Juhann Begarin has come a long way in the last two years, going from a youngster looking to get out of Guadeloupe to becoming one of France's top talents in his generation and taking over a leadership role for U18 CFBB Paris at the Euroleague Basketball Adidas Next Generation Tournament Kaunas.
Begarin was named to the all-tournament team in Kaunas after leading his team to a third-place finish and leading the event with 4.3 steals per game. He also ranked second in scoring (19.8 ppg.) and tied for fifth in rebounding (6.5 rpg.).
"It means a lot to play here because international competition is strong and it's always good to show up," said Begarin, who has come up with all this production despite being a year younger than the majority of competition; he won't turn 17 until mid-August 7.
This was actually the 1.94-meter guard's second go-around at ANGT Kaunas after he collected 3 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 4 steals and 2 blocks in 23 minutes over three games at least season's event.
"I learned how to be hard and be tough. Also to be fearless and go to war and not be afraid of anybody," Begarin said through a teammate acting as interpreter.
A year earlier, Begarin was still at home in Guadeloupe in the southern Caribbean. Despite having produced basketball talents such as Rodrigue Beaubois, Mickael Gelabale and the brothers Florent and Mickael Pietrus, the insular region of France is not that big in the sport.
"On the island, the level is not that high, so I was trying to get to France as quickly as possible," said Begarin, the youngest of four brothers. One of those brothers is Jessie Begarin, who currently plays with French second division side Rouen after having played parts of four seasons in the top level, including the previous two with ESSM Le Portal Cote d'Opale. Juhann is also following in his big footsteps as the 30-year-old Jessie played with CFBB – then known as INSEP – from 2004-2006 after coming to France as 16-year-old.
"My brother pushes me a lot, but I cannot see him a lot because we have a lot of practice and a lot of games in the [third division]," Juhann said of seeing his older brother, who lives about an hour and a half away by train.
Juhann lives in the French capital, Paris, with his parents, who accompanied him on the journey from Guadeloupe. He said he values the top level experience and training he is getting at the famed French program.
"It’s the best opportunity in France. It has the best facilities and everything around it," Begarin said.
ANGT Kaunas was the latest step in his development and an important chance to implement some of the things he learned when he went through a disappointing finish to the FIBA U16 European Championship 2018. Playing in his first national team event, Begarin led the French team in scoring with 15.6 points while also collecting 3.0 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 2.3 steals. The team went into the semifinals undefeated and hopeful of winning back-to-back U16 continental crowns, but lost to eventual champion Croatia in the semis and then to Turkey in the third-place game to leave Novi Sad, Serbia, empty-handed.
"I learned that everything is on the team. I did some good things, but without a good team, you cannot win. So now I am trying to play for the team and trying to be a leader," Begarin said.
Remember his name, because has come far already and his basketball journey is just getting started.