Four teams with nine Euroleague Basketball Adidas Next Generation Tournament continental titles among them, plus last season's runner-up, will fill Zalgirio Arena in Kaunas this weekend with great U18 talent. Check out some of the likely protagonists:
U18 Rytas Vilnius – Azuolas Tubelis
Tubelis will be playing in his second ANGT after he helped Rytas to win the continental title last season by averaging 8.0 points, 2.0 rebounds and 0.8 blocks in the ANGT Finals. The 2.05-meter forward did not play in the ANGT Kaunas tournament last year. He played for Lithuania at the FIBA U16 European Championship 2018 and led the team in scoring (14.3 points), rebounds (10.4) and blocks (a tournament-high 2.7) while also contributing 2.7 assists and 1.3 steals. He has a very strong body with long arms and is very versatile on offense. He has good shooting range, extending out past the three-point line, and can defend all five positions. One area he still needs to work on is his quickness.
U18 CFBB Paris – Timothe Crusol
Crusol will be playing in his third ANGT season and is expected to take even more leadership. He debuted in the ANGT Finals in 2017 and picked up 3 points, 2 rebounds and 1 assist in 15 minutes over three games but did not appear in the ANGT Finals Championship Game, which CFBB won for the team's second continental title. He averaged 10.0 points, 3.0 rebounds and 3.3 assists at ANGT Kaunas last season, and 4.0 points, 1.7 rebounds and 3.3 assists in last season’s ANGT Finals. The 1.92-meter point guard also has loads of international experience. He helped France to win the FIBA U16 European Championship 2017 title, finish second at the FIBA U17 Basketball World Cup 2018 and third in the FIBA U18 European Championship 2018. Crusol is a good point guard who can score and has a good basketball IQ, but he needs to develop his speed.
U18 Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar – Gleb Bednyakov
With Lokomotiv making its ANGT debut, Bednyakov will also be debuting in the competition. The 1.99-meter shooting guard has international experience, having averaged 5.5 points, 2.3 rebounds, 0.5 assists and 0.7 steals at the FIBA U16 European Championship 2017, where Russia finished 16th and was relegated to Division B. In Russia's youth league this season, Bednyakov is averaging 17.7 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists. He is a well-built, athletic player who is quickly adding aspects to his game. He is aggressive but also smart and strategic. He is equally strong on offense and defense. Bednyakov is also a team player but is not afraid of taking over when the team needs it.
U18 Zalgiris Kaunas – Modestas Kancleris
Kancleris will be appearing in his third ANGT season after averaging 4.0 points and 3.0 rebounds at ANGT Kaunas in 2017 and playing 6 minutes and not scoring a point over three games at the ANGT Finals that same year. Last season the 2.03-meter guard picked up 2.8 points and 3.3 rebounds at ANGT Kaunas. At the international level, Kancleris averaged 9.1 points, 6.9 rebounds, 0.9 assists and 1.0 steals at the FIBA U16 European Championship 2017, where Lithuania finished sixth to miss out on qualifying for the FIBA U17 Basketball World Cup 2018. He is always ready to learn every day. His athletic abilities allow him to guard players on the perimeter or in the post. He is one of the best shot blockers of his age in the country. Kancleris is aggressive driving to the basket and on the offensive glass while also being solid from the outside. He still must improve his ball-handling with his left hand and his back-to-the-basket play.
U18 Stellazzurra Rome – Abramo Pene
Pene will be playing in his third ANGT season despite still being a year younger than the rest of the competition. He did not score but had 1 rebounds and 2 steals in 7 minutes of two games at the ANGT Belgrade in 2017. The 1.97-meter shooting guard averaged 2.5 points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.3 assists in helping Stellazzurra to the 2018 ANGT Kaunas first-place game. He also averaged 4.7 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.0 assists in three games at the 2018 ANGT Finals. Pene is an outstanding one-on-one player with excellent athleticism. He has developed into a solid three-point shooter, and is an excellent defender and competitor. He remains an offensive work-in-progress, needing to use his left hand more and to understand game situations better.
U18 CSKA Moscow – Viktor Lakhin
Lakhin is ready to line up for his third ANGT campaign. At the ANGT Finals in 2017, he averaged 5.3 points and 3.3 rebounds. The 2.08-meter big man collected 6.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.0 steals and 2.0 blocks at the ANGT Kaunas last season. Lakhin played internationally for Russia as well, averaging 9.7 points, 7.7 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 1.0 steals and 1.1 blocks at the FIBA U16 European Championship 2017, where the team finished last and was relegated to Division B. He has played in two games for CSKA's second team, averaging 8.0 points and 5.0 rebounds in 17 minutes. Lahkin has gotten physically stronger of late, which has improved his post play and ability to finish. He is still working on his shooting ability and his defensive versatility.
U18 Torrons Vicens L'Hospitalet – Daniil Cherneha
Cherneha will be appearing in his second ANGT after he collected 2.5 points, 2.0 rebounds, 0.5 assists and 0.5 blocks last season at the ANGT L'Hospitalet. The 2.07-meter center played for Ukraine at the FIBA U16 European Championship 2017 Division B, averaging 7.0 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.3 blocks. Cherneha also played at the FIBA U18 European Championship 2018 and picked up 1.2 points and 0.6 rebounds in 6 minutes. He has a good touch on his outside shot and uses both hands attacking the rim. He also plays hard inside with very good footwork in the low post. Cherneha is aggressive and runs the floor well despite being a taller player, finishing strong on the break. He plays hard on defense and has quick lateral movement to allow him to defend on the perimeter. He still struggles on defensive rotations and must work on his offensive decision making.
U18 DBA Copenhagen – Jonathan Klussmann
Just like Copenhagen, Klussmann will also be making his ANGT debut. The 1.90-meter guard has not only played internationally, but was the top scorer of the FIBA U16 European Championship 2018 Division B, scoring 25.0 points to go with 7.8 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 0.9 steals for Denmark. Klussmann has a strong body that he utilizes well to find contact and finish. He can shoot from long range and has an excellent eye for his teammates when he penetrates. He still needs to mature at the defensive end and take more responsibility there.