RJ Barrett was the headliner but Abu Kigab was perhaps just as vital for Canada to win the 2017 World Championships U19 in Cairo, Egypt a couple of weeks ago. Like his star teammate, the 18-year-old also earned first team all-tournament honors after averaging 20.9 points per 40 minutes on 23.1% usage-rate and ranking fifth in the tournament in defensive rating — according to RealGM.
The Oregon-commit is one of the smoothest athletes ever but impressed the most with the versatility of his skill-set on offense. He can run pick-and-roll, pass on the move, make some pull-ups, get to the foul line and space the floor operating off the ball, projecting as the prototype perimeter player for this era of basketball.
Canada went small quite a bit and spaced the floor well to provide him the best possible environment to succeed. If Oregon does the same, I suspect he’ll be just as prominent as Dillon Brooks was there.
On the other end, the six-foot-seven combo forward possesses the combination of physical profile and athletic ability to develop into an impact defender who offers as much flexibility as he does on offense. But as of now he’s only OK, executing Canada’s zone scheme pretty well and doing a reasonable job in one-on-one defense but failing to create many events.
Kigab ranked third on the team in usage but with Lindell Wigginton missing a couple of games due to injury, he was given quite a bit of shot creation responsibility against a set defense and impressed with his fluidity operating off the dribble.
Kigab flashed the ability to make a well-timed pocket pass turning the corner but what he really likes to do in pick-and-roll is not attack right away. Regardless of whether the opponent shows hard, hedges or drops, Kigab prefers slowing down the pace, backing down a step or two, transition into an isolation and then turn on the jets.
He’s shown a strong preference for going left and has a combination of hesitation move + explosive first step to just blow by his man but has also shown quite a bit of craft to get around quicker types. Kigab can go between the legs on the move, pivot into a well-coordinated spin move in a pinch and showed an in-and-out dribble as well to shake his defender side-to-side.
He’s proven himself pretty fast for someone his size with the ball and consistently gets deep dribble penetration against his age group. But Kigab lacks the strength to maintain his balance through contact to get to the basket and often got up to finish in awkward balance.
He’s proven himself fearless weaving through traffic on his way to the goal (resulting in 7.3 foul shots per 40 minutes) and flashed an euro-step to score around rim protection in transition but for the most part struggled with his touch on non-dunk finishes in the half-court — converting his 56 two-point shots at a disappointing 42.9% clip.
As was the case, Kigab took quite a bit of stop-and-pop jumpers from the elbow area and his one-dribble pull-up looks pretty good. The above average efficiency isn’t there yet but he appears to have a great base to be build upon; able to stop on a dime, elevate in great balance, pull the trigger quickly and get his shot off comfortably.
But Kigab’s most productive contribution off the bounce is his passing on the move. He has a nice handle for someone his size, turning it over on just 10.6% of his possessions, and proved himself very willing to hit open teammates with kick-outs to the strong-side and drop-offs to a big man at the dunker’s spot when the defense collapsed against his dribble penetration — assisting on 14.9% of Canada’s scores when he was on the floor at the Worlds U19.
Kigab proved himself an effective, if not particularly great yet, option operating off the ball as a floor-spacer. He catches on the hop on spot-ups, gets off the ground quickly, shows to have fluid mechanics to be build upon and has a quick release — nailing 36.7% of his 30 three-point attempts in Cairo.
Canada used him as the screener on the pick-and-pop once or twice and Kigab flashed the ability to relocate to a spot beyond the arc, catch and rise up quickly in rhythm with great balance. But other than that, he was not given many opportunities to showcase the versatility of his shot, as he was not asked to sprint around staggered screens or come off pindown screens.
Kigab posted the best defensive rating on the team, despite the fact he had just five steals and three blocks in his 190 minutes in Cairo — marks that were disappointing given his six-foot-nine wingspan, his leaping ability and the fact he often put himself in good position as he proved himself attentive to his help-defense responsibilities.
That was the case because Kigab showed pretty good discipline putting in the effort to stay in front of similarly-sized players in individual defense, running shooters off their shots with his closeouts on weak-side defense and executing the rotations within the zone scheme Canada played towards the latter part of the tournament.
He didn’t show a lot of toughness containing dribble penetration and holding ground in the post, despite his 214-pound frame, but contested shots in a satisfying manner with his eight-foot-six standing reach, aside from the fact he was vital for Canada’s smaller lineups to work with his ability to help protect the defensive glass — collecting 23.3% of opponents’ misses when he was on the floor.
 Who turns 19 in November
Editor’s Note: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at RealGM, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara