The last of the four Euroleague Basketball ADIDAS NEXT GENERATION TOURNAMENT qualifying series tournaments tips off this weekend in the Serbian capital. ANGT Belgrade features teams from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Czech Republic, Germany, Israel, Italy and of course Serbia and top talents from those countries and many more. Here's a primer on some of the players to watch from the eight teams in action this weekend.
U18 Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade: Aleksa Uskokovic
Uskokovic will be playing in his second ANGT season after averaging 8.3 points, 2.6 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 2.3 steals combined at the ANGT Belgrade and ANGT Finals tournaments. The 1.94-meter point guard really stepped up at the ANGT Finals, where he averaged 12.8 points, 4.3 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 3.3 steals in helping Zvezda advance to the Championship Game. The Belgrade native also collected 6.7 points, 3.5 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.7 steals for Serbia at the FIBA U18 European Championship 2016. Uskokovic is a leader with a lot of energy and pushes an up-tempo gamer. He is the kind of player who can change the momentum of the game. He is a good shooter with a solid jump shot, who also has a good one-on-one game. He also plays very aggressive defense and gets his hands on a lot of balls.
U18 GBA Prague: Maros Zeliznak
Zeliznak will be playing at his first ANGT as GBA is making its debut in the competition. The 2.08-meter center played last summer for Slovakia at the FIBA U18 European Championship Division B and averaged 6.4 points and 2.4 rebounds per game. Zeliznak, who grew up in the town of Vranov nad Topľou, is a late bloomer who just stopped growing and just turned 18 years old this month. Zeliznak has a very strong body and is a good defender. He possesses a good feel around the rim and works very hard. He also has good leadership qualities coming from his time with the Slovakian national team. Zeliznak is working on using his left hand and extending his shooting range.
U18 Maccabi Teddy Tel Aviv: Amit Ebo
Ebo will be playing his third ANGT after he averaged 12.8 points, 1.3 assists and 1.3 steals at ANGT Rome in 2014-15 and collected 16.5 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.8 steals at ANGT L’Hospitalet last season. The 1.80-meter guard improved his three-point shooting from 30.8 percent in Rome to 36.4% last season. Ebo played at the FIBA U18 European Championship, where he tallied 10.2 points, 1.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.2 steals per game, while hitting 30.3% from long range. The Kfar Saba native is a very quick and smart lefty point guard. Ebo is an excellent shooter with unlimited range. He is also a good passer and pick-and-roll player and he controls the tempo of the game very well.
U18 Mega Bemax Belgrade: Goga Bitadze
Bitadze will be playing his second ANGT season after he averaged 6.4 points, 4.6 rebounds and 0.9 blocks combined from the ANGT Rome and ANGT Finals last season. The 2.11-meter center from Georgia joined Mega in December 2015 just weeks before ANGT Rome. Bitadze, who hails from Sagarejo, Georgia, averaged 11.4 points, 10.2 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 5.3 blocks at the FIBA U18 European Championship 2016 Division B for Georgia. Bitadze is playing for Mega’s junior team – with whom he is averaging 14.2 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.8 blocks in 18.5 minutes a game – and for Smederevo in Serbia’s first division – where he is collecting 9.6 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game. He is very intelligent and creative on the floor. Bitadze has a fantastic feel for blocking shots and on offense can play face up or with his back to the basket.
U18 Partizan NIS Belgrade: Tadija Tadic
Tadic will be playing at his second ANGT after posting 7.4 points, 4.4 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 1.6 steals at ANGT Belgrade last season. The 1.94-meter point guard is averaging nearly a triple-double in the Serbian U18 national league and was named the MVP for the month of December. He has played for the Serbian youth national team and averaged 4.6 points, 2.0 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.0 steals at the FIBA U16 European Championship 2015. The native of Zemun, who has been with Partizan since 2013, is a very intelligent player and a true leader on the court. He possesses great character and a huge desire to win. Tadic is known to be a hard worker at practice, too.
U18 Porsche BBA Ludwigsburg: Mateo Seric
Seric will be playing in his second ANGT after averaging 11.7 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.7 steals at Kaunas last season. The 2.03-meter forward played for Germany at the FIBA U16 European Championship 2015 and collected 1.6 points and 2.6 rebounds. The native of Backnang went from the German national team in tennis to the U16 German national team in basketball in just 13 months, which testifies to his great work ethic and mindset to the game. He picks up things quickly and he has solid physical tools and great footwork. Seric has improved his three-point shooting, but still needs to work on it. He also must improve his fundamentals, especially his ball-handling. He is very tough mentally and will be there when the game is on the line.
U18 Spars Sarajevo: Tarik Biberovic
Biberovic will be playing his second ANGT despite only turning 16 in January. He averaged 2.5 points and 2.0 rebounds in just over 8 minutes per game at last season’s ANGT Belgrade. The 2.01-meter swingman played last summer for the Bosnia and Herzegovina national team at the FIBA U16 European Championship 2016 and averaged 7.1 points, 4.1 rebounds, 0.9 assists and 0.9 steals. A native of Zenica, Biberovic is a natural leader on the court and a high-level shooter both from inside and beyond the three-point stripe. He is a true offensive player who understands the game at a level higher than other players his age. He still must improve his ball handling and develop his one-on-one game, while also putting in more work on defense.
U18 Stellazzurra Rome: Kurt Cassar
Cassar will be playing in his first ANGT event, but the 2.08-meter center has played his share of international games. In 2014 and 2015, he played for Malta at both the FIBA U16 European Championship Division C and FIBA U18 European Championship Division C. He was named MVP of the 2014 U16 Division C tournament as Malta won the title and was an All-Star Five selection at the 2015 U16 Division C - both times averaging more than 24 points and 21 rebounds. At the 2015 U18 Division C, Cassar averaged 13 points, 16.5 rebounds and 2.3 blocks despite being two years younger than his peers. Going by the nickname the Malta Giant, Cassar is the son of former Maltese international Silvio Cassar. The younger Cassar has greatly improved his body, losing a lot of weight to form an excellent frame. He may still grow a couple more centimeters, but has a soft touch and can shoot from the outside. He is an excellent passer, even out of the post.