NIJT wrap: Lietuvos Rytas takes title; plus, BiE’s nine European (and one Chinese) prospects to watch

Sanli: Glue guy, team player

Congratulations this afternoon go out to the Lietuvos Rytas junior team, which handled home team Fenerbahçe Ülker in the championship game of the 2012 Nike International Junior Tournament. Before something of a sedate crowd (perhaps folks here are a bit sedate and/or hungover after last night’s city-rocking goalless match – hey, it’s football – in which Galatasaray took the Turkish league title over FBU), L. Rytas controlled tempo, game and scoreboard throughout for an 88-70 victory in Istanbul.

Now that the proverbial fat lady has sung, BiE goes through 10 names European basketball and NBA fans might want to keep track of in the medium-term future – some of these guys are certainly destined for international stardom before decade’s end. Please note that the following are not necessarily the best players in the tournament, but rather those who BiE believes have the most upside or could simply surprise those not in-the-know once they’ve risen to the next level.

BiE’s “Who’s Who” from the 2012 NIJT includes the following.

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Nike International Junior Tournament: Lietuvos Rytas torches Crvena Zvezda to reach finals

Just completed was the deciding game in Group A of the Nike International Junior Tournament – and for Crvena Zvezda the results were ugly indeed.

While Dusan Ristic had his now-standard killer game for the Croatian side with 21 points and 10 rebounds, the tenacious play of the Lithuanians (clearly still rolling from their incredible second half against FC Barcelona yesterday) resulted in a huge 105-69 victory for Lietuvos Rytas. Augustinas Jankaitis chased his double-double of 16/13 yesterday – and augmented his chances of ultimately being named MVP of this tourney – with an amazing 30-point, 11-rebound performance.

Once again, Crvena Zvezda appeared to consciously eschew a physical game, a style which this Lithuanian side is not at all afraid to play. L. Rytas won the battle of the boards handily, with 39 against the Red Star’s mere 26.

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Notes from the Nike International Junior Tournament, day two

BallinEurope took in a couple of Nike International Junior Tournament games today – namely, Crvena Zvezda vs. Anadolu Efes and Lietuvos Rytas vs. FC Barcelona. A few brief impressions gleaned follow.

• Early on, Crvena Zvezda appeared intimidated by Anadolu Efes, a much more physical team than the previous day’s opponent, FC Barcelona – but somehow while the Red Stars mostly shied away from going inside and gave up turnovers by the bundle, big man Marko Tejic somehow amassed three fouls in less than three minutes.

• In the first half, Crvena Zvezda showed their fantastic wiles with tight defensive rotations and traps, though proving susceptible on the baseline; this allowed the larger frontcourt of Efes to score essentially every time a guard managed to find his man there.

• Speaking of those Efes guards, BiE’s eye was caught by the play of Furkan Bayrak and particularly Cedi Osman. Both showed nice game-management skills and in fact the Efes lead began to noticeably crumble when Bayrak and Osman both sat for a spell, allowing Crvena Zvezda to knot things up at 22 in the second quarter.

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Notes from the Nike International Junior Tournament, day one

As befits tradition, the 2012 Nike International Junior Tournament is running in parallel with the Euroleague Final Four competition in Istanbul. Eight youth league teams are competing for the grand prize – and, individually speaking, to garner some attention from club scouts as each player’s career burgeons on the big stage.

In the bigger picture, the NIJT games (and introductory qualifying tournaments) also serve as a handy barometer of club play on the national level. After day one, then, it’s good news for Croatia and Lithuania, whose homegrown squads swept, and bad news for Turkey, as powerhouses Fenerbahçe Ülker and Anadolu Efes both lost. And what’s up with FC Barcelona…?

KK Zagreb 79, Fenerbahçe Ülker 76
As though The Next Big Thing Out Of Croatia, a.k.a. 2011 NIJT MVP Dario Saric, weren’t enough, NIJT competitors will also apparently now have to take notice of Dominik Mavra as well. While Saric put in a ridiculous man-among-boys performance of 26 points, 17 rebounds, six assists and five steals, Mavra “added” 30 points and six boards as the pair consistently foiled any attempt by Fenerbahçe to establish their tempo: Each went to the free-throw line 12 times in the game and accounted for over 70% of the Croatian side’s points.

Crvena Zvezda 86, FC Barcelona Regal 77
The much-touted Blaugrana suffered a disappointing performance against Crvena Zvezda to take a nine-point loss after going up 18-12 in the first quarter and 20-15 after 10 minutes of play. Worse for Spanish basketball, Barcelona’s main contributors were foreigners Ludde “El Matador Sueco” Hakanson, Nick Spires and Alexandr Zhigulin. Crvena Zvezda’s big men pretty much had their way with Barça’s – even Spires’ 13 points belies his frustrating 4-of-15 overall shooting – as Serbia’s Dusan Ristic put in a crushing 23-point, 12-rebound (including six offensive) show.

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Jordan Brand Classic scoop: Roster changes, player briefs, how to watch online

Just in case international youth basketball fans weren’t sated by the recent Albert Schweitzer and Nike Hoop Summit youth tournaments, perhaps the upcoming Jordan Brand Classic in New York today will go a bit further in sating the craving. Three games will be played between some of the world’s finest U18 players.

Game two of the tripleheader puts 16 non-U.S. players in the limelight, as “Black” and “White” teams have been drawn at random from the stock of internationals. Originally, a full 10 of these 16 were representing The Continent, with Lithuania, Serbia and France each claiming two spots.

Thanks to our old friend Eyjafjallajoekull, however, some changes have been made. Vasilije Micic and Nikola Jankovic of Serbia cannot make the trip; also out is Nigeria’s Christopher Obekpa. In for the internationals will be Italian point guard Matteo Ibro and two guard Albert Homs of Spain; replacing Obekpa will be Anthony Bennett of Canada. The roster switch-up now gives Spain and Italy two players each in the game.

The book on the Europeans in the Jordan Classic looks something like the following.

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