The 2018 Euroleague Basketball ADIDAS NEXT GENERATION TOURNAMENT qualifying series tournaments start this weekend in the Barcelona suburb of L'Hospitalet de Llobregat. ANGT L'Hospitalet features teams from France, Greece, Italy and naturally, Spain, and the rosters are loaded with top talents from those countries and many more. Here's a primer on some of the players to watch from the eight teams in action this weekend.
U18 ASVEL Villeurbanne: Theo Maledon
Maledon will be participating in his third ANGT. He played in the 2016 ANGT Finals for U18 CFBB Paris and then helped the French showcase team to the ANGT title last season. He averaged 7.1 points, 2.4 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 1.9 steals in 2016-17, including 13 points and 3 assists in the ANGT Championship Game. In the off-season, the Rouen native moved from the CFBB to ASVEL Villeurbanne. Before that Maledon took part for the second time at the FIBA U16 European Championship and played a major role in France winning the 2017 U16 crown with averages of 14.6 points, 5.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 2.6 steals. The young talent has debuted in the French ProA as well as the 7DAYS EuroCup, but his main action has come in the French U21 league, where he has been worth 16.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 1.5 steals per game. Maledon has good size for a playmaker and is extremely mature for his age. He is also working on improving his three-point shooting.
U18 FC Barcelona Lassa: Nikola Zizic
Zizic is a veteran in the ANGT as he will compete for the fourth season. The Montenegrin big man is the only Barcelona player left from the 2016 ANGT title winning team. Last season he averaged 8.1 points, 6.1 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 0.9 blocks. The native of Podgorica represented his country last summer as well and averaged 7.3 points and 4.0 rebounds at the FIBA U18 European Championship 2017. Zizic is a good rebounder at both ends of the court and is a good passer for his size. He is a strong finisher near the rim with a series of hook shots. Zizic is also a good teammate and learns quickly. He always competes at a high level with a lot of passion, making him a good example for his teammates with his hard work and perseverance.
U18 Herbalife Gran Canaria: Aleksander Balcerowski
Balcerowski made his ANGT debut last season for Gran Canaria when he collected 5.5 points, 3.0 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.0 blocks at L’Hospitalet. The Polish big man also competed in the three-point contest despite standing 2.15 meters. A native of Swidnica, Balcerowski debuted in the 7DAYS EuroCup and the ACB this season, becoming the youngest player in Gran Canaria history to appear in the ACB. He has not yet played for Poland internationally; Balcerowski missed the FIBA U16 European Championship 2016 in Poland with a broken leg and Poland ended up being relegated to Division B. Balcerowski, who turned 17 in November, was among 17 nominees for the Polish senior team for the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 European Qualifiers in November - though he was not picked for the games. He has good athleticism for his size and is working on improving his outside game. Inside, Balcerowski has a good variety of moves.
U18 Divina Seguros Joventut Badalona: Joel Parra
Parra will be playing his second ANGT after debuting last season in L’Hospitalet where he averaged 8.8 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 1.2 steals in helping Joventut reach the final. The Barcelona native, who stands 2.02 meters, scored 21 points in the semifinals. Parra played at the FIBA U18 European Championship last summer and averaged 10.0 points and 2.4 rebounds as Spain finished second. In early December, he made his ACB debut against Unicaja Malaga. Parra, who in 2016 was a member of the Spain squad that won the FIBA U16 European Championship, finishes well in transition, is aggressive in one-on-one situations and can play both inside and outside. He is a very capable passer, who is technically strong and has a strong winning instinct. Parra is now in his 12th season in the Joventut system.
U18 Torrons Vicens L'Hospitalet: Gerard Sola
Sola will be playing at his first ANGT event. The 2.01-meter forward is transitioning from an inside player to the outside. He is developing his perimeter game and working on his outside shooting. Sola has excellent athleticism and powerful leaping ability that allows him to help out on the offensive boards. He can also finish around the rim. With his background as a big man, Sola can post up smaller players and can also attack bigger players with his quickness.
U18 Promitheas Patras: Dimitrios Karaiskos
With Promitheas making its first appearance in the ANGT, Karaiskos will also be playing for the first time. The 2.07-meter power forward averaged 7.1 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks for Greece at the FIBA U16 European Championship 2017 Division B. In doing so, Karaiskos helped Greece earn promotion to Division A by winning the title; his top game was 19 points, 8 rebounds and 6 blocks against Switzerland. The 2001-born Karaiskos is averaging 17.5 points, 10 rebounds and 2 blocks per game in the Greek U18 championship this season. He is very intelligent with a great understanding of the game. Karaiskos is an excellent passer from the low and high posts and can finish around the basket with a soft touch with both hands. He has good mechanics on his shot, which extends out to the three-point line. Karaiskos can also play with his face to the basket. He can rebound well and has the makings of an effective shot blocker.
U18 Unicaja Malaga: Morgan Stilma
Stilma will be playing in his second ANGT after helping Unicaja reach the ANGT Coin final last season with 11.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.0 blocks, including 13 points and 6 rebounds in the title game against U18 Real Madrid. The 2.02-meter big man is the son of a Dutch father and Italian mother; he was born in Fuengirola, near Malaga. Stilma can play both low post positions and is a hard worker. He gives a strong effort on defense with a good rebounding presence – both offensively and defensively. Offensively, Stilma compensates for his lack of size with activity and versatility. He has a wide variety of moves around the rim and his shooting range extends out to the three-point line.
U18 Virtus Bologna: Mikk Jurkatamm
Jurkatamm takes his first shot at the ANGT in his second season in Italy. The 1.95-meter shooting guard has already played for Estonia internationally; he averaged 8.9 points, 3.6 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.0 steals at the FIBA U16 European Championship 2016. Jurkatamm comes from a basketball family; his brother Taavi plays collegiately for the University of San Francisco in the United States and his father Veiko Jurkatamm also played basketball. Jurkatamm helped Virtus to the U18 Italian title last season. He is a natural three-point shooter, who is also a good passer and works well with a team. Jurkatamm has improved his athleticism and his quickness, making him more able to attack the rim. He is also working on his ball-handling and becoming a more complete point guard.