A close look at Guglielmo Caruso – #1 of the 1999-born ranking – at his fourth-straight season as a player of PMS Moncalieri.
A 6-foot-9, 198 lbs big man gifted with great dynamism and a very wide wingspan: Guglielmo Caruso is a regular presence in the Italian Youth NTs (U16 and U18 European Championships, Mannheim Tournament) and in the most important European youth basketball meetings (Jordan Brand Classic, Basketball Without Borders).
He spent his 2016-17 season mostly with the U18 and U20 PMS Moncalieri teams (the latter has won recently the National Finals) coached by Vincenzo Di Meglio. The Naples-born player was also a member of the Serie B roster (3rd national division) and replaced an injured Riccardo Cattapan during three regular season games.
Other than that, he played in the LNP Coppa Italia Final Eight. In his sole game (a loss against Virtus Valmontone in the quarter-finals), Caruso – while battling with a skilled and experienced player such as Luca Bisconti – proved to be able to handle that kind of situation without any problems.
Let’s analyze his impact on both sides in a semi-pro context.
PICK AND ROLL – Ball screen plays constitute a large part of Coach Lorenzo Pansa’s offensive gameplan. Used as a center, Caruso is involved in this kind of situation in almost every play and he’s already able to set the screen in a way that keeps him away from foul trouble.
Most of the times, after he has set the screen, Caruso makes a deep cut towards the paint, providing an easy pass option for the ball handler of his team.
On the other hand, he has some troubles when he got to take position in the low post. As a matter of fact, he still doesn’t have that essential technique that would allow him to obstruct the opponent on a defensive switch and exploit the resulting mismatch in his favor.
Cutting to the basket is not the only solution that he has in screen situations. In fact, he’s able to read the defense and his teammates’ offensive choices as well, make a short roll around the elbow or the free-throw line and score with an effective frontal jumpshot.
THREE-POINTERS – Long-range jumpers are less frequent situations in his game than those we saw previously. Anyway, he’s able to knock down shots from behind the three-point line – he recently put together a 3/7 (43%) from downtown during the U20 National Finals. He has a nice touch and fluid mechanics, which are pretty unusual to find among players of his size.
PENETRATION – Once he has received the ball around the three-point line, he rarely choose to attack from the dribble. Improving this skill would be a great resource for his game in the near future, allowing him to play as a perimetral forward and not just as a big man able to open the floor with a long range shot. Also, for him, it doesn’t take much effort to get to the rim…
OFFENSIVE REBOUNDING – Although Caruso suffers the phisicality of other centers, he’s already a key factor under the offensive glass. He follows his teammates’ shots – either from a layup or a jumpshot – in the right way and he’s able to anticipate in which zone the ball is going to fall. His long arms definitely come in handy for grabbing the ball outside his cylinder.
Immediately after the rebound, he’s able to keep his balance, make a quick shot or pass the ball outside in order to start a new offensive play.
LOW POST – His weight doesn’t help in putting up a fight in the low post. For this reason, Caruso tries to fix this problem anticipating his opponent. This kind of solution is not always effective: when the pass is succesful, he still tries to put his hands on the ball from behind, even if it means spending a foul.
Things get even tougher when his opponent gets an “edge” while taking position in the low post: in that case, Caruso can’t use effectively his body to stand in the way of the other center, allowing pretty easy shots.
BLOCKING SHOTS – His athleticism is pretty average but he’s extremely good when it comes to deny shots, keeping his long arms up and showing an excellent timing for blocking big men…
…as much as guards: even though he hasn’t a very high lateral quickness, his 1-on-1 defense on switches is still more than adequate.
DEFENSIVE REBOUNDS – Just as much as we already saw on the offensive end, Caruso has to deal with bigger centers under the defensive glass but, here again, his ability to forsee the rebounding trajectory allows him to compete against his opponents.
It’s important to underline how his attention is way more focused in following the trajectory than trying to boxe out. In addition, he’s able to grab the ball above the rim even though he hasn’t much verticality.
The last part of the season will be full of important competitions for Caruso: first, the U18 National Finals with PMS Moncalieri and then another summer with the Italian NT. Possibly, in the meanwhile, some Serie B playoffs games.
Guglielmo is going to be a benchmark for both the U19 NT (World Cup, July 1-9) and the U18 italian team (European Championship, July 29-August 6), not forgetting the interest that he’s already drawing among NCAA observers: a factor that might affect his next summer as well as the seasons to come.
© photo: Andrea Cusano