Who is Ed Stefanski scouting on his European trip? The Nets haven't said, but a look at his itinerary gives some clues. According to the Star-Ledger, Stefanski is traveling to Venice, Italy; Barcelona, Spain; Germany; back to Italy for a visit to Bologna; then on to Sarajevo, Bosnia, before returning home for the playoffs.
A quick check of mock drafts, European league rosters and local geography gives some hints of who he will be taking long looks at. With all that hand, it seems that the Nets are be interested in Andrea Bargnani, Rudy Fernandez, Tiago Splitter, Marco Belinelli, Kosta Perovic and Uros Tripkovic . The trip will also give him an opportunity to get reacquainted with the Nets' last two second round draft choices, Christian Drejer and Mile Ilic. And of course, the Nets aren't saying who else might get his attention. After all he did spot a 17-year-old Serbian center by the name of Nenad Krstic five years ago on one of these trips.
Here's a break down, city by city, player-by-player, along with a restaurant recommendation:
--Venice, city of canals and romance. No teams here, but not far away along the Autostrade is the city of Treviso, home of Benneton Treviso, one of Europe's best teams and its megastar, Andrea Bargnani, a 20-year-old seven-footer some have compared to Dirk Nowitzki. The Nets chances of getting him seem far-fetched, considering that no one thinks he will drop below No. 5.
Best restaurant: Al Covo
--Barcelona, great music, great walking city. Barcelona is the home of F.C. Barcelona, a perennial European power, but not this year. Nearby again, in the Catalonian hills is the city of Badalona and Juventut Badalona. Badalona doesn't have the flavor of its larger neighbor but it does have Rudy Fernandez, 6'-6" combo guard with great hops. Some mocks think he is the Nets' man.
Best restaurant: Cafe de l'Opera
--Germany. Mannheim? The great German university town -- and a big asparagus growing center! But it is also the home of the Albert Schweitzer Tournament, the unofficial world championships for players under 18. The tournament, which is underway this week, features teams from 16 different countries. Lots of young talent on display, but who? Serbia, as always, has a solid team.
Best restaurant: Cafe Journal, Mannheim
--Bologna. He's not here for the lunch meat or the veal bolognese. He might be here to tell Drejer the likelihood of him making the Nets isn't good. More likely, he is here primarily to take a look at the other team in town, Fortitudo Bologna, and Marco Belinelli. Physically a clone of Zoran Planinic, Belinelli is reportedly a better shooter, defender and athlete. Only 19 years old and very skinny, he might not come out, but the Nets have scouted players years before drafting them.
Best restaurant: Franco Rossi
--Sarajevo. It's not the city it was during the 1984 Winter Olympics, but nor is it the city that Serbian forces raked with sniper fire in the mid-1990's thank God. Sarajevo is hosting the Final 8 of the Adriatic League. No doubt, Stefanski will be talking to Ilic, but at least two other players on KK Partizan, Nenad Krstic's old team, should catch his eye: Kosta Perovic, a rugged if not athletic 7'-3" center [Think Greg Ostertag], and Uros Tripkovic, a 6'5" combo guard not rated as highly as Belinelli but has a scorer's mentality. Perovic recently outmuscled Ilic in an Adriatic League game.
Best restaurant: Plavi Zamak
The Nets don't limit their scouting to the European continent, however. The Nets do have two full time scouts covering the continent, one the Nets director of international scouting, Rob Meurs, who operates out of the Netherlands and the other a former coach who lives in Serbia. Both can and are dispatched to darkened gyms if the Nets think it's warranted. Meurs in particular spends a lot of time in Africa and Asia, where he regularly coaches youth teams.