Aleksandr Ershov etched his place in the annals of EUROLEAGUE BASKETBALL ADIDAS NEXT GENERATION TOURNAMENT history by being named the MVP of the ANGT Kaunas, an honor that the U18 CSKA Moscow talent describes as very touching.
The 16-year-old torched U18 Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius for 37 points in the third-place game, a total that was just 6 points shy of the all-time ANGT single game record of 43 points by Dragan Bender in December 2014. That big game catapulted Ershov to the leaderboard in the scoring title (24.0 ppg), while the Krasnoyarsk native also led the tournament in three-point shooting percent (57 percent), free throw percentage (95 percent) and performance index rating(22.0). And all that earned Ershov the MVP trophy.
"It is really great. It was a very touching," said Ershov."I had a thought that it might happen because of how things were going. It is important for me that I became the MVP. It gives me a chance to continue on my career."
Ershov has already seen a couple of highlights in his young career. ANGT Kaunas was actually in his second ANGT after averaging 3.3 points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.3 assists at ANGT Rome last season. He also averaged 11.6 points, 4.4 rebounds, 1.0 assists and 1.0 steals per game in helping Russia win the FIBA U16 European Championship Division B and getting the country promoted to Division A. And his 2016 also included the Jordan Brand Classic in April, when he scored 12 points to go with 4 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals at the showcase for 2000-born players.
Ershov, who won't turn 17 years old until late August, is also in his third season in the CSKA youth ranks. Starting basketball at 10 years old, Ershov was spotted by CSKA scouts among U13s playing for a Siberian club. He joined the European powerhouse prior to the 2014-15 season.
"When CSKA called me I didn't think a second about it, I went," he says. "I know about this club with all the great players, great coaches and great tradition."
Ershov has been playing with CSKA's youth team in the U21 league, averaging 6.1 points and 1.7 rebounds despite being as many as five years younger than other players in the competition.
"I am not thinking about the physicality or that I will have any problems. I am just playing my game and not looking at the age of other players," Ershov said. "I just want to play, be involved and play defense. I'm just playing my game, my kind of basketball."
One of Ershov's greatest moments was watching his club win the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague title last season after Victor Khryapa saved the team's chances with a tip-in to force overtime, after which CSKA went on to beat Fenerbahce Istanbul and lift the trophy.
"That was a great moment for the club and for me just being part of the club," Ershov said.
The 37-point outburst in Kaunas will be right up there among Ershov's great moments, as well.
"I was just playing. I wasn't thinking about how much I would score. We really just wanted to win it," Ershov said of the third-place game. "In the end, it was good for us and we finished how we wanted. I will probably remember this game for the rest of my life."
Ershov said he was not aware of his spot in the historical ranking in the tournament, but was amazed to hear that he joined the top six all-time in the single-game ANGT scoring list, along with Bender, Marc Garcia, Alessandro Gentile, Milos Glisic, Luigi Datome, Dzanan Musa and Marko Arapovic.
"I didn't know that such records existed, so it is really great to be in this group of players," Ershov said. "It is amazing when you are close to these great players, to have similar statistics like they did."
Exhibiting the amount of talent needed to produce those statistics bodes well for Ershov to quite possibly match the success those players have had at the senior club level as well. And much of it will have stemmed from a touching moment in Kaunas in early 2017.