Assessing A.J. Lawson, Biram Faye, and Karim Mane in a U19 World Cup Game

November 24th, 2019

by Alan Lu

I decided to take the time to watch a July 3rd U19 World Cup basketball game that took place between Canada and Senegal, as I was able to see this with thanks to YouTube via FIBA. It presented an opportunity to watch Canada’s 6-5 guard, Karim Mane, whom ESPN has rated currently as a first round prospect for the 2020 draft, and it also was another chance to watch potential lottery pick, Senegal’s 6-9 forward, Amar Sylla play. In this game though, the standout performers turned out to be neither of those players, but instead the top players were Canada’s 6-6 guard, A.J. Lawson, who currently is playing for South Carolina, as well as Senegal’s 6-9 big man, Biram Faye. Here are my thoughts on how those prospects fared, as well as how their games may stack up for the NBA.

A.J. Lawson could be a first round pick in the 2020 NBA Draft.  (Photo courtesy of FIBA.)
A.J. Lawson had a tremendous showing, as he did a great job of shooting and scoring the basketball, and he played solid defense in his team’s win over Senegal. (Photo: FIBA.)

South Carolina’s 6-6 sophomore guard, A.J. Lawson had a terrific showing for Canada to lead his team to a double-digit victory over Senegal. He is a very athletic swingman that can shoot and score the basketball, and he is a rangy defender that can cover a lot of ground on the other side of the ball.

He did a very good job of scoring off of drives in transition, as he would tend to score on high-flying dunks on the break, and he has good hands to catch long passes that are thrown to him. Sometimes, he would miss on contested layups in traffic, but Lawson is an agile, fleet-footed player that can has great foot speed and finishing ability to get numerous scores around the basket, and he can score using either hand to do so.

Plus, he showed a knack for making open, spot-up threes off the catch to space the floor for his team on offense. Lawson runs the floor very well, as he can make outside shots on the break, and he also ran off of a ball screen quickly to knock down a corner three late in the game.  Lawson also displayed decent playmaking skills. He is an unselfish player that will swing the ball to open shooters, and he passes well off the dribble to notch assists to help his team. However, he can throw careless, hasty passes that can lead him to commit turnovers, and he also had a couple of passes dropped by his teammates on other occasions.

He also did a good job of rebounding the basketball. He would swoop in to collect defensive boards to help his team on the glass, and sometimes he would push the ball up the floor. Plus, Lawson played decent defense. He was able to quickly jump a pass to get a steal as he will play passing lanes, and he also ran in to poke a ball away to nearly force another turnover. He also managed to contest a mid-range jumper to force a miss another time. Sometimes though, he may sag too far off his man, which can allow him to allow opponents to score on jump shots. On a separate play, he was caught ball watching as he ended up over-rotating back to his man as he shaded too far to the right, and he ended up getting beat off the dribble to allow a score.

In general, A.J. Lawson is a very athletic, versatile swingman that has a variety of skills that could allow him to thrive in the NBA. He can score the basketball in a variety of ways, and he is a rangy defender that can get steals to help his team. Right now, he may be a good value pick for a team in the mid to late first round range, as he could end up being a solid complementary player similar to Denver Nuggets’ guard, Will Barton in the NBA.

Biram Faye played very well for Senegal in his team's loss to Canada.  (Photo: FIBA.)
Biram Faye played very well for Senegal in his team’s loss to Canada. (Photo: FIBA.)

Senegal’s 6-9 big man, Biram Faye played very well in his team’s loss to Canada. He did a good job of making shots to help his team on offense, and he also made some solid defensive plays when he was on the floor.

Faye did a very good job of scoring on hustle plays. He excelled at scoring on put backs as well as in transition in this game. He was able to use a hesitation move to score on a powerful, two-handed jam off of a drive on the break while getting an extra free throw, and he also managed to throw down a thunderous tip slam after running in to get an offensive rebound.

