2024 Future Watch: Evaluating Zaccharie Risacher, Melvin Ajinca, and Mark Armstrong in the France-USA U19 Basketball World Cup

August 16th, 2023

By Alan Lu

This time around, I decided to watch a 2023 U19 Championships game that took place on July 1st between France and USA.  When it happened, it was considered perhaps surprising that Team USA lost, but actually, Team France had a lot of talent on their roster.  I decided that it was time to watch 6-8 French forward, Zaccharie Risacher play in a FIBA tournament game against the United States, with thanks to YouTube via FIBA – The Basketball Channel.  He and fellow French forward, Melvin Ajinca were two of the standout performers on their squad, and the US squad had numerous contributors that played well, perhaps most notably Villanova’s soon-to-be sophomore guard, Mark Armstrong.  Here are my thoughts on how they and other top performers fared in this game, and how their skills may translate to the NBA. Also, for those that are interested in the box score of this game, here is the link.

French forward Zaccharie Risacher is one of the top prospects for the 2024 draft, and has produced well in the French League. If his play was slightly underwhelming at the 2023 Nike Hoop Summit, his strong performances at the U19 Basketball World Cup in July this year have shown why he is highly regarded as a projected lottery pick for the 2024 draft.
(Photo: Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images, via Bleacher Report)

Zaccharie Risacher had a solid showing in helping to lead France to get a narrow win over USA.  He is a very athletic, skilled forward that shot the ball well, and he also was able to cover plenty of ground defensively.  He did have a tendency to commit careless turnovers, but his ability to make plays on both ends of the floor really helped his team in this game.

Risacher did a very good job of knocking down open, spot-up threes off the catch.  He also really excelled at scoring on fast breaks.  He was able to drive up the court to score on an acrobatic, reverse layup.  He also received the ball in transition and then scored on a high-flying, two-handed jam.  He did miss on a contested, off-balanced leaner on a half-court drive, but Risacher is a tall, smooth forward that was able to knock down shots efficiently on the court.

On the downside, he was quite turnover prone in this game.  For the positives, he is an unselfish player that can pass and handle the basketball.  Risacher was able to throw a long outlet pass to a teammate ahead on the break to notch an assist.  However, he tended to throw inaccurate, hasty passes that would go astray, and sometimes he would try to throw fancy passes that would go out of bounds.  He also attempted to handle the ball on the baseline once, but had a ball poked off of him that led to another turnover.

He also did a decent job of rebounding the basketball.  Risacher would leap up to get several boards, and he was able to quickly push the pace off of a defensive rebound once.  He also played solid defense.  Risacher is a quick, rangy defender that can cover a lot of ground on that end of the floor.  He was able to quickly jump a dribble handoff pass to get a steal.  He also would use his length and positioning to stay in front of opponents when defending them off the dribble to force misses.  He did commit a reach-in foul when defending an opposing ball handler around mid court once and had tripped him, but in general, Risacher defended well.

In general, Risacher played well to help lead France to a win over USA, and he showed why he is considered to be one of the best prospects that will likely be in the 2024 draft.  His blend of shooting, defense, and athleticism are reasons why he could end up being a likely lottery pick, and he could end up being a solid player in the NBA.

6-7 forward, Melvin Ajinca also put forth a strong performance for France to help lead his team to a win over USA.  He is an athletic, skilled forward that put his all-around skills on display, and he shot the ball well in this game.

Ajinca did a great job of knocking down threes to provide floor spacing for his team on offense.  He showed a knack for making open, spot-up threes off the catch, and he was able to make one from way out.  He also utilized a pump fake and pulled up to make a three smoothly another time.

Plus, he also was able to score on a thunderous dunk on the break, and was able to get an extra free throw afterwards.  He also showed an adequate ability to score off the dribble.  Ajinca showed a knack for drawing free throws on aggressive, baseline drives.  On the other hand, he seemed to be over-reliant on getting fouled, and he ended up having one blocked around the basket.  

He also showcased decent playmaking skills.  Ajinca generally did a good job of throwing interior passes to find open teammates on the move, but he also threw a hasty pass that got intercepted once.  Though he didn’t grab many rebounds in this game, he was able to get a pair of defensive boards.

Also, Ajinca played solid defense in this game.  He is a high-motor player that would consistently hustle back on defense, and that would allow him to block and alter shots to prevent opponents from scoring on the break.  He tended to stay in front of his man to cut off penetration, and he also would contest outside shots to force misses.  On the other hand, he would sometimes be too aggressive in trying to contest shots, which would lead him to commit fouls and allow scores.

Overall, Ajinca played very well, and he is an athletic, skilled forward that showed a solid set of all-around skills to help his team get the win.  He is an underrated prospect that has the tools to excel in the league, and he could end up being a first round pick in the 2024 draft.

