It's all in the family for young talents at ANGT Finals

Jun 10, 2021 by David Hein, Print
It's all in the family for young talents at ANGT Finals

Parents and family members are always excited and nervous while watching their loved ones compete in sports at a high level. But for more than a handful of young stars at the 2021 Euroleague Basketball Adidas Next Generation Tournament Finals, their mothers, fathers or siblings know very much what they are going through because they have been on the big stage, too.

It should be no surprise if European basketball fans spent some time during the ANGT Finals on Google and Wikipedia checking to see if one of the young stars fighting for the 2021 ANGT title was related to someone they had heard of or watched play in the past. And more times than not, the answer was yes.

Watching 2021 champion U18 Real Madrid play in Valencia, it was hard to not notice an undersized, compact powerful player give his team one energetic play after the next - both on offense and defense, below and above the rim. Surely, a lot of people were reminded of Usman Garuba when they were observing his younger brother Sediq Garuba race around the court for Real. Usman, 19, has already made his name with the club’s senior team and was chosen as this season's EuroLeague Rising Star award winner.

U18 Mega SoccerBet Belgrade had three players with famous parents. Nikola Djurisic, who was named to the all-tournament team, could call on advice from both of his parents. His mother, Vesna Citakovic was a great for Serbia and Montenegro in volleyball, helping the country to a silver medal at the 2007 European Championship and bronze at the 2006 World Championship. She also won league and/or cup titles in Serbia and Montenegro, Turkey and Italy besides also playing in Israel, Germany, Romania, Poland, Indonesia and Serbia before retiring in 2016. Djurisic’s father, Dusko Djurisic, played football in Serbia, Switzerland, Belgium - where Nikola was born in 2004 - Israel, Germany and Cyprus before he hung up his boots in 2010.

One of Djurisic’s backcourt mates in Valencia was Luka Bogavac, whose father Nebojsa Bogavac played for Serbia and Montenegro at EuroBasket 2003. Nebojsa also played two seasons in the EuroLeague with Le Mans and one each in the EuroCup with Hemofarm Vrsac and ASVEL Basket.

Finally, Filip Stanojevic of Mega is the son of Jovo Stanojevic, who played four seasons in the EuroLeague with Partizan Belgrade, ALBA Berlin and Prokom Trefl Sopot.

Another ANGT Finals connection to the 2003 EuroBasket in Sweden comes from Freds Bagatskis of host U18 Valencia Basket. His father is Ainars Bagatskis, who played at four EuroBaskets for Latvia, including placing second in scoring in 1997 and averaging 14.3 points in 2003. He also competed professionally in Latvia, Norway, Poland, France, Russia and Lithuania. He appeared in 29 games in the EuroLeague for Zalgiris Kaunas from 2003 to 2005.

Ainars Bagatskis then became a successful head coach, serving as the play-caller for Zalgiris in the EuroLeague in 2006 and 2007 and also guiding Ukrainian side Budivelnyk, Nizhny Novgorod of Russia and Israeli giant Maccabi Tel Aviv in the EuroLeague. He was the Latvian senior national team head coach from 2011 to 2017 and guided it to three EuroBaskets.

Speaking of Zalgiris, the Lithuanian powerhouse had a family connection as well. Titas Sargiunas’s older brother Ignas Sargiunas played the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons in the ANGT. He appeared in the ANGT Finals in 2016 and served as the team’s captain.

U18 LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne meanwhile featured the son of a former Olympic medallist in Zaccharie Risacher, whose father not only won silver at the 2000 Sydney Games but also played 96 games over six seasons in the EuroLeague for Olympiacos and Unicaja Malaga before retiring in 2010.

U18 Stellazzurra Rome also had a father-son connection, though Kaspar Kuusmaa’s father may not be as well known. Aivar Kuusmaa played professionally for nearly 20 years - most of them in his native Estonia. The elder Kuusmaa also played three seasons with Panathinaikos in the 1990s. His third campaign was in 1996 when the Greens won the EuroLeague.

From Sediq Garuba to Kaspar Kuusma, many of the top talents at the ANGT Finals knew they had family members rooting for them who understood exactly what they were going through.