He also excelled at scoring off the dribble when taking the ball to the rim. He tended to use pump fakes to score on strong, right handed drives to the hoop, and he has a good first step that allows him to quickly get past his man. However, sometimes he would take off-balanced shots in traffic, which would lead to misses, and he seemed to struggle more when he would look to go left when looking to score in the paint.

Also, Faye showed an adequate ability to knock down jumpers to help space the floor for his team on offense. He can make spot-up threes off the catch over smaller defenders, and he also ran to get the ball to knock down a mid-range jumper another time. However, he struggled more to consistently make three-point shots, and he had trouble making outside shots more when he would attempt ball fakes or dribble moves prior to attempting them from beyond the arc.

However, he will need to improve his ability to score in the post. Faye did manage to draw a free throw after he appeared to charge into an opponent when dribbling in from the block, but was able to get a favorable foul call his way. However, he missed completely when attempting a turnaround, fadeaway jumper, and he also missed on a sweeping hook shot, as he struggled to find his shooting touch when he would look to score with his back to the basket.

Plus, he displayed fairly average playmaking skills. Faye didn’t look to pass very often, but he was able to throw a long outlet pass to a teammate in transition to set up a score, and he also can pass out of the post to find the open man. He also did not commit a single turnover in this game. However, sometimes he can get the ball poked away, and he also dropped a pass off of an opponent out of bounds, as he can occasionally struggle to protect the basketball.

Faye also did a great job of grabbing rebounds to help his team on the glass. He would often leap up to haul in boards on both ends of the floor, and he would often run in to get offensive rebounds and then go on to score off of them to provide his team with numerous second chance points. However, he can occasionally be too aggressive in going after boards, as he was called for a reach-in foul when trying to get a defensive rebound once.

Faye also played good defense in this game. He has good leaping ability, recovery speed, and timing, as he excelled at defending both out on the perimeter as well as when he was in the post. He was able to defend a couple of drives to swat shots to his teammates, and he also can poke balls away and jump on loose balls to get steals and deflections. He showed a penchant for rotating to contest shots off of drives to force misses, and he also would use his length to get opponents to miss on three-point shots. On the other hand, sometimes he can be too aggressive in trying to contest shots, which can lead him to commit fouls.

In summary, Biram Faye is an athletic, skilled big man that played very well in his team’s loss to Canada, and he was able to score 30 points and haul in 15 rebounds in this game. He did a good job of scoring and rebounding the basketball, and he could be a solid find for an NBA team in the second round of the 2020 draft, as he may project into being a solid role player in the association.

Karim Mane could be a potential first round pick in the 2020 draft.  (Photo: FIBA.)
Canada’s 6-5 guard, Karim Mane showed off some solid skills in his team’s win over Senegal. (Photo: FIBA.)

Canada’s 6-5 guard, Karim Mane had a rather uneven performance in his team’s win over Senegal, but he was able to make some really solid plays when he was on the court. He is a very athletic slasher that will attack the basket to garner scores, and he also can throw down some highlight-reel worthy dunks. He didn’t make shots consistently and struggled with his position defense, but he is a talented prospect that may possess considerable upside.

Mane possesses a good ability to score on aggressive drives to the basket. He has a solid first step off the dribble, and he was able to use dribble moves to score on a couple of left-handed drives to the hoop. He also managed to score on a thunderous dunk off the dribble, as he possesses very good strength and leaping ability, and he was able to draw the contact that should have enabled him to get an extra free throw that time. Plus, he also pushed the pace to score on a speedy, right-handed drive in transition while getting an extra free throw afterwards. On the other hand, he had a couple of instances where he would not always go up strong, which led him to get a couple of his layups blocked by defenders.

He also can knock down spot-up threes, and Mane was able to make a wide-open three-point shot off the catch to space the floor for his team on offense. However, he had trouble making them when he wasn’t given nearly as much time or space to get his shot off, and he also had trouble making pull-up jumpers. Though he was able to get to the foul line, he did not make any of his free throws in this game.

