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NIJT Belgrade 2014: Day 1 Recap

February 22nd, 2014 · No Comments

For my first trip of the 2013-14 season, I went once again to Belgrade to cover the Qualification Event for the  Nike International Junior Tournament. 8 teams competed in the Serbian capital with a majority of squads from the Balkan area. Here is the recap of the first game day.

In the first game of the tournament, Crvena Zvezda had no problems to overcome Zemun. Driven by Vojislav Stojanovic, the hosts run away early in the game and dominated on both sides of the court. By halftime, when Red Star was up 50-26, it was already time to change the court and follow the start into the event by different teams as the talent level was not really there.

INSEP opened their event with a loss to Buducnost where Aleksandar Novosel came up with a great game. The Montenegrin guard handled the ball really well and created multiple opportunities on his strong drives. For the French team, the desperate lack of long range shooting skills was a major problem, especially when Podgorica played a 2-3 zone defense. Stephane Gombauld did some damage in the paint but lost his touch in the second half by not converting multiple second chance opportunities. On the other hand, Novosel did nothing wrong and found his big guy Vasilije Bacovic in the decisive moments to get the first win in the tournament.

Cedevita Zagreb got quickly the status of favorites for the event as their uber-talented trio Lovro Mazalin, Ante Zizic and Dragan Bender showed up for the tournament. During the 5 first minutes of the second half, when they played together, they made a 20-4 run putting up a dominant setting and killing Partizan on both ends of the court. The Croat stars could take a rest again and their team mates brought the game home despite the nice numbers of Milos Glisic for the Serbian team.

The last game of the morning session was probably the most intense as the Canarias Basketball Academy beat Mega Vizura in a real combat. The jump shooting Chinese Chris Tang got good support in the paint by Norbert Janicek while Jon Ander Cuadra was hot at the right moment going for 3/3 from behind the arc. Radovan Djokovic did his best for the team from Zemun but his 16pts, 6rebs and 6asts were not enough in the end.

The afternoon session started with a blowout win by Crvena Zvezda over INSEP. The French basketball academy played a disastrous game with no team basketball, tons of turnovers and poor shooting. Zvezda did not even have to play well to be up by more than thirty points during the second half. They came up with a nice team effort with nobody scoring more than 12 points in this game. For INSEP though, the  NIJT might be the worst one in history for a team that clearly lacks the talent of previous generations.

Zemun came up with a nice victory against Buducnost. Jovan Starincevic underlined that he was one of the best PGs of the first day with 17 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists. Slobodan Jovanovic was not as present in scoring as he was defended in a Box-and-One over long stretches. Aleksandar Novosel could not continue in his dominating form from the morning game so that it was Mihailo Radunovic and Aleksandar Dozic who had to take over. But it was not enough in the end to beat Zemun who keeps their chances for a semi-final spot.

Partizan Belgrade won their first game of the tournament by beating the Canarias Basketball Academy. Milos Glisic and Vanja Marinkovic were the key players for the Serbian team while Norbert Janicek and Chris Tang took care of the scoring for the Spanish Academy. It was a last quarter 29-16 run mainly orchestrated by Glisic beating his defenders on the drive that was the key for the victory.

Finally, the biggest surprise of the day came in the last match where Mega Vizura won against Cedevita. Despite being totally undersized compared to the Croatian team, the will of the guys from Zemun was present and translated at best by Nikola Pavlovic who finished with 17 points and 9 rebounds. Radovan Djokovic showed his all around game with 16 points, 6 rebounds and 7 assist while the Croatian top talents could not handle the game in the final minutes to turn it around. This brings the special situation that all games tomorrow morning in their group will be a final to reach the semis on Saturday evening.

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