The first qualifying event in the 2016-17 Euroleague Basketball ADIDAS NEXT GENERATION TOURNAMENT series is the Torneig de Bàsquet Junior Ciutat de L’Hospitalet, which tips off Friday in the Barcelona suburb. The three-day event brings together a host of tomorrows stars, all competing to lift their clubs to the ANGT Finals at the site of the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Final Four in Istanbul this May. Here’s a primer on some of the players to watch from the eight teams in action this weekend.
U18 ALBA Berlin, Badu Buck
Buck played at the ANGT last season in Belgrade and at the ANGT Finals in Berlin. He averaged 4.3 points, 2.0 rebounds and 1.0 assists in Belgrade and 3.3 points, 1.7 rebounds and 1.3 assists in Berlin. Buck is currently playing for ALBA Berlin’s second team in Germany’s fourth division and averaging 8.0 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.9 assists. The 1.95-meter shooting guard also played for Germany at the FIBA U16 European Championship 2015, where he averaged 4.2 points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.1 assists. Buck has a great basketball IQ, is fast and has a very good knowledge of offense. He also is very intuitive on defense. The Berlin native must still work on his body while also improving on his reading of the game – especially at the senior level. But the club expects that will come over time.
U18 Herbalife Gran Canaria Las Palmas: Aleksander Balcerowski
“Olek” is one of the top prospects in all of Europe in the 2000-born generation. The 2.15-meter native of Poland, who has a 2.18-meter wingspan, helped Gran Canaria finish second in last season’s Spanish U16 national championship. He is currently alternating between the club’s U18 and EBA teams. Balcerowski played at the 2016 Jordan Brand Classic, where he collected 7 points and 6 rebounds in 18 minutes in the game in Brooklyn in April. He was unable to play in this summer’s FIBA U16 European Championship for Poland due to injury. Balcerowski is a multi-skilled low post player who can shoot, pass and dribble. Having just turned 16 in November, Balcerowski is working on building lower-body strength to get faster, more explosive and quicker. He is playing mainly as a power forward with a very good face-to-the-basket game, but he also can post up with his excellent touch and vision.
U18 Cedevita Zagreb: Darko Bajo
Bajo will be playing his third ANGT season after averaging 1.2 points and 1.2 rebounds for U18 Spars Sarajevo in 2014-15 and 9.8 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.3 blocks last season with Cedevita. The 2.04-meter forward averaged 13 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocks in the first three games of the ANGT in Belgrade last season before playing just 5 minutes in the third-place game. Bajo played two summers with Croatia at the FIBA U16 European Championship and in December played at the FIBA U18 European Championship 2016. Croatia dropped to Division B despite his 8.7 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game. The native of Nova Bila, Bosnia and Herzegovina, can play both forward positions and sometimes can defend the center position as well. Bajo can use his size advantage to post up small forwards and he can attack bigger opponents with his quickness. He continues to work on increasing his shooting range.
U18 Panathinaikos Superfoods Athens: Georgios Kalaitzakis
Kalaitzakis will be playing in his first ANGT since Panathinaikos will also be making its debut in the competition. The 1.98-meter point guard has played twice for Greece’s youth national teams. After averaging 7.6 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists at the FIBA U16 European Championship 2015, the Heraklion native averaged 6.2 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.7 assists at the FIBA U18 European Championship 2016 in mid-December. His best game was a 13-point, 4-rebound and 2-steal effort against Slovenia. Kalaitzakis, who turned 18 on January 2, works out with Panathinaikos’ senior team and even played a game in the Greek League last season. Kalaitzakis has a 2.08-meter wingspan, which gives him great length as a point guard and allows him to get his hands on a lot of passes. He has good speed and agility and can drive and slash to the basket. Kalaitzakis also possesses excellent leadership skills.
U18 FC Barcelona Lassa: Sergi Martinez
Martinez will be playing his second ANGT season after serving as one of Barcelona’s biggest weapons last season. In the ANGT – L’Hospitalet, the 2.02-meter forward averaged 14.4 points, 6.6 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.6 steals. In helping Barcelona to its first title, Martinez collected 13.8 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.5 steals at the ANGT Finals in Berlin, including 17 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals in the championship game. After playing in the FIBA U16 European Championship in 2014 and 2015, Martinez led Spain to the Semifinals of the FIBA U17 World Championship 2016 and was named to the All-Star Five after averaging 19.9 points and 12.9 rebounds. In mid-December, the Barcelona native helped Spain qualify for the FIBA U19 World Championship 2017 by averaging 16.2 points and 9.3 rebounds at the FIBA U18 European Championship 2016. Martinez, whose brother David Martinez played at the 2012-13 and 2013-14 ANGTs for Barcelona, can play inside or outside, creating mismatches from both spots. He can get out and finish on the break and has a good understanding of the game.
U18 Torrons Vicens L'Hospitalet: Raul Verano
Verano will be playing his first ANGT for the host team. The 1.87-meter shooting guard has a great understanding of the game and uses his various resources to help the team in the best way possible. Verano also is a major asset with his excellent shooting abilities. One of his most valuable aspects is his fighting spirit and competitive nature. Verano continues to work on improving his defense and adding strength, which he will need at the older age categories.
U18 Divina Seguros Joventut Badalona: Pedro Barros Nunes
Barros will be playing his second ANGT season despite still being a year younger than the rest of the competition since he is from the 2000-born generation. He averaged 9.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.8 steals at ANGT L’Hospitalet last season. The 1.96-meter guard participated at the 2016 Jordan Brand Classic in Brooklyn and represented Brazil at the FIBA Americas U16 Championship 2015, where he averaged 6.8 points, 6.8 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.4 steals. Barros, who was born in Vitoria, Brazil, is a versatile player who can play above the rim, excels in the open court and possesses three-point range. Barros is strong in one-on-one situations with a good off-the-dribble jump shot. He works aggressively on defense and is a good rebounder at both ends. Barros also has a good work ethic.
U18 Union Olimpija Ljubljana: David Kralj
Kralj will be playing at his third ANGT for Olimpija. After being held scoreless in two games in 2014-15, the 1.91-meter guard averaged 5.0 points, 2.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.5 steals last season at L’Hospitalet. He played for Slovenia at the FIBA U16 European Championship Division B 2015, where he averaged 12.1 points, 3.9 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.4 steals per game. The Ljubljana native played in mid-December at the FIBA U18 European Championship 2016 and collected 7.2 points and 2.6 rebounds. Kralj is an explosive combo guard who can take the game into his own hands. The lefty possesses good court vision, has an excellent work ethic and a strong personality. Kralj is still returning from an ankle injury, but hopes to be back to full strength for the tourney.