Plus, he also displayed adequate playmaking skills. Mane handles the ball well and has fairly good court vision, as he can pass off the dribble to set up scores for his teammates on the break. However, sometimes he can play too wildly on offense, as he may not always protect the basketball, and there would be times where he would lose it out of bounds after pushing the ball quickly up the floor. He also threw an inaccurate bounce pass that skipped out of bounds, and he also dropped a pass that led his team to commit another turnover.

Mane was quite active on the glass, as he would chase down balls to haul in defensive rebounds, and he would tend the push the ball up the floor off of them afterwards. However, he will need to improve his defense. For the positives, he has good length and footwork, and he can defend well when he is dialed in. He was able to close out hard on a three-point shooter to force a miss, and he also contested a drive in transition to get another stop.

However, he can tend to be undisciplined defensively. On one play, he bit on a ball fake before getting beat off the dribble to his right, which forced a teammate to foul the opponent on a drive. On a separate play, Mane was late to step up on a drive, as he didn’t force his opponent to go to his weak hand, as he ended up committing a reach-in foul to allow his man to score on a dunk and get the extra free throw in transition. He also was called for a reach-in foul on a dunk attempt in transition another time, and there are times where he may not be in position to defend his opponent on that side of the ball.

Overall, Karim Mane is a very athletic combo guard that still may have ways to go as a prospect for the NBA, but his elite physical tools may allow him to be a potential first round pick in the 2020 draft. He will still need to improve his jump shot and defense, but his ability to score and finish plays above the rim could prove to be intriguing for teams at the next level. Right now, he may be a second round prospect, but he may have the skills to end up being a reliable role player similar to New Orleans Pelicans’ guard, Frank Jackson in the association.

The U19 World Cup basketball game between Canada and Senegal provided me another chance to watch Senegal’s 6-9 forward, Amar Sylla.  However, his play in this game unfortunately turned out to be incredibly underwhelming, as he threw up what seemed to be an endless sea of bad misses, and he also committed a slew of turnovers that make it difficult to justify his high draft stock.

For the positives, Sylla is an athletic big man that excelled at scoring on hustle plays. He ran the floor to get the ball on the break, and he was able to drive aggressively to the hoop to score on a reverse layup off the glass. Sylla also would run in to score on high-flying, tip dunks after getting offensive rebounds for his team.

However, he struggled mightily to knock down jumpers in this game. He did make an open mid-range shot from the baseline, but Sylla missed on two other mid-range jumpers, and he hoisted up a couple of airballs after unsuccessfully attempting three-point shots from beyond the arc. He also had trouble scoring out of the post. Sylla would tend to miss open layups after looking to score on the block, and he also badly missed on a turnaround jumper. Sometimes, Sylla would rush his shots, but he also would sometimes not go up very strong, which would lead to confounding and perplexing misses around the basket.

Sylla was very turnover prone in this game. For the positives, he is an unselfish player that will look to find the open man, and he also can pass out of the post to do so. He also has some ball handling skills. On the other hand, he often had trouble protecting the basketball, as he would dribble the ball too high, and he tended to not be able to see the help coming. He had a couple of balls poked away after handling it, and he also got tied up in the post to commit another turnover. Sylla also dropped a catchable interior pass, and he also threw a weak pass that ended up being intercepted by a defender.

He also did a very good job of rebounding the basketball. He would aggressively leap up to get boards on both ends of the floor, and sometimes Sylla would bring the ball up the floor after getting them to help his team.

He also will need to improve his defense. On the bright side, Sylla is a very good athlete, and he has good defensive potential. He was able to quickly fight through a screen to stay with an opposing ball handler, as he was able to contest a three to force the miss. He also didn’t bite on a pump fake when defending in the post, as he was able to get the stop that time. Sylla also will play passing lanes, as he has good length, agility, and instincts that can allow him to get steals.

