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Capo d'Orlando group leads Basketball Champions League youngsters
REGENSBURG (David Hein's Eye on the Future) - The Basketball Champions League Regular Season tips off next week and SikeliArchivi Capo d'Orlando has a group of talents leading a rash of youngsters throughout the league expecting to shine in the second season of the competition.
Four years ago, Capo d'Orlando were in Italy's second division and now coach Gennaro Di Carlo is relying on some of the top young prospects from throughout Europe.
Mario Ihring has already made a name in Slovak Republic basketball as the 19-year-old point guard averaged 9.5 points, 6.7 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.2 steals at the FIBA Basketball World Cup European Pre-Qualifiers. That came a summer after Ihring helped Slovak Republic earn their first ever promotion to Division A at the FIBA U18 European Championship as he collected 13 points, 4.6 assists and 4.2 rebounds in the Division B.
But Ihring has plenty of young faces around him at the Sicily club. Arnoldas Kulboka debuted in Germany's top flight last season and played a major part in Brose Bamberg's second division team. But the Lithuanian, who won’t turn 20 until January, decided to move to Italy and Capo d'Orlando. At the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup 2017, Kulboka averaged 13.7 points and 3.9 rebounds.
Another Baltic prospect arrived at Capo d'Orlando this off-season with Latvian Arturs Strautins moving from Italian club Grissin Bon Reggio Emilia, where he played the last three seasons. Strautins, who will turn 19 years old later this month, has played 29 games in the SerieA the last two seasons.
Former Crvena Zvezda Belgrade star Vojislav Stojanovic is a 20-year-old Serbian guard who will be playing his third season with Capo d'Orlando while 2000-born point guard Matteo Lagana played two summers for Italy at the FIBA U16 European Championship. Heck, even France forward Damien Inglis is only 22 years old as he returns to Europe after spending the past two seasons in the NBA and G-League.
No, this is not a column just about Capo d'Orlando … there are plenty of other talents 21 years old or younger around the Basketball Champions League.
Edin Atic, AEK
The 20-year-old from Bosnia and Herzegovina seems poised to finally play his first full season at AEK. Atic signed with AEK originally back in 2015 but moved back to Bosnian club OKK Spars during the first season. Last year the 6ft 7in (2.01m) wing played at Greek club Aries Trikalla. Expect Atic to make an impact this season with AEK.
Berk Ugurlu, Pinar Karsiyaka
Ugurlu has been fighting for playing time the past four seasons with Turkish powers Fenerbahce. The 21-year-old point guard is now with Pinar Karsiyaka and will have a much better chance of playing a major role - similar to Furkan Korkmaz’s development when he moved from Anadolu Efes to Banvit last season in Turkey and the Basketball Champions League. Ugurlu will also be teaming up with fellow 1996-born talent Egemen Guven. The duo helped Turkey win the titles at the FIBA U16 European Championship 2012 and FIBA U18 European Championships in 2013 and 2014 and took third at the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup 2015 and FIBA U20 European Championship 2016.
Ludde Hakanson, Movistar Estudiantes
The Swedish point guard has been around for so long already it's hard to forget that he doesn't turn 22 until March. Hakanson worked his way through the Barcelona system and got minutes with the pro team in 2014-15 as an 18-year-old. The 2015-16 season was split between VEF Riga in Latvia and a return to Spain with Sevilla. Hakanson, who made his Swedish senior national debut at FIBA EuroBasket 2013 at 17 years old, played last season with Fuenlabrada.
Roko Badzim, Petrol Olimpija
The Croatian guard Badzim arrives at the traditional Slovenian side after starting the last four seasons starting with Croatian top flight A1 side Sibenik. The Sibenik native, who only turned 20 in August, averaged 18.0 points, 6.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.6 steals in helping Croatia finish second at the FIBA U20 European Championship 2017, Division B and earn promotion back to Division A.
Tolga Gecim, Banvit
Gecim is another Turkish 1996-born talent who was part of the U16 and U18 European crowns in 2012 and 2014 respectively and also won three bronzes with Ugurlu, with the other being the FIBA U20 European Championship 2015. The swingman has gradually become a bigger part of the Banvit team, averaging 4.7 points, 2.4 rebounds and 1.7 assists last season in the Turkish league as a 20/21-year-old.
Here are five other players aged 21 years or younger who could impact their teams in the Basketball Champions League this season: Laurynas Beliauskas, Neptunas Klaipeda; Tamir Blatt Hapoel Holon; Olivier Cortale, SIG Strasbourg; Antonio Koniaris, PAOK; Bathiste Tchouaffe, Nanterre.
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