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Zvezda just good enough for crown at ANGT Belgrade
REGENSBURG (David Hein's Eye on the Future) - It wasn't the final many people wanted but Crvena Zvezda Telekom Belgrade continued to roll at the Adidas Next Generation Tournament (ANGT) in Belgrade, clinching their sixth straight title in the Serbian capital.
After winning their first four games by an average of 30.5 points, Zvezda held off a tough fight from Spars Sarajevo 92-88 to clinch their ticket to the ANGT Finals for the sixth season in a row.
Borisa Simanic took MVP honors for Zvezda for his highlight-filled performance of dunks, three-pointers and blocks. The forward definitely flashed his all-around game, shooting 46 percent from long range and blocking 2.6 blocks per game while collecting 22 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.6 assists.
Aleksa Radanov, like Simanic a member of Serbia's U18 national team last summer, also displayed his multi-faceted game averaging 16.8 points, 4.6 assists, 2.4 steals and 1.8 rebounds and signed off with a 26 points and 8 assists performance in the title game.
While Simanic and Radanov were the major highlight makers - and teammates on the All-Tournament Team - Zvezda really lived off its depth, especially with talented guys who accepted their roles away from the spotlight.
Stefan Dordevic became a personal cheeseball of mine with his fantastic performance as the efficient big man did the heavy lifting while Simanic was roaming around. Dordevic, who turned 17 in December, shot 62 percent from the field in scoring 15.6 points while grabbing 13.4 rebounds and averaging 2.0 blocks a game. Another example of his smarts was just five turnovers total in five games averaging more than 28 minutes per game.
Yet he's probably the quietest and least spectacular guy on the court. When presented with his excellent stats, a group of NBA scouts at the ANGT Belgrade could not come up with whom had produced those numbers, naming off nearly 10 players before giving up and asking for the name.
Another fun player to watch was Petar Rebic, who looks so much like his older brother Nikola Rebic from Zvezda's senior team. The younger brother knocked down 52 percent of his three-pointers (14 of 27) while handing out 4.8 assists.
By winning the title at home, Zvezda advance to the ANGT Finals in Berlin at the Euroleague Final Four weekend from May 12-15. They join the winners of the three other ANGT qualifying tournaments: Mega Leks Belgrade, reigning continental champions Real Madrid and Zalgiris Kaunas.
The other four spots in the eight-team finals will be filled with wild cards.
Spars were given a wild card for the Finals last season and appear to be one of the contenders for a wild card this time as well. Others include local team Alba Berlin, Barcelona, Cibona Zagreb and Stellazzurra Basketball Academy Rome. Though of course that list is not exhaustive and Euroleague officials could decide for another team.
Spars definitely have a team that could challenge in Berlin if given a spot.
Amar Gegic scored just four points in a horrible first two games which included 13 turnovers. But the Bosnian U18 international broke out in the third game with a triple-double of 26 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists to go with 6 blocks versus Buducnost Voli Podgorica to help his team reach the semis. He picked up double-doubles in the last two games.
Aleksa Stepanovic was probably the revelation of the tournament for most observers by averaging a double-double (20.2 points, 11.2 rebounds) including a monster 35-point and 14-rebound effort against Cedevita Zagreb in the semis.
Keeping everybody together for Spars was Sani Campara, the point guard who helped Bosnia to the 2015 FIBA U16 European Championship title. The 1999-born playmaker averaged 21 points to go with 3.6 assists and 3.0 rebounds in making the All-Tournament Team as well.
Spars were one of the youngest teams in Belgrade with five players born in 2000 or later. The youngest player was 2001-born Tarik Biberovic, who turned 15 in January and averaged 2.5 points and 2.0 rebounds in the tournament including a 5-point, 5 offensive rebounds and 1-steal in 16 minutes display in the final against Cvezda.
Taking third place was Partizan Belgrade and the only high level prospect from the team was Milos Glisic, who was named to the All-Tournament Team in his fourth appearance in the ANGT. He averaged 27.0 points and 13.2 rebounds in a dominating performance, carrying Partizan to a podium finish.
Many observers were hoping Zvezda would take their 26-game winning streak into the final against Cedevita, who featured one of the top young players on the globe in Dzanan Musa. But the 16-year-old Bosnian got injured in Cedevita's meaningless third game of the group stage after the Croatian club had locked up first place in the group.
Musa did end up playing the semi-finals against Spars but he was not at the same level as the first two games where he flirted with a triple-double twice (37 points, 9 rebounds and 8 assists versus Bayern Munich and 24 points, 11 assists and 8 rebounds against Partizan Belgrade).
It was great to finally see Musa play live and in person after he helped Bosnia and Herzegovina to the 2015 FIBA U16 European Championship title along with Campara and also made his Euroleague debut earlier this season with Cedevita. Musa definitely lived up to the star status and also made the All-Tournament Team.
Darko Bajo and Luka Barisic were two other impressive players for Cedevita as bigs who could take his game outside a bit.
Alba Berlin grabbed fifth place with a victory over fellow Germans Bayern Munich. Ferdinand Zylka was clearly the leader for Alba with 23.8 points - including 30 points against Bayern - 4.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.5 steals.
The other player of note for Alba was Philipp Herkenhoff, who is a long forward who struggled at times but still averaged nearly 13 points and eight rebounds to go with 2.0 blocks on loan from Artland Dragons/Rasta Vechta. He’s an interesting prospect from Germany’s 1999 generation.
Another member of that group is Nelson Weidemann, who was on loan at the tournament with Bayern Munich. The point guard was clearly the best player on the team as Richard Freudenberg pulled out of the tournament the day before it tipped off. Weidemann's loud game (17.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.3 steals) piqued the interest of many scouts on hand.
We all knew Musa is great, but Weidemann is a revelation. Very good body, athletic, can play the point with ease. Best Bayern player by far.— Miloš Vujaković (@Voojak) February 26, 2016
There really wasn't a lot of high level talent on the Zemun team that finished seventh. It was really just a tight group of players who fought hard.
Buducnost were clearly the hard-luck team of the tournament. The Montenegro side - the youngest with six 2000-born players - would have had enough talent to challenge for the title had things gone right for them. But main playmaker Ognjen Carapic went down early in the second quarter of the second game and missed the rest of the tournament.
Danilo Brnovic - one of the 2000-born guys - had a strong first game with 8 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists in the opener against Zvezda. But he only played 5 minutes the rest of the way as he was dealing with a nasty flu.
Buducnost's Danilo Brnovic (19 Aug 2000) certainly looks like he belongs on the court at #AdidasNGT against Zvezda. Intriguing kid— David Hein (@heinnews) February 26, 2016
On top of that, the team failed to hold two 25-point leads during the tournament - losing to Alba Berlin and Zemun after holding those big advantages.
All-in-all, the ANGT Belgrade was a pretty strong tournament with a few really high level guys and some exciting action - with the same result as always with Zvezda going through again.
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