Tipping off today is the 31st Torneig de Básquet Júnior “Ciutat de L’Hospitalet,” a.k.a. the second Euroleague Nike International Junior Tournament qualifiers.
The L’Hospitalet tournament pool consists of 12 junior teams, including eight from Spain: DKV Joventut, Basket Valencia, and KK Split will square off in Group A; Alba Berlin, Regal FC Barcelona, and Estudiantes are in Group B; Unicaja Malaga, Caja Canarias, and tournament defending champions/NIJT runners-up Lietuvos Rytas play in Group C; with Cajasol, Real Madrid and hosts CB Hospitalet make up Group D.
Pool play will start today with the home team going up against Cajasol at 10 a.m. (!) and run through tomorrow night. Wednesday will feature elimination and placement games, with many teams playing twice – good thing these guys are young.
Some trends to watch, according to Euroleague’s stat guys:
• Unicaja has been runner-up in this tournament three times during the decade, including last season, so should be a team to watch.
• Five of the Spanish teams – Barcelona, Madrid, Estudiantes, Joventut and Unicaja – share in 21 of the previous 30 titles.
• Six of the last eight winners have been non-Spanish clubs.
Last season’s L’Hospitalet competition culminated in an 87-70 Lietuvos Rytas victory over Unicaja, with the Lithuanian team eventually going on to lose in the finals of the Euroleague Basketball Nike International Junior Tournament in Berlin to BC FMP in a serious shootout, 123-110.
Standouts in the 2008-09 Euroleague Nike junior tournaments included tournament MVP Dejan Musli, Nenad Miljenovic, Bakary Konate, Niels Giffey, Cesar Augusto Lima and Jonas Valanciunas.
Zalgiris Kaunas has already qualified for the finals to be held in parallel with the Euroleague Final Four in 2010 by taking the Citta di Roma tourney. Following L’Hospitalet are the eight-team Belgrade Junior Classification Tournament scheduled for February 12-14 and the eight-team Barking Abbey Academy Euroleague Basketball Junior Classification Tournament to be played February 18-20.