There is a real chance that another ADIDAS NEXT GENERATION TOURNAMENT alum will be crowned Turkish Airlines Euroleague champion this season. After all, between Euroleague Rising Star Bogdan Bogdanovic of Fenerbahce Ulker Istanbul, Jonas Maciulis of Real Madrid and Milos Teodosic of CSKA Moscow, three of the teams competing for the Euroleague crown this season have roots in European basketball’s most prestigious junior event for clubs. That serves as a great reminder of the quality of talent on display every year at the ANGT Finals. Here’s a primer on which future stars to follow in Madrid.
Zalgiris Kaunas – Laurynas Birutis
While Martynas Echodas and Martynas Varnas have the flashier and louder games, Birutis is the rock in the middle for Zalgiris. The 2.10-meter center, who won’t turn 18 years of age until late August, made a huge jump from last season with Zalgiris. During the 2013-14 season, the Siauliai native averaged 4.8 points, 4.8 rebounds and 0.8 blocks in the ANGT qualifiers in Kaunas. But Birutis was not chosen for the ANGT Finals in Milan. During the summer of 2014, Birutis played for Lithuania at the U18 European Championship and averaged 4.4 points, 4.9 rebounds and 0.9 blocks, including a double-double of 10 points and 11 rebounds against Latvia. That gave the big man confidence and Birutis was clearly more comfortable – and accordingly more productive – at this season’s ANGT qualifiers in Kaunas. He was 1 rebound short of three double-doubles and averaged 13.3 points, 10.0 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.3 blocks, while shooting 57.4% percent from the field and 89.5% percent from the free throw line. Birutis still can use some weight, which makes his work in the post sometimes difficult. But he is effective down low at both ends and also has a good sense of passing. Birutis also works hard on the offensive glass.
Crvena Zvezda - Vojislav Stojanovic
Stojanovic already has plenty of hardware in his trophy-case, including the MVP of the ANGT Finals from last year after he guided Crvena Zvezda to the title in Milan. He averaged 15.4 points, 6.1 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.2 blocks in that event. Stojanovic followed that last summer by helping Serbia to third place at the FIBA U17 World Championship, where he averaged 12.1 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.4 steals. The 1.96-meter shooting guard came back to the ANGT circuit and won the MVP of the Belgrade qualifier for the second season in a row as Crvena Zvezda went undefeated in reaching the ANGT Finals for a fifth straight year. Stojanovic showed an ability to take over games, but also showed he is more concerned about winning; he excellently filled the role as facilitator in posting 9.0 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.4 steals. Stojanovic has a strong physical frame, which makes him a good rebounder as a guard. He has a strong handle and is comfortable – and effective – leading the offense, both on the break and in the half-court. He is a streaky shooter from outside, but seems to hit the big shots from long range. The Belgrade native is tough-as-nails and seems to thrive on defense.
INSEP – Jonathan Jeanne
Jeanne is a giant of a man at 2.12 meters, though his long, slender frame causes concerns inside. The 17-year-old Jeanne has made great strides in the last year. At the 2013-14 ANGT, he averaged 5.8 points, 1.4 rebounds, 1.6 turnovers and zero blocks in a total of 60 minutes of action. The Guadeloupe native played for France at the FIBA U17 World Championship and showed flashes of what he could do, with 4.9 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.1 blocks. Jeanne came back to the ANGT with INSEP with some additional weight – though by far still not enough – and more confidence in his game. He averaged 14.0 points while shooting 57.5% from two point range and grabbed 7.5 rebounds. But Jeanne also dished out 1.8 assists, picked up 1.5 steals and became a defensive menace with 2.8 blocks per game. Jeanne averaged nearly 29 minutes per game, showing he can run up and down the court the whole game. The big man obviously has great length and has learned to use that defensively. He also has a couple of moves around the basket – with upside when he improves those and learns more. Jeanne has shown an ability to shoot from long range and has good athleticism and quickness for a player of his length.
Real Madrid – Luka Doncic
The future is now for Madrid as Doncic is not only the club’s youngest player at the ANGT, but also one of the team’s biggest rising stars. The Slovenian is in third season with the club, turned 16 in February 28 and two months later became the youngest player to appear in a senior game in Madrid history. Doncic showed at the ANGT qualifiers in L’Hospitalet that he can already take over and dominate games – in a variety of ways. The 1.98-meter forward, who has yet to play for Slovenia internationally, led Madrid in scoring with 13.0 points while collecting 7.2 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 1.8 steals. Doncic had two double-doubles and averaged a performance index rating of 22.2, while shooting 60.6 percent from two-point range and 41.7% percent from long distance. Doncic made the All-Tournament Team, showing his a wide array of skills in L’Hospitalet. The son of former Euroleague player Sasa Doncic has good and is a good rebounder. He has strong ball-handling skills and can drive and finish around the basket and above the rim. Doncic also has a good feel for the game and knows when he needs to take the initiative or delegate to others.
