One of the top performers on the opening day of the FIBA U17 World Championship in Zaragoza, Spain on Thursday has been Finland shooting guard Elias Valtonen.
The 2018 prospect dropped 22 points in a victory over China, showing off his long list of attributes which make him on path to be a high major prospect.
Valtonen is a versatile wing who will likely be able to play both the two and the three offensively at the next level. He's got a smooth stroke and can hit three-pointers off the catch and pull, while his shiftiness and handle allow him to take opponents off the dribble and score with his pull-up jumper from midrange.
Not just a shooter, Valtonen can handle the ball and finish with both hands, while he's also an impressive passer. Valtonen has quick hands on defense and plays very hard. He still has plenty of strength he'll be able to add to his frame, which will only help him finishing with contact and guarding athletic wings.
Valtonen’s assistant coach at Helsinki (Finland) Basketball Academy, Hanno Mottola, is also an assistant coach for Finland’s u17 squad and knows what kind of talent he has in the rising junior.
“He’s a matchup nightmare because he has guard skills but can play power forward as well,” Mottola said. “He has a quick first step, can take defenders off the dribble, can shoot it and he’s a terrific rebounder. He led the team last summer in steals, rebounds and blocks; he’s an all-around guy.”
There is a quickly growing list of programs recruiting Valtonen but a couple high major programs have gotten an early jump on him.
“I’ve got a lot of schools asking about him but only a couple have talked to him so far,” Mottola said. “Arizona and Utah are a couple of them but even more have contacted me and I’m sure once this tournament is over he’s going to have a lot of schools.”
On the first day that college basketball coaches were allowed to make contact with high school juniors, both programs reached out to Valtonen.
“(Arizona and Utah) talked to him the first day,” said Mottola. “We sent one guy (Lauri Markkanen) to Arizona this year and we know the coaching staff well. I also have a close relationship with the Utah staff. Those are two really good teams but it’s still a long way away.”
Mottola, who said that Valtonen hopes to eventually take some unofficial visits, has a feel for what his standout wants in a program.
“He wants a team that plays modern basketball where he can be an all-around player,” he said. “You can’t put him in one spot. He needs to have the green light to do all kinds of things. He has to find a program that really wants him.”