Top international basketball player Henri Veesaar has signed for Arizona, he told ESPN on Wednesday.
“I believe in [coach] Tommy Lloyd’s philosophy and how he trains,” said Veesaar. “I’ve had my eye on college basketball for a while and I think Arizona is a great place to bridge the gap between youth and professional football.”
The 7-foot-18-year-old from Estonia is believed to be arguably the most promising European prospect to commit to the college route in the Class of 2022. He was identified at the FIBA European Under-16 Championship as a 15-year-old where he had a strong performance in a year with the competition which helped him land a contract with European powerhouse Real Madrid, the gold standard of junior programs on the continent, to complete.
Veesaar has continued to develop over the past three years, winning the prestigious adidas Next Generation Tournament in 2021 and being called up as a representative for the senior Estonian national team at the age of 17, making him the youngest Estonian player to ever play minutes in a FIBA -Qualifier.
Veesaar played another year in the competition and put on an excellent performance at last summer’s FIBA U18 European Challengers, averaging 16.2 points, 11.6 rebounds, 3.8 blocks and 2.6 assists while finishing 3rd -Score point per game hit.
Veesaar has intriguing abilities for a modern big man, with a 7-2 wingspan, excellent height, mobility and perimeter shooting ability that could allow him to emerge as a legitimate NBA prospect if his lanky physique fills out over time. He’s quick on lobs or putback dunks, but he shows promising ball handling, passing ability and shooting distance, as well as the ability to protect the rim and clean the defensive glass.
Veesaar weighs 207 pounds and is the same age as most rising high school seniors. Veesaar’s ability to add mass will play an important role in how quickly he can become a significant contributor in Arizona. But he doesn’t shy away from contact and will change the geometry of games due to his ability to stretch the ground – he’s hit 28 3-pointers in the 35 games he’s played this season.
Arizona has had a promising first season under head coach Lloyd, a longtime assistant at Gonzaga who took over the Tucson reign a year ago and led the Wildcats to a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament and a Pac-12 championship. With Arizona likely to lose three underclassman sophomores Bennedict Mathurin, Dalen Terry and Christian Koloko in the NBA draft, Veesaar will look to slip into the season behind reigning big men Oumar Ballo and Azuolas Tubelis.
Veesaar will be one of eight international players in Arizona’s roster next season, along with Lithuanian twins Azuolas and Tautvilas Tubelis, fellow Estonian Kerr Kriisa, France’s Adama Bal, Sweden’s Pelle Larsson, Mali’s Ballo and Serbian Filip Borovicanine. The Wildcats are also recruiting Canadian combo forward Leonard Miller, who is testing NBA draft waters. Veesaar said Arizona’s success with the national team was a major selling point for his recruitment.
“It helps to fit into the team because you’re not the only foreigner and the style of play is different because they’re used to having different players from different continents,” he said. “Basketball background is very different depending on where you grow up, so I think they have a nice mix of different cultures.”
Veesaar said he will arrive at the Tucson campus in August after spending the summer with the senior Estonia team as part of the club’s FIBA qualifying campaign.
Jonathan Givony is an NBA draft expert and the founder and co-owner of DraftExpress.com, a private scouting and analysis service used by NBA, NCAA, and international teams.