However, he showed a surprisingly low motor in this game, as he did not always bring great effort with him to the defensive end. There would be times where he would not hustle back on defense, which would lead his team to allow scores in transition, and other times he would not even contest jumpers or shots off the dribble, as he would sluggishly make his rotations. There was a separate play where he didn’t communicate to a teammate that a shooter was open in the corner, as his team allowed a three-point basket early in the game. Sylla also tended to commit fouls when defending in the post off the ball, as he would be caught holding his man. Late in this contest, he ended up getting beat off the dribble when defending out on the perimeter, which forced his teammate to rotate to have to commit the foul.

Overall, Amar Sylla is a very athletic combo forward that may be more of a project than a polished player right now as a prospect for the NBA. His elite physical tools are something NBA people may dream of, but he didn’t seem to possess a great motor or feel for the game in his team’s loss to Canada. He really had trouble making jumpers or scoring in the post, and he would have a slew of defensive lapses that really hurt his team on the other side of the ball.   Right now, there are rumblings that he could maybe go in the lottery in the 2020 draft, but that could be a sizable mistake, as he may be nowhere near ready to contribute in the NBA. Add in that he has not played very well in either the Belgium League or in the Basketball Champions League, as his field goal percentages hover around 40% or less, and that he’s posted single digit PER in both professional leagues so far, and that may make him a very risky pick high in the draft. Right now, Amar Sylla will need to continue to hone his game overseas, but if he can make significant improvements over time, he could perhaps end up being a solid role player in the NBA.

Others Notes:

Canada’s 6-10, 2002-born center, Charles Bediako showed some interesting skills in his team’s win over Senegal. He can make threes as well as score in the post, and he also threw a long outlet pass to set up a score for a teammate in transition. Plus, he also rebounded and defended well in this game. He would get his hands on passes to get steals, and he also would use his length to contest shots to force opponents to miss shots from all over the floor. Sometimes though, he would be called for fouls after contesting shots in the paint. Still, Bediako is a fairly athletic big man that has versatile scoring skills, and he could project to be a solid rim protector in the NBA, and he could be a first round prospect for the 2021 draft.

Seton Hall’s 6-8 freshman forward, Tyrese Samuel had a fairly solid game to help Canada get the win over Senegal. He played very good defense, and he also excelled at scoring in transition when he was on the court. Samuel did a great job of jumping passes and poking balls away to collect a plethora of steals, and he also would actively contest shots to force misses. He also managed to drive up the court to score on an emphatic jam on the break.

However, he was unable to make any of his three-point shots, and he also threw a couple of passes that resulted in him committing turnovers. Overall, Samuel is an athletic combo forward that is a rangy defender, and he could be a player to keep an eye on in the future, as he could project to be a defensive specialist similar to Oklahoma City Thunder’s forward, Andre Roberson in the NBA.

UC Davis’ 6-0 sophomore point guard, Damion Squire also played well for Canada, as he would make open spot-up threes off the catch, and he also can score on runners off the dribble. He also managed to kick balls out to shooters to set up scores for them, and he also can get his hands on balls to get steals defensively. In all, though he may not possess ideal size or physical tools for the point guard position, Squire is a smart basketball player that shoots the ball well, and if he can continue to play well in games, he could perhaps end up making his way to the NBA as a backup point guard in the league.

Senegal’s 6-4 guard, Cheikh Faye did a good job of shooting and scoring the basketball. He showed a knack for scoring on aggressive drives to the basket, and he also would run the floor to score on fast breaks. Plus, he also can knock down open threes off the catch, and he also managed to score off of a backdoor cut another time. Sometimes, he can miss on wild leaners in traffic off the dribble, and he can be streaky with his jump shot, but Faye generally excelled as a scorer to help his team in this game.

On the other hand, he also committed a slew of turnovers due to carelessness, as he had a couple of ball-handling turnovers, and he also threw a pass that was dropped by a teammate. On defense, he was able to intercept a loopy pass to get a steal, but he would sometimes struggle to defend his man, which would cause him to commit fouls and allow scores.

Overall, Cheikh Faye is an athletic, skilled combo guard that can make a variety of shots, and he may be a prospect to keep an eye on in the future. If he can continue to make strides and progress as an overall player, he could perhaps end up finding a way to make it to the NBA someday.