This Friday starts the probably strongest of the three Qualification tournaments on the road to Barcelona Nike International Junior Tournament. In the Serbian capital, 8 teams from around Europe compete for an additional spot in the Final tournament in May. Even if the organizers did not invite the current Serbian forces Mega Vizura and Hemofarm, the participating teams look very interesting with two clear-cut favorites for the Final on Sunday. Europeanprospects.com will be LIVE in Belgrade for the whole tournament and cover it live on the blog and on our Twitter Account.
The organizers and 2010 winners FMP Belgrade will play on their home court and are one of the main favorites for the title even if Nenad Miljenovic puts that role on INSEP in a recent interview. The Serbian guard is of course their absolute top star as he averages 20.1ppg (59% 2FGs), 6.9rpg, 7.6apg and a 30.1 index rating per game. He gets support by the improved do-it-all wing Stefan Popovski-Turanjanin while Nemanja Bezbradica is a bit limited in his scoring so far in the Serbian Junior League. However, the big guy is an important factor in the paint for the dirty work.
Partizan Belgrade comes with a very young team with several 1994 born players having important roles. The main prospect is probably Nikola Radicevic who showed good stuff already last year. He had some ups and downs this season though while Nikola Majic had some interesting regularity during the Serbian Junior League season. Another player to follow is Aleksandar Djordjevic who had some great scoring efforts this season. The Power Forward Vukasin Vujovic is responsible for the work in the paint but he is also a threat from outside and had a massive 31pts game last weekend in the Junior competition. Another name that appears in the roster of Partizan is the one of Dusan Bogdanovic, a 2m10 tall forward born in 93 who moved to Spain a few years ago but seems to be back in Serbia now.
ALBA Berlin comes to Belgrade with a surprising loss yesterday evening against IBBA Berlin in the NBBL but the team will get the reinforcement of 4 ALBA Urspring prospects. The main players to follow will be Julius Wolf who played already for ALBA in L’Hospitalet in 2010 while the MVP of the Jordan Brand International game Malik Müller will bring his scoring talent to Serbia. Niklas Ney might be one of the youngest players in the tournament but the German U16 National Team player comes right from the Türk Telekom Tournament where he won the Bronze Medal with Germany last weekend. A special look has to pointed at Andrej Pavicevic, the son of the former ALBA Berlin Head coach Luka Pavicevic.
For the USK Future Stars from Prague, the Belgrade tournament will be second participation in the NIJT circuit after their second place in London 2010. The main focus will probably be on Martin Kriz who played already on the U18 National Team for the Czech Republic in 2009. He will get the support of Lukas Festr and Tomas Kyzlink who were already important factors for their team last season. However, they will probably fight with ALBA Berlin for the 3rd place in the group.
Crvena Zvezda Belgrade comes to the tournament in Zeleznik with a 6-8 record in the Serbian U18 League. However, they played only one game with their top prospect Aleksandar Cvetkovic who sees already minutes in the Senior Team in the Adriatic League. Red Star apparently plays a lot of small ball with SF Nikola Marinkovic as only inside option next to the other guards Nikola Cvorovic and Marko Radonjic. While the latter one is mainly scoring from behind the arc, Cvorovic is the team’s leader in the Index rating with 19.3 per game coming from 15.3ppg and 7.3rpg.
INSEP won the overall competition in 2010 and has still a lot of players on the roster from last year. Hugo Invernizzi is currently their top scorer with 13.9ppg in the third French division while Livio Jean-Charles has not lost anything from his versatility with 12.5ppg 5.2rpg and 1.5apg. It will be a good opportunity to check out the 1994 born scoring guard Anthony Racine while William Howard is slowly coming back from an injury he suffered in the beginning of the season. Boris Dallo is another 94 born player to follow. Looking at the pure talent of this group, INSEP should be able to qualify for the Final and give at least a hard challenge to the hosts in Belgrade.
Beovuk is a bit the surprising participant in the tournament and these players are certainly very high on showing that they deserve their spot over the powerhouses of Hemofarm and Mega Vizura. The players to follow for the Serbian team are Nikola Budic, Nemanja Pavlovic and PG Nikola Socanac. Pavlovic is the main option in the paint while Budic is more of a face-forward who can also hit the long distance shot. However, Beovuk should not be able to reach the semi-finals and will most likely fight to avoid the last spot in the Group B.
Union Olimpija Ljubljana is a regular participant to the NIJT events and will compete this season in Belgrade. After some Visa issues with their Kosovo born forward Erjon Kastrati, the team will play in Belgrade with their main forces. Luka Rupnik and Djordje Micic should be the scorers in the back court while Kastrati will most likely have to do some inside duties because of the limited size of the team. The Slovenians might be able to fight for the 2nd place in this group but they need to play very well to be able to beat the two Serbian teams.
You can follow the tournament on the official website of the tournament or on the Euroleague website. Several of our friends like Draftexpress, Eurohopes and NetScouts will be in Belgrade as well so be sure to check their websites in order to get the full picture of the tournament.