By Antigoni Zachari / firstname.lastname@example.org
The EuroLeague Basketball Adidas Next Generation Tournament brought to the spotlight once again the future stars of European basketball as teams clashed in the Kaunas meeting this past weekend. Rytas Vilnius sealed the third ticket to the ANGT Finals that will take place in the Cologne Final Four next May, with only one spot left up for grabs later in February (Belgrade, February 21-23).
Lithuania has always been home to Europe’s next big things, and that in recent years extend also to non local talent. Such is the case of Andreas Kalogiros.
The 17-year-old Greek forward gives the chance to reflect upon many different aspects when it comes to youth (and senior further down the line) basketball in the Old Continent. One, of course, being the infostructure and fostering of youth players in the Baltic country and how they can grow and be ready for the next level.
We’ve seen the Ball brothers joining Vytautas in the past. Despite their eventful presence in Lithuania, there is no denying that they brought attention to the Lithuanian League.
Bear in mind also the Greek Kalaitzakis brothers, Panagiotis and Giorgos, who are currently having a stellar season in Nevezis. Kalogiros chose to move to Lithuania from Greece to join the stacks of Rytas at an early age and he stepped up in Kaunas. He’s been part of the youth NTs of Greece but never got the chance to really be on the spotlight in his home country until now.
Kalogiros finished a fully productive weekend with averages of 16.3 points, 10.3 rebounds and 1.7 assists in four games, rating among the top players of ANGT’s latest showdown, even if he didn’t make the Best Five cut.
And what an eventful meeting this was in Kaunas. Kalogiros’ Rytas teammate Azoulas Tubelis claimed the MVP trophy as his team emerged into the Finals of the tournament, with a big-time performance 25 points, 15 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 1 block and 12 fouls drawn for a performance index rating of 37 in the first-place game.
U18 Nanterre 92’s Victor Wembanyama set a new record of blocks in the tournament with 9, to go along with a nearly triple-double performance against Zaragoza. The 16-year-old French center posted 22 points and 15 rebounds, to accumulate 42 PIR. While Nanterre didn’t make it to the first-place game, Wembanyama’s efforts rightfully earned him a spot in the Best Five of the meeting.
Paulius Murauskas of U18 Zalgiris Kaunas also joined the All-Tournament Team following his leading performance for the tournament’s hosts with 15.5 points, 7 rebounds, 2.3 steals and 1.7 assists in 24 minutes of action on average. Zalgiris lost the chance to qualify for the Finals at home, though the 2004-born forward left his mark in the first-place game with 11 points, six rebounds.
Cameron Hildreth of Barking Abbey London has definitely been a surprise, emerging as one of the top names of this past weekend. It’s not too often that we hear from new talents arriving from the United Kingdom, but this is about to change and for a good reason; his averages are quite stunning: 25.8 points, 6.8 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 4 steals in 4 total games in Kaunas made him the top scorer of the tournament, and the second-best player in index rating. Pretty impressive show by any account.
The Best Five was completed by Rytas’ Augustas Marciulionis, son of emblematic Sarunas Marciulionis. The 2002-born Lithuanian guard dropped 25 points in the first-place game vs. Zalgiris, along with 9 assists and 5 rebounds, to add up to his 25.8 ppg, 6.8 rpg and 4.3 apg in Kaunas.
With three Lithuanian players in the best five of the tournament and a top Greek prospect choosing Rytas as his team, it’s obvious that something good is getting done near the Baltic Sea shores.