The 2015-16 Euroleague Basketball ADIDAS NEXT GENERATION TOURNAMENT series comes to basketball-mad Lithuanian this weekend for the EB ANGT Qualifying Tournament – Kaunas. The three-day event tips off Friday and features dozens more basketball prodigies eager to showcase their skills on the continental stage. Learn more about who are some of the players to watch from the eight teams set to clash for a ticket to the ANGT Finals.
U18 CIBONA ZAGREB: Kresimir Nikic
Nikic will be playing his first ANGT, because Cibona did not take part in the competition last season. The 17-year-old 2.14-meter center also did not play for the Croatian youth national team last summer after an injury caused him to miss the U16 European Championship. The Zagreb native was named MVP of the Croatian U16 Championship last year when he averaged 22.5 points and 8.5 rebounds in the semifinals and final. Nikic has great wingspan along with his height, though there is still room to add muscle and mass to his frame. He has a hook shot with his right hand and does a good job keeping the ball high when he receives it near the basket. Despite his size, he’s not afraid of handling the ball and can even drive to the basket from the outside. He also isn’t afraid to battle for rebounds. Defensively Nikic’s length makes him a formidable shot blocker, who takes in a good number of rebounds.
U18 FENERBAHCE ISTANBUL: Ahmet Can Duran
Duran will be playing his second ANGT after averaging 7.3 points and 7.5 rebounds last season in Kaunas, despite being two years younger than the competition. The 2.04-meter center also played his second U16 European Championship over the summer and finished as the top rebounder with 12.1 boards per game in helping Turkey to the bronze medal. He ranked third with 2.4 blocks per game and also averaged 12.0 points, 2.3 assists and 1.5 steals. Duran’s most noticeable trait is his size – and not necessarily his height. The Afyonkarahisar native is blessed with good footwork around the basket and excellent coordination. He is efficient in the paint and doesn’t shy from contact, making him an excellent rebounder. He has good hands and a soft touch with a decent array of moves around the rim. Despite his size, Duran is quick and can get out in transition. He can still work on his body which would improve his entire package.
U18 PORSCHE BASKETBALL ACADEMY LUDWIGSBURG: Mateo Seric
Seric will be playing his first ANGT, since Ludwigsburg did not take part in the competition last season. Seric played last summer for Germany at the U16 European Championship, where he averaged 1.6 points and 2.6 rebounds. Basketball is actually 17-year-old Seric’s second sport after playing for the German national team in tennis before taking up hoops in December 2013. Within 13 months, he was playing at the U16 Euros. Seric is very intelligent and professional for his age with a great attitude and work ethic. The 2.02-meter forward’s mid-range game has become very consistent, but he still needs to work on his fundamentals, including ball-handling and perimeter shooting. Considering that he’s only been playing basketball for two years, Seric has come a long way. He also boasts has good physical tools and is considered to be very strong mentally.
U18 ZALGIRIS KAUNAS: Isaiah Hartenstein
Hartenstein will be playing his first ANGT as the German has yet to really join Zalgiris. The 2.10-meter power forward signed a long-term contract with Zalgiris in the off-season, but was kept in Germany on loan with Artland Dragons’ U19 NBBL and third division ProB teams. Hartenstein played for Germany at the 2015 U18 European Championship and averaged 11.6 points, 8.7 rebounds, 1.8 steals, 1.4 assists and 0.8 blocks despite being a year younger than most of his competitors. Hartenstein is averaging nearly 17 points, 10 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.8 steals and 2.8 blocks in the NBBL this season and 11.6 points, 8.9 rebounds and 2.1 blocks in the ProB. He has fantastic length and a great motor. He can play inside and outside on offense with the ability to drive to the basket on slower big men, shoot over quicker wings guarding him or back them down with his improving body size. He also can hit three-pointers. Defensively, Hartenstein has good footwork and great length to help in all areas.
U18 INSEP PARIS: Bathiste Tchouaffe
Tchouaffe will be playing in his second ANGT after averaging 13.1 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 2.6 steals while hitting 43%of his three-pointers over seven games last season at the ANGT Kaunas and ANGT Finals. Tchouaffe also had a strong summer with the French national team system for the second straight year. He averaged 9.0 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.3 assists despite being a year underage at the U18 European Championship. In 2014, he was named to the All-Tournament Team as France won the title at the U16 European Championship. The 1.96-meter shooting guard is a smart player who has a great outside shot and excellent quickness. The Poitiers native is an effective player in one-on-one situations. He has struggled this season from long range – hitting just 25% of his threes in the NM1 league and also still has lapses on defense, but Tchouaffe is working on becoming a better leader with a mental trainer.
U18 LIETUVOS RYTAS VILNIUS: Grantas Vasiliauskas
Vasiliauskas will be playing his second ANGT after gradually getting more minutes on the court last season in Kaunas, where he was two years underage and averaged 2.0 points and 1.3 rebounds. The 2.02-meter forward totaled less than 5 minutes in the first two games at ANGT Kaunas and then had 4 points, 2 rebounds, 1 steal and 1 block in 14 minutes in the last game. Over the summer he helped Lithuania to the podium at the 2015 U16 European Championship with 10.6 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.4 assists. The Alytus native is currently playing for the Alytus team in Lithuania’s third division RKL. Vasiliauskas is a hard worker on the court. He’s a great athlete who can play inside or outside. He has a good jumpshot and passes the ball well. His strong and athletic body helps him do a good job of rebounding the ball, too.
U18 USK FUTURE STARS PRAGUE: Jakub Tuma
Tuma will be playing at his second ANGT after averaging 8.7 points, 1.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.0 steals in Kaunas last year. The 1.93-meter point guard also made his debut in the Czech youth national team system last summer and averaged 1.8 points, 2.1 rebounds and 1.6 assists at the U18 European Championship despite being a year underage. Tuma is currently playing in the second Czech 1.Liga league and averaging 6.1 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.2 assists. The Litomerice native has good ball-handling skills and can drive and shoot as well. He can both lead the team both by reading the game and being the scorer. Tuma is still skinny and has to improve his defense, including building up his strength and mass development.
U18 VEF RIGA: Karlis Garoza
Garoza will be playing in his second ANGT after he averaged 2.3 points, 1.7 rebounds and 1.0 assists at the ANGT Finals after joining VEF Riga from BK Saldus during last season and missing the ANGT Kaunas. The 2.05-meter center did not play in the Latvian youth national team system last summer after playing at the 2013 and 2014 U16 European Championships. He averaged 6.6 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.1 assists in helping Latvia to second place at the 2014 U16 Euros. The Saldus native is efficient in the post on offense. He’s a good passer and a solid rebounder. Garoza is not über-athletic, but uses space effectively on offense. He can get out on the break and finish, though he’s not an above-the-rim guy. Garoza works hard on defense, seems to really care about it and is showing progress.