ANGT Finals bring best young players to Belgrade

May 14, 2018 by Print
ANGT Finals bring best young players to Belgrade

The first tipoffs during the Final Four in Belgrade this week will be at the city's historic Aleksandar Nikolic Hall when the 16th annual Euroleague Basketball Adidas Next Generation Tournament Finals open bright and early on Thursday, May 17. Five past U18 continental champions are part of the eight-team field, which also includes one newcomer to Europe's most elite youth club competition. The eight teams will be hoping to hoist the trophy in the championship game on Sunday, to be held at Stark Arena just hours before a Turkish Airlines EuroLeague champion will be crowned on the same court.

The teams are broken down into two four-team groups. Each group will play round-robin games and the first-placed team in each will face off in the Sunday's championship game. Group A includes reigning champion and two-time winner U18 CFBB Paris, 2012 champ U18 Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius, 2015 winner U18 Real Madrid and 2017 finalist U18 Mega Bemax Belgrade. Group B is made up of 2014 champion U18 Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade, 2013 winner U18 Divina Seguros Joventut Badalona, first-timer U18 FC Bayern Munich and U18 Stellazzurra Rome. There is free admission to all the games.

With three former title-winners together, Group A is expected to have plenty of fireworks.

Reigning champ CFBB will be looking for crown number three after also taking the trophy in 2010 – then under the name INSEP. The French academy is making its seventh appearance overall, and fourth consecutively, in the ANGT Finals. CFBB received a wild card for the Belgrade spectacle as title-holder after finishing fifth at the ANGT Kaunas qualifying event. CFBB ended U18 FMP's attempt for a three-peat in 2010 and this year is shooting for the first repeat since FMP went back-to-back in 2008 and 2009.

Group A also features some revenge games. CFBB's victory in the 2017 ANGT championship game came over Mega, so the Belgrade team will be extra motivated to knock off the French side this time around. Mega is making its third straight appearance after receiving a wild card following a third-place finish at the ANGT Belgrade qualifying tournament. The 2012 continental champion Lietuvos Rytas missed the 2017 ANGT Finals but is back for its sixth showing in the final round of games after winning ANGT Kaunas. Lietuvos Rytas beat U18 Fenerbahce in the 2012 championship game after having lost to FMP in the 2009 title bout. The other Group A team is 2015 champion Real Madrid, which is appearing in its fifth straight ANGT Finals and sixth in total. Madrid, which lost in the 2014 ANGT championship game to Crvena Zvezda, will be out for some revenge, too, after losing to Mega in the first game of group play last year to miss out on returning to the final. Madrid qualified for Belgrade after winning the ANGT Munich event.

Group B is topped by 2014 champion Crvena Zvezda, which is playing in its eighth straight ANGT Finals after winning eight straight ANGT Belgrade titles. Zvezda reached three consecutive ANGT championship games, winning in 2014 before losing to Real Madrid in 2015 and to Barcelona in 2016. In the 2017 ANGT Finals, Zvezda lost all three group games and will be looking to use the home fans to get back to its winning ways.

Joventut won the continental crown in 2013 and came back to the ANGT Finals in 2014 as reigning champ. This year is the first time that the Spanish club has made it back to the big stage, thanks to claiming the trophy in the ANGT L'Hospitalet. Group B also includes the only debutant as Bayern Munich makes its maiden journey to the ANGT Finals after reaching the ANGT Munich final and receiving a wild card. This is just the third time that a German team is taking part in the ANGT Finals after U18 ALBA Berlin hosted the event in 2009 and 2016. And the final team in Group B is Stellazzurra, which reached the ANGT Finals for the second time after playing in Madrid in 2015. Stellazzurra was granted a wild card after finishing second at the ANGT Kaunas, where the Italian club became the first team in competition history to beat U18 Zalgiris Kaunas as the host team in Kaunas.