This last week has been held the 29th edition of the "Torneo Junior de Baloncesto Ciutat de l’Hospitalet". This tournament for U18 club teams is nearly the best international rendez-vous for scouts to check who will be the upcoming talents in the European basketball scene. I could not be there but I have a few thoughts about the tournament from what I heard and read about it.
Let’s start first with the whole sportive side of it. The tournament has been won by FMP Zeleznik in a very close final by one point against FC Barcelona. The Serbs already won the tournament last year and both teams qualified for the Euroleague Junior Tournament that will be held during the Final Four weekend in Madrid. The tournament MVP was Nikola Mirotic from Montenegro who is however playing for the Real Madrid Junior team. For those who want to check the stats of the different games, you can find them here.
Then, I want to talk about something else that I could see by following this tournament closer. I always hear about the famous Spanish youth development. I really don’t want to blame the work of the different teams, but when I check the rosters and stats of the different Spanish teams, I see that there are some names that do not sound like being true sons of Don Juan. Jordan Bürger, Mamadou Seydi, Nihad Dedovic, Konstantine Tomaradze, Michel Diouff, Papa Abdoulaye, David Jelinek, Nikola Mirotic and I could continue like that. Sincerely, I do not have a problem at all with Spanish teams recruiting foreign talent. It is a natural evolution in a business orientated basketball perception where you want to recruit the best available talent.
But I also saw that it were mostly the foreign players that were the dominating guys for the Spanish squads. You can name Ricky Rubio, who of course did not play for Joventut in this tournament, when you want to talk about the Spanish future. Or you could talk about Josep Franch or other Spanish players. But the main prospects remained the foreign kids. With this development, Spain will probably run into a difficult situation in some years, when all these young Spanish players will mature and will only have reduced basketball experience due to limited playing time already in youth categories.
Of course, for club teams, this is a huge opportunity as they can attract already very young talent from different countries or even fly in whole teams from abroad and select the best players and prospects. But you hear already a lot of voices that claim the "steal of talent", especially in the Balkan area. And for those young kids, the practicing away from home and in different conditions may not always be the right one. The transfer rules have been changed already in some ways so that this evolution will be stopped but you still see Bosnian or Montenegrin players dominate in the top Spanish youth teams.
On the other hand, with a tournament like this, which has been broadcasted on the Spanish Pay TV, you can recognize the importance of such an event. And you can also see the importance of the Basketball sport in the country in general. I heard some people that were amazed by the media attention of this tournament and said that this would never be the case in other countries, except maybe in Lithuania. When you see for example final phases of French youth championships that are played in front of 100 people; and everybody knows the talent level in France; you can see how far the Basketball sport still has to develop in some countries to reach the actual European Club Team Superpower which remains the Spanish ACB League.
But finally, congratulations to the winners, and we wish good luck for the future to all the players that were present.