Izan Almansa, a 6-foot-10 big man from Spain projected as the No. 18 pick in the 2024 NBA draft, has signed with G League Ignite, he told ESPN.
"This is the best step to take now to improve my game, play against grown men and also work on my body," Almansa said.
Last summer, Almansa became the first player to win MVP honors at both the FIBA U17 World Cup and FIBA U18 European Championship, guiding Spain to a continental championship and falling to the U.S. at the World Cup. He spent the past two years with Overtime Elite in Atlanta, averaging 9.9 points, 9 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1 steal in 27 minutes per game with YNG Dreamerz last season, shooting 58% from the field.
"My game has improved in a lot of ways in the U.S.; my shooting, physicality and also seeing how the people see the game here, everybody is trying to get to the same place so is super competitive," Almansa said. "I decided to continue my development in the U.S. because I want to play here for the next years so I think that being in this environment is going to help me more."
Almansa, an excellent passer with a strong feel for the game, pick-and-roll prowess and off-ball awareness defensively, is the youngest prospect currently projected to be drafted in 2024, not turning 18 until July 7, the same birthday as projected No. 1 pick Ron Holland. He's currently competing in the FIBA U19 World Cup in Hungary where he's averaging 19 points and 7.5 rebounds in 25 minutes, guiding Spain to a 2-0 record thus far.
"I've improved a lot on my shooting and I need to show it in the games," Almansa said. "I need to play more from outside and improve my handles. Also I have to work on my defense so I can switch with guards and also guard inside."
Almansa is the eighth and final prospect added to G League Ignite's roster, making this easily the biggest pool of young players they'll have in their platform since launching in 2020. Almansa is the third projected first round pick in the group, along with ESPN 2024 No.1 and No. 2 forecast selections Ron Holland and Matas Buzelis. He is the second former Overtime Elite player to join Ignite along with projected second-round pick Tyler Smith. Two NBA Academy Africa graduates are also on the roster in forward Babacar Sane and guard Thierry Darlan, along with returning point guard London Johnson who will spend his second year in the program. Recent signing Dink Pate, the youngest player in the program, will spend at least two years at Ignite as he is not NBA draft eligible until 2025 due to the age limit.
"I just want to help the team win as many games as possible so I will just do whatever I have to do," Almansa said. "But obviously everybody is trying to get to the next level so we need to take each other's strengths and put it together as a team."
Jonathan Givony is an NBA draft expert and the founder and co-owner of DraftExpress.com, a private scouting and analytics service utilized by NBA, NCAA and international teams.