Kilian Binapfl’s performance at the Euroleague Basketball ADIDAS NEXT GENERATION TOURNAMENT Munich could probably be considered a breakout of sorts. But the U18 FC Bayern Munich guard was just taking the opportunity to play his game. And he is eager to show what he can do again at the ANGT Finals.
Binapfl was hardly an unknown commodity going into ANGT Munich as he had played for Germany at the FIBA U16 European Championship 2016 and was one of the leading players all season for Bayern’s team in the U19 NBBL league. But Binapfl played almost otherworldly in the Munich qualifier, helping Bayern reach the final and being named to the All-Tournament Team after he averaged 19.8 points while shooting 65.3 percent from the floor plus 6.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 2.8 steals and 1.3 blocks.
"It was kind of like a breakout. Nothing really just clicked though. I just played my game and wanted to show what I can do," Binapfl said. "I tried to do a little bit of everything for the team - offensively and defensively, rebounding, defending on the ball, getting offensive rebounds and attacking the basket. Just playing an all-around game."
Part of being able to stand out at such a high-level tournament was a result of experience. Binapfl was appearing in his second ANGT tournament after averaging 2.8 points, 2.3 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.5 steals at ANGT Coin last season.
"Coin was one of my first international tournaments. I was a little more shy and not as confident. But I saw that I could play with them," he said. "And that helped me looking forward to this one, where I said to myself 'just play with confidence and show what you can do.'"
Binapfl has been playing basketball since he was 6 years old after seeing a flyer in school in Friedberg, near Augsburg, looking for kids interested in trying the game. It was the first organized sport Binapfl tried and he and his two older brothers were hooked right away.
He ended up playing for TV Augsburg, which is about 15 minutes from his hometown of 30,000 residents. Eventually, he gained interest from bigger clubs such as Bayern, ratiopharm Ulm and Brose Bamberg. One factor in his decision for Bayern, explained Binapfl, was his ability early on to live at home and commute to Munich - about an hour’s drive away.
"But the main factors were the coaches and the professionalism at Bayern," said Binapfl, who joined the club in 2015.
Playing for Bayern is also special for Binapfl, who grew up watching Bayern's world-renowned football team.
"Bayern is the most well-known football team in the world. It’s an honor to play for the team and to live here," he said.
There has also been some interaction with the football giants, especially last season when Bayern’s youth teams practiced at their old gym on Saebener Strasse, which is located close to Bayern football’s headquarters.
"We saw all the players as they passed by," Binapfl said. "They also say hello to younger players like us, and you can see you need to stay humble and not be arrogant. I met Jerome Boateng in the hall and he shook my hand and said hello. I didn’t think that would happen. I thought he wouldn’t even notice me."
The 1.95-meter guard has not had much interaction with Bayern’s professional basketball team, though he was called upon twice to practice with the main team. Binapfl said his biggest basketball challenge was facing Bayern’s star guard Jared Cunningham in those practices. However, he has practiced all season with older players on Bayern's second team, which plays in the third division ProB, even though his main team is the one in the U19 NBBL league.
"Matching up in ProB practice against Amar Gegic and Karim Jallow, I have to play physically. The first time I played against them I really didn’t have a chance. After a while, you develop and see that you can play against them. Everything is faster and tougher and you have to be more concentrated," said Binapfl, who averaged 13.8 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 2.1 steals this season with the NBBL team and has Bayern on the brink of the NBBL Final Four.
But before that, Binapfl has the ANGT Finals in Belgrade, where Bayern will face U18 Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade, U18 Divina Seguros Joventut Badalona and U18 Stellazzurra Rome in Group B after receiving a wild card to participate.
"There are no easy teams in the final eight. They are all top teams and it will not be easy to play against any of them. But I think we can do something special if we all play our best and we play as a team. I don’t see us as favorites, but I think we can compete with every team," Binapfl said.
Binapfl is very happy to be just playing at the moment. In early April, he was hit in the head while playing for Germany’s U18 national team at the Albert Schweitzer Tournament in Mannheim. He suffered a concussion, whiplash and a strained neck muscle, which kept him out of practice for more than two weeks. All that is forgotten now and Binapfl is ready for Belgrade.
"I really can’t wait to play in the tournament and face the top eight teams in Europe. It’s something really special. The whole team was really happy about getting the wild card. And now we want to show how good we can play," Binapfl said.