In many cases international players who end up coming to the USA for college are late signees as they take time to weigh professional offers in Europe against NCAA scholarship offers. That trend has continued this year as over the past several weeks quite a few players who we have featured in our International Recruiting Service have accepted scholarship offers in the states. Among them are Moritz Wagner (Michigan), Andy Van Vliet (Wisconsin), Nicola Akele (Rhode Island), Yankuba Sima (St. John's) and Kristaps Gluditis (Western Kentucky).
Wagner, a 6-10 combo forward from Germany chose Michigan over UConn, Cal and other high major programs. He has generally been utilized as a tall SF. Wagner has unique athletic qualities with solid jumping ability and can run the floor well for a big man. He can knock down shots with good range and is particularly dangerous off pick-and-pop or catch-and-shoot situations. He has a pretty impressive handle for a tall forward enabling him to drive past bigger and slower forwards. He finishes strong at the hoop. Wagner has quick hands on defense and is a threat jumping the lane and deflecting soft passes. He currently can be a defensive liability when being posted up, but has time to bulk up. This season Wagner has been playing for Alba Berlin's second team and is averaging 11.8 points and 6.3 rebounds while shooting 32 percent on three-pointers.
Van Vliet, a 6-11 forward/center, heads to Wisconsin from Belgium where he played for Antwerp. He selected the Badgers over Washington State, Oklahoma State and St. Mary's. He caught our eye at the U18 European "B" Championships last summer where he averaged 8.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocked shots over eight games. Van Vliet is skinny (200 pounds) and currently doesn't like to mix it up inside much. That may change as he gets stronger. He's more comfortable facing the basket and has good shooting range. He'll start off as a prototypical stretch "4-5". If he can add strength and weight the Badgers have themselves a player.
Akele will head to Rhode Island after spending a season at IMG Academy in Florida. The 6-7 Italian forward was our favorite international wing and is a great pickup for the Rams. He'll be coming in as a 19-year-old freshman with significant international experience. In 2013-14 he played in the top league in Italy with Venezia and then averaged 5.4 points in the U20 European Championships. Akele is a long wing, plays excellent defense and would be effective at the top of a 1-3-1 zone. He's very athletic and runs the court extremely well. He has a solid mid-range shot and seems to like draining three-pointers from the corner. Akele, who had interest from Arizona, Cal and Miami, will get minutes as a freshman and combine with 6-9 Memphis transfer Kuran Iverson to help lead Rhode Island toward the top of the Atlantic 10.
Sima, a 6-11 center from Spain, will see immediate action for the Red Storm. He selected St. John's over Maryland, Baylor and others. We watched him at the U18 European Championships in Turkey last summer where he was the leading rebounder (12.1 rpg) while scoring 10.9 ppg and blocking over two shots per game. Sima has a 7-3 wingspan and all the tools to be a solid contributor at a high major level. He's a skilled passer out of the low or high post with solid basketball IQ. He's developing his offensive game without a large array of moves around the basket, but is a strong finisher around and above the rim. He sets good, wide picks and can be a threat rolling to the basket when given a straight line of attack. Sima is an excellent, physical rebounder with great timing and instincts as a shot blocker. He has the potential to become a strong two-way player.
The 6-4 Gluditis, from Latvia and GB Academy of Prague, heads to Western Kentucky after being somewhat under-recruited. He should fit in well in their offense. Gluditis is one of the top shooters in Europe for his age and has solid athleticism. He's a capable driver and can create his own shot while also being very effective coming off screens. He's a very good ball handler and had to play point guard at the National Prep School Invitational after GB Academy's starting point guard was injured. He performed very well but didn't get to showcase his shooting ability which may have hurt in his recruitment. This season for GBA Sports Praha in the top Czech league, he's averaging 20.1 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists while shooting over 45 percent on his three-pointers. .