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.