U18 Real Madrid capped a thrilling four days of action at the Euroleague Basketball Adidas Next Generation Tournament Finals by collecting its second ANGT crown, following the title it had won in 2015. Mario Nakic set ANGT Championship Game records with 33 points and a performance index rating of 41 in Madrid's 95-76 victory over U18 Mega Bemax Belgrade at Fernando Buesa Arena in Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain, where there were plenty of interesting developments during the entire weekend among the future stars of European basketball.
Madrid's second title highlighted many thrills in Vitoria-Gasteiz
In an event full of storylines, Madrid was the biggest spectacle as the Spanish powerhouse was clearly the best team of the tournament. Head coach Mariano De Pablos's team won the four games by an average of 29.5 points. If the four games from the ANGT Munich qualifier are added, then Madrid's average winning margin was 35.0 points over the eight games of the ANGT season. ANGT Finals MVP Nakic was just one of many star talents on the Madrid team, which also included fellow All-Tournament Team member Usman Garuba as well as Amar Sylla, Golden Dike, Boris Tisma and Ziga Samar. Garuba and Tisma can both be back for a title defense next season as they are a year younger than their teammates, as are Javier Ramos, Ruben Lopez and Dan Duscak. Matteo Spagnolo is two years younger. One question regarding many of Madrid's top players is if and when they might join Pablo Laso's senior Madrid team -- something that 2015 ANGT Finals MVP Luka Doncic did the following season.
Madrid became fifth team with two trophies
From a team standpoint, Madrid joined a group of five clubs with two ANGT crowns. The others are U18 Zalgiris Kaunas (2003, 2007), U18 FMP Belgrade (2008, 2009), U18 INSEP/CFBB Paris (2010, 2017) and U18 Rytas Vilnius (2012, 2018). The record champion remains U18 CSKA Moscow, which won the tournament three straight years, from 2004 to 2006.
Mega was one step short yet again
Mega was a great story. The Serbian club came to the finals off a dream ANGT Belgrade qualifier, where it knocked off city rival U18 Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade in the first-place game, snapping a Zvezda's eight-year winning streak in that event. Despite being a team without a standout star, Mega played stellar team basketball and got back to the ANGT Championship Game for the second time, following its 2017 appearance. But again Mega was tripped up just one step short of the club's first title, just like two years ago, when the team featured Goga Bitadze, who was recently named the Rising Star Trophy winner in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague.
Avdija nearly got triple-double
Arguably the best player in the tournament was Deni Advija of U18 Maccabi Teddy Tel Aviv. Avdija, who has already played in the EuroLeague for Maccabi's senior team, showcased his skillset to the tune of 24.7 points, 12.0 rebounds, 6.7 assists, 1.7 steals, 1.3 blocks and 8.0 fouls received per game for a PIR of 29.7, earning him a spot on the all-tournament team. But the future star was not without his struggles as he seemed to press at times, hitting just 7-of-37 three-pointers (18.9%) and committing 17 turnovers for an average of 5.7 per game. Avdija registered three double-doubles and twice fell just 3 assists short of a triple-double. That would have made him the only player in ANGT history with two triple-doubles. His 18 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists against U18 FC Bayern Munich in the ANGT Munich qualifier was just the sixth triple-double achieved in the 17 years of the competition.
Revelation of Zalgiris talent Murauskas
One of the biggest revelations of the ANGT Finals was Paulius Murauskas of U18 Zalgiris Kaunas. The forward had played just 5:18 minutes over two games in the ANGT Kaunas qualifier, as he was born in 2004 -- making him 3 years younger than the rest of the competition. That didn't stop the 15-year-old from stepping up right away in Vitoria-Gasteiz as Zalgiris star Modestas Kancleris missed the team's opening game against U18 FC Bayern Munich with an illness. Murauskas started instead, and he collected 14 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists and 3 steals in 24 minutes. He ended up averaging 10.3 points, 5.7 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.0 blocks for a PIR of 14.7 over three games, earning him the ANGT Rising Star award.
Valencia won its first ANGT Finals game
The one team making its debut at the ANGT Finals was U18 Valencia Basket, winner of the ANGT Valencia qualifier. After losing its first two games against U18 Real Madrid and U18 Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade, head coach Xavier Albert's team collected its first win in ANGT Finals history by knocking off U18 Rytas Vilnius 102-91.