After having skipped the first day of the Nike International Junior Tournament in London, I made it to the capital of the United Kingdom for the second day. After the battle with the Euroleague that ended without a result, I was however looking forward to see some of the best young players in Europe.
In the first game of the day, Lietuvos Rytas had to play against Team China. The Lithuanians came to London without their best prospect Edvinas Seskus and you could see this immediately. Rytas had certainly one of the weakest performances of all the NIJTs I have seen without any team play or creativity. Norbertas Giga showed some basic stuff but it was Deividas Kuelis who finished as top scorer of the Rytas team. On the Chinese side, the scouts were hoping to see Zhou Qi but the seven-footer did not make the trip. So there is nothing really interesting to report about the Chinese team either so that we could focus quickly on the second game of the day.
Joventut Badalona came up with a terrific team effort to overcome Red Star and the Catalans made a big step to reach the Final on Sunday. There was no real star player standing out but you have to mention the big baskets scored by Alberto Abalde while Jose Nogues showe his versatility and ability to run the court. The unexpected star of the game though was Xavier Assalit who finished with 17 points on just 5 shots. The guard drew 10 fouls and scored 13 out of 15 free-throws. On the Serbian side, Nikola Rebic showed a good scoring game with 23 points but he could not lead his team to a victory. Dusan Ristic showed his limitations against a physical defense as the Serbian center struggled to impose his length in the paint. He only had 12 points and 4 rebounds while Marko Tejic finished with only 3 litte points too.
In a quite strange game, FC Barcelona won against Spars Sarajevo after several ups and downs during the contest. First, Mario Hezonja got injured in the 2nd quarter but the Croatian sensation did not show much except some bad shots until that moment. It was more of a team play effort afterwards of the Spanish team where Marc Garcia stepped up with his three-point shooting while Milovan Draskovic put Djoko Salic in much trouble on defense. Salic could not dominate in the paint as expected and finished with 5/14 FGs and 2/8 FTs. He grabbed 16 rebounds but it was not enough against the Barcelona inside defense that showed him his limitations by doubling him in multiple situations.
The last game of the da was probably the most exciting as Team England was looking for the upset against INSEP. Driven by Luke Nelson, England could get up to a double-digit lead in the second half but was unable to hold on. INSEP took over before the final horn but Nelson tied the game again in the final seconds to bring it to overtime. Here however, INSEP brought the game home and this once again wihtout a dominating Damien Inglis. On the other hand, Ywen Smock finished with 11 points, 10 rebounds and 6 blocks.
The Euroleague Final 4, to which the Euroleague did not want us to get access was in the end not that interesting, at least during the semi-finals for NBA Scouts. The two only draft candidates, Marko Todorovic and Alejandro Abrines did not play much. I want to thank however all the people who made it possible for me to get in despite the decision of the Euroleague.