Mark Armstrong turned in a solid showing in his team’s loss to France.  He is a fleet-footed combo guard that can get to the rim at will, and he showed the potential to be a primary scorer at higher levels.

Armstrong showed a satisfactory ability to score off the dribble.  He has a quick first step that allows him to consistently get to the rim, and he has an assortment of dribble moves that allow him to score on offense.  He also showed that he can take on the contact and get fouled to get to the free throw line.  Sometimes though, he would tend to take too many tough shots, which would lead him to miss shots in traffic.

He also showed a satisfactory ability to knock down jumpers.  He did a good job of making pull-up jumpers, and he can quickly dribble off screens to get his shot off.  He also was able to make an open three-pointer off the catch.  Armstrong showed good footwork and ball-handling skills to create separation in order to take step-back threes, but he was unable to make either of them when attempting to make long-range shots off the dribble.

Also, he displayed adequate playmaking skills.  Armstrong is a willing passer that can get the ball to his teammates, and he was able to throw a long outlet pass to set up a score for a teammate on the break.  However, he would sometimes have a tendency to over-dribble, and he got tied up by a defender that led to a turnover.

He also played adequate defense.  Armstrong is an aggressive help defender that will rotate towards opposing ball handlers and passes to force turnovers, and he has active hands that allow him to get steals and deflections.  He also would contest threes to force some misses.

However, he would sometimes play too aggressively, as he would be too aggressive in contesting shots, which would lead him to wind up out of position.  Sometimes, he would bite on pump fakes, and other times, it would lead him to commit fouls.  He also had some trouble defending pick and rolls, and he would sometimes take bad angles on those possessions.

Overall, Armstrong played fairly well in his team’s loss to France.  He is a very athletic guard that will look to score aggressively off the dribble, and he could poised for a breakout season as a sophomore at Villanova.  He will still need to significantly improve his jump shot and playmaking skills, but his athleticism and ability to create his own shot could enable him to be an intriguing second round prospect for the 2024 draft.

France’s 7-0 center, Alex Sarr played fairly well in his team’s win over USA.  He is a strong, athletic rim protector that defended very well.  He also excelled as a finisher after off-ball movement to score around the basket, and he also showed the handles and scoring touch to make shots both off the dribble and out of the post.  Plus, he also is a good passer that made solid reads to get assists.

He also showed the willingness to take threes, even though he missed once from the corner.  He didn’t grab many rebounds and had some trouble protecting the ball, but Sarr generally played well on both ends of the floor.  Overall, Sarr is an athletic big man that can create his own shot, pass, and protect the rim.  He’ll need to improve his rebounding and focus more on the details, but he is a talented prospect that could end up going in the late first to the second round range in the 2024 draft.

Zacharie Perrin is a strong, mobile big man that had a strong showing for France to help lead their team to a win over USA.  He was very efficient at scoring the basketball, and he did so in a number of ways.  He would score on strong, left-handed drives, and he also would use off-ball movement to score, as he would sometimes score on powerful dunks.  Perrin also was able to utilize a crafty, up and under move to score out of the post, but sometimes he would miss on tough shots from the block.

Perrin also showed off good playmaking skills.  He also did a good job of making passes on the move and off the dribble to set up numerous scores for his teammates.  However, he would sometimes struggle to protect the basketball, which would lead him to commit turnovers.

He also did a good job of rebounding the basketball.  He also displayed fairly solid defensive skills.  Perrin was able to block a shot off of a put back attempt that forced a shot clock violation.  He also ran in to jump a pass to get a steal, and he also would apply pressure and contest shots to get stops for his team.  On the downside, he would sometimes be late on his rotations, which would lead his team to allow scores.  Other times, he would struggle to defend stronger opponents in the post.

Overall, Perrin is a fairly athletic, high-motor forward that excelled at making energetic plays to help his team in this game, and he also passed the ball very well.  He’ll need to improve his outside shot and be a more disciplined defender on a consistent basis, but he is a talented prospect that could end up being a good find for an NBA team on draft day.

Alexandre Bouzidi also played well to help lead France to get the victory over USA.  He is a skilled guard that excelled as a shooter, scorer, and playmaker in this game.  He showed a knack for making threes and mid-range jumpers both off the catch and dribble.  He would take advantage of opponents giving him ample space to shoot the basketball, and he also has a crafty pump fake that draw opponents in the air to get them to foul him.  On the other hand, he’s not super quick, and on one play, he got his shot blocked off of a drive to the hoop. 

He also displayed decent playmaking skills.  Bouzidi is an unselfish player that would consistently make the extra pass, and he showed that he can find teammates on the move to set up scores for them.  On the downside, he tended to over-dribble and mishandle the ball, which would lead him to get the ball poked and stolen away from him.  Other times, he would throw rushed, ill-advised passes that would lead to other turnovers.

