by Jeff Fox

Play in the Euroleague is well underway for the 2008-09 campaign, and not surprisingly last year’s champs – CSKA Moscow—is undefeated thus far. As for the play of the big name NBA defectors dotting various team’s rosters, the results are varied (Carlos Arroyo—16.3 ppg, 5.0 apg, 4.3 rpg; Josh Childress—10.3 ppg, 3.5 tov, 14% 3pt, 53% FT).

But what Draft 365 really cares about is the play of the youngsters, so here are the top performers in the early-going.

Brandon Jennings — Lottomatica Roma
Euroleague — 10.5 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 1.5 apg
Projected draft range — Top 10 pick.

While still showing occasional flashes of his dime-dropping ability, Brandon Jennings main role for Roma in the Euroleague has been that of a scorer. His blazing speed and good leaping ability have been on full display, and he has shown a knack for hitting tough shots over defenders. His last two Euroleague contests have seen him average 13.5 ppg and shoot a blazing 8-14 from the field. His foot speed (on both ends of the floor), leaping ability and shooting stroke are definitely NBA-ready, but his painfully-thin frame needs some building up to prepare himself for the rigours of the NBA season.

Omri Casspi — Maccabi Electra
Euro league — 6.8 ppg, 2.0 rpg
Projected draft range — Top 20 pick.

Omri Casspi has shown steady progress this Euroleague season for Tel Aviv. He had his best showing of the season in his last Euroleague game, a loss to Olympiacos (who got a quiet four points from Josh Childress). Using his great length (6-9) and athleticism on the wing, he slashed his way to the hoop, jumped into passing lanes and knocked down threes to the tune of 16 points, five boards and two steals.

Milenko Tepic — Partizan
Euroleague — 13.3 ppg, 4.8 apg, 3.8 rpg
Projected draft range — Mid to late second round pick.

The beauty of basketball in Europe is 21-year-old prospects like Milenko Tepic will already have seven years of pro ball experience by the time next June’s draft rolls around. The 6-8 Serbian combo guard/small forward has greatly improved each season to the point that he is arguably his team’s best player now. The ability to play three positions, his great passing ability, deadly outside shot (12-27 3Pt) and heady play make him a superb European player. However, he does lack NBA athleticism and reports suggest he isn’t interested in jumping to the NBA, at least not yet.

Sergio Llull — Real Madrid
Euroleague — 10.8 ppg, 2.0 apg
Projected draft range — Early second round pick.

Another combo guard, 6-3 Sergio Llull has really stepped up his play for Real Madrid in the early going. He is a dead-eye shooter (80.0% 2Pt, 45.5% 3Pt), very quick and athletic and a creative passer. He always seems to be ahead of the pack on the wing and gets lots of fast break points due to it. Also encouraging is his very busy nature on the defensive end, getting his hand on passes and scrambling around. He does need to add muscle and strength to his frame though.

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Introducing…

A regular feature to the Draft 365 space, Introducing… brings you the goods on off-the-radar NBA prospects worthy of being a blip on your GPS.

Victor Claver — Pamesa Valencia

While the Euroleague prospects have been getting most of the ink in this column, there are more than a handful of quality NBA prospects playing in other leagues around the world. The best of these prospects might be Victor Claver, who plays in the top league (ACB) in his native Spain. Playing in the toughest domestic league outside of the NBA, Claver is going off for about 11 points and five boards per game this season, hitting three-pointers at a 54 percent clip and gets about a block and a steal per night at the defensive end.

6-9 small forwards with his skill set (not to mention only be 20-years-old) don’t come around too often, so Claver is a player worth keeping an eye on. Check some of Claver’s video highlights.

Jeff Fox also writes about college hoops and the NBA draft at collegehoopsnet.com.