The Euroleague’s 2013 Nike International Junior Tournament started in London today for four first round contests. Defending champion Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius dropped their first game to Joventut, 77-65. 6’5” Alberto Abalde (1995) led Joventut with 21 points, making 3-of-6 three-pointers. 6’8” Jose Nogues (1995) helped out with 11 points and seven rebounds. 6’9” Gediminas Zalalis (1995) led Rytas with 14 points and 6’5” Benas Vaitulionis (1995) had 12 points.
A rough week doesn’t get any easier for Ratiopharm Ulm in its inaugural Eurocup Last 16 game tonight, with the Bundesliga side playing host to Red Star Belgrade after losing an 80-78 heartbreaker to FC Bayern Munchen on the weekend.
Sport Eagle TV got a few minutes with Ulm head coach Thorsten Liebenath and player Philipp Schwethelm after the Munich game to discuss the prospects of taking on one of this season’s European success stories; naturally, the focus is on Igor Rakočević, who was good for 18.7 points per game in the first phase of Eurocup 2012-13.
BallinEurope’s man in Serbia, Marko Savanovic, brings us another preview of an Adriatic League power: Today, Marko takes a look at Crvena Zvezda (a.k.a. Red Star Belgrade) to assess the team’s chances in 2012-13 after a sloppy 0-2 start and the quick sacking of coach Milivoje Lazic, plus offers an Official BallinEurope Fearless Prediction™…
“If Red Star wins the [Serbian] title, Serbia will be a better place.” You might think this is something we picked up from team fans, while queuing to get inside Belgrade’s Pionir Arena. But no: This statement came from no other than club president Nebojsa Covic.
With the recent announcement that the 2011-12 champions won’t in fact be seeking a second go-around in the Adriatic League and hard economic realities facing many Serbian and Croatian clubs, BallinEurope contributor Marko Savkovic today asks the hard question about one of Europe’s most prestigious associations.
Something is always up in the Adriatic League. After Maccabi Tel Aviv informed the league about its decision not to participate in next year’s competition, sportswriters started looking for a replacement but one announcement caught everyone’s attention: ULEB, it seems, has considered cutting number of teams entering the competition directly to just two. Therefore, whoever finishes third will go to qualifications. If agreed upon, this decision will become effective beginning in the 2013-14 season.
This is yet another blow to a proud basketball nation, since Belgrade powerhouse Partizan has failed – once again – in its efforts to receive a Euroleague’s “A” license.
NIJT wrap: Lietuvos Rytas takes title; plus, BiE’s nine European (and one Chinese) prospects to watch
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.
• 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.
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.
So 2011 may have been few people’s favorite year personally, European basketball fans have certainly got to be taking solace in the fact that the past 12 months featured a seriously great run of Continental-flavored hoops.
To wit, in 2011, we enjoyed:
• an exciting round of Euroleague playoffs which included FC Barcelona’s surprising tournament-round exit and culminated in storied franchise Panathinaikos bagging its third EL trophy in five years;
• in domestic leagues, another weird Bundesliga playoff tournament, another controversial Greek tourney, and from Italy and Spain second-place shockers Bennet Cantù and Bizkaia Bilbao Basket advancing;
• lots of European superstars battling it out in the NBA playoffs, particularly on the Western Conference side, with Tony Parker, Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol, Joakim Noah, Luol Deng and of course Dirk Nowitzki proving so key to their teams’ successes (or lack thereof);
• the Eurobasket 2011 tournament hosted in the world’s basketball-maddest country which ultimately inspired Team Serbia coach Dusan Ivkovic to opine that “this has been the strongest European Championship in history…” (and, judging only from the star content alone, BiE would probably agree, despite a general loathing for such hyperbole directly after an event);
• some awesome schadenfreude-laced moments as NBA refugees came to play on the Continent during the player lockout, plus all the incredibly amusing speculation on names beginning with Kobe Bryant; and finally
• the close to the 2011-12 Euroleague regular season with a week 10 that featured some crazy dogfights for entry and positioning in the Top 16 round, including a great do-or-die game between Emporio Armani Milano and Partizan Belgrade.
Olympic Games or no, how can basketball year 2011 be topped? On the first day of the new year, BallinEurope takes a last brief look back at the most popular stories we ran in 2011. Relive one killer 365 days of European roundball once more below.
Got the vitriol brewing? All right, then, with BallinEurope now caught up on some preseason basketball viewing, it’s time for another edition of BiE’s Official Euroleague Power Rankings. Just one quick note for irritated fans (we’re looking at you, Olympiacos, Žalgiris and Lietuvos Rytas backers): Remember that these rankings are first totally subjective and secondly are based on *trending*, not necessarily where BiE believes the teams will finish when all’s said and done. Excelsior!
To torment and tease those of us – and by “those of us” here, i mean “every Euroball fan” – who can’t wait for the Euroleague, Eurocup, and FIBA EuroChallenge championship draws set for Wednesday at 1pm CET, FIBA Europe and Euroleague yesterday released the names of the participating clubs in the three competitions.