European Prospects

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Who will get a Wildcard for the NIJT?

February 23rd, 2009 · 4 Comments

After the three qualification tournaments have been played, 6 of the 8 spots for the Nike International Junior Tournament are set. Besides FMP Zeleznik as defending champ, Kalise Gran Canaria of Spain and Montepaschi Siena of Italy qualified from the Rome tournament in December, Lietuvos Rytas of Lithuania and Unicaja of Spain from the L’Hospitalet tournament in early January and Hemofarm Vrsac qualified through its second place in Belgrade in February. As FMP won its own tournament, the regulations of the Euroleague say that two Wildcard teams will be invited for the main event in Berlin at the beginning of May. I took a look who might get one of these two spots for the biggest Junior Club Team event in Europe.

In my opinion, three criteria will be taken into account by the Euroleague officials when granting the Wildcards: results in qualification tournaments, individual talent level and extra sportive considerations.

In terms of the results in the different tournaments, it was Virtus Bologna and Crvena Zvezda that finished 3rd in their respective tournaments, while FC Barcelona and DKV Joventut were semi-finalists in Hospitalet. In my eyes, at least one of the Wildcards will be distributed to one of these teams. Virtus Bologna impressed me in Rome with their aggressive defensive play and all-around team basketball led by Riccardo Moraschini. Crvena Zvezda was already present in Madrid last year and the team roster has not changed that much since then . The core is still built around Nemanja Nedovic, Lazar Radosavljevic and Nikola Rondovic. I don’t think therefore that we will see Crvena Zvezda in Berlin again.

The two Spanish teams look interesting, especially DKV Joventut has some very promising players in its roster. Josep Franch, Joan Tomas or Marko Todorovic to name just few of them are the quality guys in a very deep roster that also features the German forward in Alexander Andreev. FC Barcelona on the other hand looks less interesting than the years before and they won’t probably get a Wildcard spot to participate this year.

Zalgiris Kaunas may have a chance to earn a Wildcard as the Lithuanian team has always produced quality talent. However, their team could not reach a better ranking than 4th in the two tournaments that they played, so their chances should be limited, especially if you look at the other candidates that may have some chances in my eyes.

A big favorite for Berlin is probably Real Madrid. The Spanish team features one of the most promising players of the 1991 generation in Europe with Nikola Mirotic. The Montenegrin Center may even play the Final Four with the Senior team if Real qualifies. If that is not the case, I think that Real Madrid will get one of the two Wildcards for sure in order that Mirotic can showcase his talent in front of the multitude of international scouts that attend the tournament. However, the results of Real in the qualification events were not that great and this may be a handicap in the selection process.

A team where I see smaller chances to get a Wildcard spot is ALBA Berlin. Even if the Germans only finished 9th in Rome, the fact of being the host of the tournament should be considered by the Euroleague. The talent level of the team is good, especially if they can add players from their partner Urspring Academy. However, the fact that the German U19 finals will be played one week later may be an argument for ALBA to not consider playing the NIJT.

Finally, there are two other teams that did not go through the qualification tournaments that may have a chance of getting a Wildcard spot because of the talent level of their players. I was thinking of Fenerbahce who has players like Maxim Can Mutaf and Enes Kanter in their Junior squad. The second team that may have a chance is the Tenerife tournament winner Pamesa Valencia around the Georgian youngster Tornike “Toko” Shengelia.

4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Raffaele // Feb 24, 2009 at 6:51 pm

    In my opinion would be interesting to see to the test Fenerbache a Turkish team in Germany, and Virtus Bologna with his defence and not only his leader but all the team’s play above all in his breakaway.Probably also DKV Joventut is newsworthy but I think would be too many Spanish teams.

  • 2 Albiongate // Feb 25, 2009 at 12:48 am

    I except Real Madrid to obtain one of the wilcards because of Mirotic and his amazing false statistics. Which meens that a better team (Crvena Zvezda, Badalona or Fenerbahçe) will unfortunately stay at home.

  • 3 jovo // Mar 17, 2009 at 5:16 pm

    Union Olimpija Ljubljana and Alba Berlin. It’s official!

  • 4 Matej // Mar 17, 2009 at 5:25 pm

    Yes, Union Olimpija and ALBA Berlin got the wild cards. 😉

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