Though he didn’t grab many rebounds, he was able to get a pair of boards in this game.  Bouzidi also defended very well.  He is a pesky defender that would get his hands on passes and balls to get steals, and he showed a very good ability to go after loose balls.  He would consistently use his length and positioning to force misses.  On the downside, there was one play where he gave up too much space to a shooter once to allow a three-point score.  Another time, he had trouble staying in front of a quicker player off the dribble, which led him to give up the basket that time.

Overall, Bouzidi played very well, and he is an agile, skilled playmaker that excelled at making plays on both sides of the ball.  He is an underrated prospect that has a good feel for the game, and he could end up being a solid find for an NBA team on draft day.

Tre Johnson is an athletic, 6-6 swingman that primarily excelled as a shooter and scorer in this game.  He has a quick first step that allows him to get to the hoop to score off the dribble.  Johnson did a great job of making jumpers, especially on corner threes.  He also is a gifted ball handler that can make touch passes.  Overall, he did a good job as a shooter, scorer, and playmaker in this game, and he could be a first round prospect in the 2025 draft.

Dylan Harper is a very athletic combo guard that excels at scoring on fast breaks.  He has a blindingly fast first step, and he would accelerate to score on strong drives in transition.  He also would score on high-flying, fast-break dunks, and he also showed that he can score in traffic.  He also utilized a backdoor cut to score on a powerful slam.  On the downside, he would sometimes take rushed shots that would miss in traffic, and he also had trouble knocking down his outside shots.

He also did a decent job of rebounding the basketball, and he would sometimes push the pace.  He also is an aggressive help defender that would quickly jump on loose balls, and was able to fly in to poke a ball away to get steals and deflections.  On the downside, he didn’t look to pass very often, and didn’t get any assists in this game.

Overall, Dylan Harper is a very athletic combo guard that can finish plays above the rim, and he can make highlight reel-worthy plays on the break.  He’ll need to improve his jump shot and playmaking skills, but his athleticism and scoring skills could make him a first round prospect for the 2025 draft.

Kylan Boswell played fairly well for USA in his team’s loss to France.  He is an agile, skilled combo guard that can shoot and score the basketball, and he is a pesky defender that can rack up many steals.  He showed a knack for knocking down jumpers, as he was able to do so both off the catch and dribble, and he also was able to score on a drive in transition.  However, he also had a tendency to rush his shots off the dribble, which would lead to some awkward misses in traffic.

He looked to be fairly average as a playmaker.  Boswell is an unselfish player that can make an assortment of passes to create scoring chances for his team.  However, he would sometimes throw hasty passes that would get intercepted.  Another time, he mishandled the ball and it led to another turnover.

Though he didn’t get many rebounds in this game, he was able to get an offensive board.  He also played satisfactory defense in this game.  He is a pesky defender that would often poke balls away to get steals and deflections, and he would jump on passes and loose balls to get other steals.  On the downside, his lack of size made him an easy target when he would be forced to defend a bigger player in the post, which would lead him to commit fouls and allow scores.  Other times, he would be caught ball watching and would wander too far away from his man, which would lead him to give up open jump shots.

Overall, Kylan Boswell had a decent showing, and he showed that he can capably knock down shots against tough competition.  He’ll need to improve his playmaking skills, but his ability to make shots and defend could enable him to go in the late first to the second round range for the 2024 draft.

Tennessee’s sophomore forward, Tobe Awaka quietly played very well in USA’s loss to France.  He has good strength and scoring touch to score often out of the post, and he also utilized a pump fake to score on a right-handed drive to the hoop.  He also was able to use his solid motor to finish plays around the basket.’

He also would set solid screens to allow ball handlers to create space for themselves on offense.  However, sometimes he would be careless on offense, as he set a moving screen and was called for an elbow another time that led him to commit offensive fouls and turnovers.

Plus, he did a great job of rebounding the basketball.  Awaka played satisfactory defense in this game.  He was able to rotate to block a shot off of a drive to a teammate due to having the timing to do so.  He would also get his hands on passes and poke balls away to get a plethora of steals.  Plus, he would contest shots to force misses.  On the downside, he and his teammates would struggle on pick and roll coverages, which would lead their team to giving up wide open shots.  He also would have a tendency to bite on pump fakes, which would lead him to wind up out of position and commit fouls and allow scores.

Overall, Awaka is a strong, fairly athletic big man that primarily excelled as an interior player, but he also did a very good job of forcing turnovers in this game.  He will need to expand on his shooting range and improve his passing skills, but his ability to score, rebound, and defend could enable him to be a solid find for an NBA team in the future.

Anyways, those are my thoughts on how the top performers fared in this game.  Thanks for reading.

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