The latest edition of the Euroleague Basketball ADIDAS NEXT GENERATION TOURNAMENT ended with U18 CFBB Paris as the deserved champion of the competition, which began back in January in Spain. CFBB hoisted the trophy to the heavens in Istanbul by beating U18 Mega Bemax Belgrade in a continental championship game that lived up to its billing and culminated a thrilling 15th anniversary for the tournament.
The CFBB coaching staff deserves major praise in a couple of regards. First off, Jean-Aime Toupane and his coaches formed a team that was willing to get after it on defense but also shared the ball in playing true team offense, too.
Toupane's men lost two games at the EB ANGT Qualifying Tournament Kaunas, to U18 Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius in group play and then to U19 Zalgiris Kaunas in the final in Lithuania. After receiving a wild card for Istanbul, Toupane came to Turkey without Yves Pons, a major athletic presence and his second leading scorer from Kaunas, who was injured, as was a major role player, Nicolas Dorez. Three roster changes that CFBB made for Istanbul saw three players born in 2001 come on, making four total who can play in this tournament the next two seasons, as well. And yet, CFBB was unstoppable in Istanbul despite having just four 1999-born players.
CFBB opened the ANGT Finals with a 19-point win over the reigning champion U18 FC Barcelona Lassa. The French team then took down U18 Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade, which won the 2014 title and reached the EB ANGT Championship Game in 2015 and 2016, by 15 points. Then, CFBB handled U18 CSKA Moscow by 12 points to reach the title game. There, this young team remained composed, with just 8 turnovers, to grab the organization's second trophy, following 2010, when it won as U18 INSEP Paris.
One more point on what makes the CFBB title all the more impressive. This group of players really does not know what it's like to win games. As part of its agreement with French basketball leaders, CFBB plays in the country's third division against adult teams and cannot be relegated. And against that older competition, the future leaders of French basketball went winless this season: that’s right, 0-34. So this CFBB team's only wins all season came in the EB ANGT.
However, the trio of CFBB leaders – Ivan Fevrier, the EB ANGT Finals MVP; fellow All-Tournament Team member Yanik Blanc; and Timothe Bazille – share a common bond: one victory in the French third division wearing the CFBB colors. They teamed together to beat Caen 93-87 on April 16, 2016. That victory snapped a four-year (!) losing streak of 142 games dating back to January 21, 2012. And CFBB has now lost 36 games in a row since then.
So, a tip of the hat to CFBB. Félicitations!
The CFBB-Mega championship game matchup was not one many people would have picked coming into Istanbul. Both teams were wild cards, having lost the EB ANGT Kaunas and EB ANGT Belgrade finals, respectively. Mega's duo of Goga Bitadze, who made the All-Tournament Team with an outstanding tournament, and Nikola Miskovic carried Mega as far as they could.
Mega was able to knock off U18 Real Madrid by 10 points on the first day of action in Istanbul, which proved to be one of the most exciting group-stage days in EB ANGT history.
Not only did Mega beat Madrid – considered by many as the favorite to win the title – but CSKA started the day by surprising Zvezda. CFBB followed up that upset by beating Barcelona. Then, after the Mega win over Madrid, host team U18 Fenerbahce Istanbul upended U18 Zalgiris, leaving the four qualifying tournament winners trying to make up the numbers the rest of the way.
CSKA Moscow remains the EB ANGT record champion with three titles, having won back-to-back-to-back in 2004, 2005 and 2006. But 2007 was the last time the Russian giant played in the EB ANGT Finals. The team definitely deserved to be in Istanbul on a wild card after a third-place finish in Kaunas.
This CSKA team gave Moscow fans reason to be excited after they had not seen much young talent come up through its own ranks recently. The guard trio of Aleksandr Ershov, Alexander Khomenko and Yury Umrikhin gets hearts racing just watching them play the fast-paced style that made CSKA the top scoring team in the ANGT qualifiers. After being named the ANGT Kaunas MVP – including one game with 37 points – Ershov averaged a shade under 15 points as CSKA beat two of the last three continental champions with comeback wins over Zvezda and Barcelona. Oh, and Ershov is 2000-born, meaning he can play in the ANGT next season as well.
As we close the latest chapter of the Euroleague Basketball ADIDAS NEXT GENERATION TOURNAMENT and look forward to the 2018 EB ANGT Finals in Belgrade, let's look back briefly at some other memories that will fill the pages of the 2016-17 history book.
The 2016-17 season witnessed the birth of a new qualifying tournament in Coin as well as the EB ANGT debuts of U18 Darussafaka Dogus Istanbul, U18 Fraport Skyliners Frankfurt, U18 Get Better Academy Prague and U18 Panathinaikos Superfoods Athens.
EB ANGT L'Hospitalet host team U18 Torrons Vicens L'Hospitalet gave the home fans plenty to celebrate as it reached the semifinals just two seasons after picking up its first-ever ANGT victory in 2014-15.
The L'Hospitalet qualifier also saw U18 Herbalife Gran Canaria Las Palmas' 2.15-meter center Aleksander Balcerowski compete in the three-point shooting contest.
The ANGT Kaunas will be fondly remembered for the Chinese trio from U18 Canarias Basketball Academy Las Palmas. And, of course, for Zalgiris winning its fourth straight qualifier at home. Zvezda meanwhile extended its EB ANGT Belgrade winning streak to seven straight titles. And Madrid won its third qualifier in a row, this time in Coin, after two crowns from L'Hospitalet.
The 2016-17 season was full of excitement throughout and now we can all look forward to next season.