Spars Sarajevo – Amar Gegic
Despite only turning 17 years old in mid-February, Gegic is playing in his second ANGT season. Last year, the 1.92-meter guard averaged 7.3 points, 2.8 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 2.3 steals. After that, Gegic returned to the Bosnia and Herzegovina U16 national team, which he helped earned promotion to Division A of the U16 European Championship in 2013. In Bosnia’s Division A debut, Gegic served as captain and collected 11.5 points and 6.3 rebounds as well as team highs in assists (3.6 apg.), steals (2.4 spg.) and blocks (1.0 bpg.) as the team reached the quarterfinals. Gegic came back to Spars with more confidence and improved over the course of the Rome ANGT qualifiers, averaging 10.8 points, 4.0 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 3.3 steals and 0.5 blocks. He collected 27 points, 6 rebounds, 12 assists and 8 steals in the final two games. Gegic, who was born in Germany, but moved to Bosnia while still a baby, can drive to the basket, but also can find and set up his teammates. He takes pride in his defense. One area where Gegic still needs to work is his shooting; he made just 42.8 percent of his shots from the field in Rome.
Stellazzurra Rome - Njegos Sikiras
Despite being two years younger than the competition, Sikiras held his own for Stellazzurra, averaging 3.3 points on 45.5 percent shooting, 2.8 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per game. Last summer he helped Bosnia and Herzegovina reach the quarterfinals of the U16 European Championship in the nation’s debut in the Division A. The 2.05-meter forward, who only turned 16 on April 11, averaged 8.6 points, 5.3 rebounds, 0.8 steals and 0.8 blocks; he had four games in which he scored in double digits. Sikiras played at the Pinar International U16 Tournament earlier this year and stood out with 15.1 points, 9.9 rebounds, 2.3 steals and 1.6 blocks. The native of Pale also played at the Jordan Brand Classic and earned the MVP trophy for the Black Team as he nailed 2 three-pointers in scoring a team-high 14 points while collecting 8 rebounds (4 offensive) and 1 block in 16 minutes. Sikiras has been playing basketball for less than four years. He is a versatile big man who can play inside and out with three-point range. He has a big heart and has a good body. Sikiras has decent ball-handling skills, sees the floor well and has good passing skills. He is not overwhelmingly athletic, but gets out on the break.
VEF Riga – Zigmars Raimo
Raimo does not look like your typical prospect, but the Madonas native has plenty of game, serving almost as a Robin to Rodions Kurucs’s Batman for VEF Riga. The 1.97-meter Raimo had two outstanding games at the Kaunas ANGT qualifier and two subpar games in averaging 8.8 points, 6.8 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.0 steals. He flirted with a triple double with 14 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists against Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius while collecting 13 points, 10 rebounds and 3 assists versus Fenerbahce. It was Raimo’s second ANGT campaign for VEF; he averaged 5.8 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.0 steals last season. Last summer Raimo played at the U18 European Championship and was worth 2.2 points, 1.8 rebounds and 1.0 steals. Raimo is under-sized for a power forward, but has great court vision and an excellent feel for the game. He rebounds very well and has very good passing skills for a big man. Raimo is not a consistent threat from beyond the three-point line, though he can hit his share of threes. He works hard around the basket with the ball and while he doesn’t have a lot of moves, he can score. One of his biggest assets scoring-wise is his offensive rebounding.
Unicaja Malaga – Viny Okouo
Okouo is a native of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The 2.15-meter center has only been playing basketball about three years, but he has taken great strides. He was a strong presence for Unicaja in the Rome ANGT qualifier. After a lackluster first game, he twice collected 17 points and 8 rebounds and added 4 points and 10 rebounds in the final loss against Stellazzurra. For the tournament, he averaged 10.0 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.0 assists and 1.0 blocks, while shooting 65.2 percent from the field. Okouo has yet to play for his country internationally. The Rome ANGT was his second qualifying tournament after averaging 1.2 points and 6.0 rebounds in nearly 19 minutes at L’Hospitalet during the 2013-14 season. Okouo has grown in confidence and ability all season. In the Spanish LEB Gold, he averaged 3.5 points and 3.5 rebounds and collected 12.8 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in the Spanish EBA. Okouo obviously has great length, which he is still learning to use on defense. He has developed a couple of moves around the basket, making him much more than just a dunker off offensive rebounds. He excels on the offensive glass.