, he got an average of 12 minutes and his stats are 5.3 points, 3.2 rebounds and 0.9 blocks. He was especially notable for his blocks on the defensive end during his time on the court. Gomez also averaged 12.6 points per game while playing for the Spanish national team in the U-17 World Championship.
Ilane Fibleuil gained recognition for his outstanding performance, especially during the U-17 World Cup, where he was selected to the tournament’s All-Star Five. After his season with Pôle France, UCLA also recruited him to their roster. It is important to note that he shot 61.5% from three-point range in the U-17 World Cup this season. Additionally, despite the team not having a successful season in Pôle France, it was still a significant season for Fibleuil individually as he maintained an average of 10.2 points, 3.3 rebounds.
He is an effective player on both offense and defense, using his athletic ability to his advantage. It is also important to add that he is quick in transition, and displays impressive athleticism with a basketball IQ and instinctive shooting skills.
Could UCLA’s Fourth International Prospect Be Berke Büyüktuncel from Turkey?
Berke Büyüktuncel has gained even more attention after being selected in the All-Star Five of the U-18 tournament and winning a silver medal. He averaged 12.3 points and 7.4 rebounds. After his success in the U-18 tournament, Büyüktuncel, who had been rumored to go to UCLA last summer, spent last season at TOFAŞ. TOFAŞ is a team in the Turkish Basketball Super League (BSL), which is one of the best domestic leagues in Europe. Berke has done a good job of getting significant minutes this season, he averaged 5.81 points, 2.73 rebounds and 17 minutes. As a wing/forward his standout qualities are his defensive versatility and his physical maturity. His ability to shoot the ball, his defensive versatility and strengthen size at such a young age are important features that set him apart from his peers.
When we look at UCLA’s international prospects this season, the most important detail to add is that they are adding size to their roster. Jan Vide is a 6’6 combo guard, Aday Mara is a 7’3 center and Berke Büyüktuncel is a 6’9 wing/forward.
Paulius Murauskas, the seventh international prospect added to the Arizona roster. The Lithuanian forward, who turned heads at the U-18 European Championship with an impressive average of 20.7 points per game, joined Lietkabelis after his experience with Nevezis in the Lithuanian League. Since Lietkabelis participates in both Lithuanian League and the EuroCup, it is important to mention Murauskas’ performance during EuroCup games.
With his versatile game, Murauskas has the potential to be a significant contributor to the teams he plays for, especially on pick-and-pops. It is also worth noting that he has shown significant improvement in his post-up play over the years. However, what sets him apart is his defensive impact on the court. Especially during the seasons he spent in the Lithuanian League, he showed an exceptional performance while defending the other team’s top scorers. Due to his physical advantage, he easily drives to the basket and makes effective plays in one-on-one positions. Considering his potential in both offense and defense, he is undoubtedly one of the young athletes in NCAA who has a room to further develop his skills.
The Impact of Coach Simović on the Recruitment of International Prospects at UCLA
One of the key factors behind UCLA’s move to acquire international prospects is Coach Ivo Simović. UCLA signed with Coach Simović as an assistant coach last year. Coach Simović‘s Serbian background and his experience coaching the youth team of KK Crvena Zvezda in Serbia, as well as working as the sporting director of CB Espacio Torrelodones in the EBA League in Spain, gives us an important insight into his career. He later worked for Loyola University Maryland, UNC Charlotte and the University of Hartford.
Ivo Simović‘s impact on UCLA’s international prospects for the incoming class is undoubted. But the real curiosity is whether having an international recruiter will be a trend across college sports in the years to come.