The last of the four Euroleague Basketball ADIDAS NEXT GENERATION TOURNAMENT qualifying series comes to Serbia this weekend. ANGT Belgrade features teams from the host country as well as Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Czech Republic, Italy and Turkey. Moreover, the rosters are stacked 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 Anadolu Efes Istanbul: Mustafa Kurtuldum
Kurtuldum will be playing his first ANGT. The 1.96-meter guard has played at two FIBA U16 European Championships for Turkey; he helped his nation to the bronze medal in 2016 and fifth place in 2017. Last summer, he averaged 11.7 points and 2.3 rebounds as Turkey qualified for the FIBA U17 Basketball World Cup 2018. Kurtuldum is a natural scorer with quick and accurate shooting ability, who can penetrate to the basket and finish with strength. He excels in offensive transition and finishes nicely on the break. Kurtuldum uses his strength and toughness to make an impact defensively, too.
U18 Cibona Zagreb: Dino Bistrovic
Bistrovic will be playing his second ANGT after averaging a team-high 16.5 points plus 4.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.3 steals last year in Coin. He also has international experience with Croatia; Bistrovic produced 0.7 points, 1.7 rebounds and 0.7 assists at the FIBA U16 European Championship 2016. The 1.90-meter shooting guard has been with Cibona since childhood and is one of the club’s most promising prospects. Bistrovic has led his teams to numerous medals in the youth categories and has been selected many times as the best player of the season. The Zagreb native is effective in attacking the basket and can play off contact. He has a quick release and has extended the range of his outside shot.
U18 Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade: Zoran Paunovic
Paunovic will be playing his second ANGT after making the All-Tournament Team at ANGT Belgrade last year. Despite being a year below age, Paunovic averaged 11.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 2.5 steals to help Zvezda win the tourney. At the ANGT Finals, the 2.00-meter guard collected 10.0 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists. Paunovic has represented Serbia at the FIBA U16 European Championship 2016, where he tallied 14.6 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.4 steals. The Zvezda team captain makes his biggest mark at the defensive end. Paunovic also has good quickness to get past his defender and is a solid finisher around the basket, though he is still working on improving his outside shot.
U18 GBA Prague: Mark Jaakson
Jaakson will be playing his first season in the ANGT. The 18-year-old, who joined GBA in early December, is a 1.96-meter wing. Jaakson has not yet played for the Estonian national team, though he is expected to play a role at this summer’s FIBA U18 European Championship 2018, Division B. Jaakson is a good slasher and shooter and a physical defender, who is working on finishing around the rim and ball distribution.
U18 Mega Bemax Belgrade: Bogdan Nedeljkovic
Nedeljkovic will be playing his third ANGT after averaging 3.8 points and 3.5 rebounds in 2016 and 4.3 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 1.0 blocks last year. The 2.02-meter forward had games of 11 points and 8 rebounds against U18 Real Madrid and 9 points and 10 rebounds versus U18 Zalgiris Kaunas in the ANGT Finals. Nedeljkovic also played for Serbia at the FIBA U16 European Championship 2016, where he posted 3.6 points, 2.0 rebounds and 1.0 assists. Nedeljkovic has taken over a leadership role with Mega. He has an excellent basketball body and physical predisposition and participates in all facets of the game - rebounding, scoring, assisting and blocking. He also has proven to be very good in crucial moments. He continues to work on the consistency of his jump shot.
U18 Partizan NIS Belgrade: Marko Pecarksi
Pecarski will be playing his fifth ANGT after two years with U18 Zemun Belgrade in 2014 and 2015. He helped U18 Mega Bemax Belgrade to the ANGT Rome title in 2016 and then averaged 19.7 points and 14.3 rebounds for U18 FC Bayern Munich at the ANGT Coin last year, including grabbing a record-tying 24 rebounds against U18 Cibona Zagreb. Pecarksi has played three summers for the Serbian national teams, including helping Serbia to the title at the FIBA U18 European Championship 2017 with 12.6 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.1 blocks. Pecarski’s father Miroslav Pecarski won the EuroLeague in 1996 with Panathinaikos Athens and the 1989 Korac Cup with Partizan. Marko has been playing with Partizan’s first team this season and averaged 4.8 points, 3.0 rebounds and 0.6 steals in 13 minutes in the 7DAYS EuroCup. Pecarski, who stands 2.08 meters, has a great three-point shot. He also has great timing on the offensive glass. Pecarski, who was born in Gijon, Spain, continues to work on his one-on-one defense.
U18 Spars Sarajevo: Tarik Biberovic
Biberovic will be playing his third ANGT despite still being a year younger than the rest of the competition this year. Last year he averaged 17.8 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.3 blocks for Spars at ANGT Belgrade. Biberovic also has played for Bosnia and Herzegovina; he recorded 7.1 points and 4.1 rebounds per game at the FIBA U16 European Championship 2016. The 2.01-meter forward signed a long-term deal with Fenerbahce Dogus Istanbul earlier this season, but remains at Spars on loan. He comes from a basketball family and has strong work habits. He can shoot equally well from inside and beyond the three-point line. Biberovic’s good energy contributes to the team spirit and helps make his teams better.
U18 Umana Reyer Venice: Federico Miaschi
Miaschi will be playing his second ANGT after averaging 8.0 points, 3.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.8 steals at the 2015-16 ANGT Rome despite being two years younger than most of the competition. The Genova native played for Italy at the FIBA U16 European Championship 2016 and collected 18.0 points, 4.4 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.0 blocks. Last summer Miaschi averaged 3.0 points, 0.9 rebounds and 1.0 steals at the FIBA U18 European Championship 2017. The 1.95-meter guard has a good shooting technique and a quick release. He also handles the ball well with good court vision and passing skills to help out at the point guard spot. Miaschi also has a quick first step and is determined, tenacious and always ready to lead the team.