24 June, 2023
02 July
11 Izan Almansa Pérez (ESP), 13 Papa Ababacar Bartolome Miller (ESP)
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Is Izan Almansa the most successful youth player in history?

DEBRECEN (Hungary) - Izan Almansa etched his name in the record books of international basketball when he was named TISSOT Most Valuable Player of the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup 2023. The Spanish big man became the first player to win the U19 World Cup MVP trophy after having won the same award at the FIBA U17 Basketball World Cup. But what about his place in history?

Regardless of what happens long-term, Izan Almansa is fresh off making history - and accomplishing something that may never happen again.


Almansa was the easy choice for the MVP award as he was the dominating force for a Spain team that went undefeated in Debrecen to claim their second U19 crown following 1999.


"This feels great. We did an amazing job. We believed every minute that we could win the game. We kept playing with heart and focus. I’m dreaming right now," said Almansa, who averaged 16.9 points, 7.1 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.7 steals, and 1.1 blocks per game in Debrecen.

The 2023 summer was a continuation of his magical 2022 in which he was named MVP at the U17 World Cup, where Spain took second place after losing to USA in the Final.


But Almansa also was named MVP of the FIBA U18 European Championship 2022, where Spain claimed the continental juniors title for the fifth time.


Given that Almansa was the first non-USA player to win the U17 World Cup top individual honor, the Murcia native's status in global basketball is already untouched. And it is hard to imagine that any European will ever match his run of consecutive MVPs at the U17 World Cup, U18 European Championship and U19 World Cup.

But what about Almansa's status in other circles of international basketball?


As it turns out, the Covid-19 pandemic and oddly enough the U19 World Cup may cost him a chance for another mark that would likely never have been repeated.

Almansa was born in 2005 and he was on Spain's extended roster for the FIBA U16 European Challengers 2021. There were five Challengers events and they were the qualifiers for the 2022 U17 World Cup - the winner of each reaching the global stage.

Spain ended up not playing in their Challenger due to Covid reasons, and Spain only ended up playing at the U17 World Cup because they hosted the event. So Almansa missed a chance to take a title at the U16 level - even if it was not a full-fledged FIBA U16 European Championship.

Still, Almansa and his generation got to play last summer and the big man took home the MVP trophy. He also played up with the 2004-born generation at the U18 European Championship and showed his dominance.

Jump ahead to this summer and Almansa obviously played at the U19 World Cup, but because of the close proximity of the events, he will not play at this summer's FIBA U18 European Championship 2023, starting on July 22 in Nis, Serbia. That will however be Almansa's 2005-born generation. Fellow 2005-born Lucas Langarita will play in Serbia after winning the U19 World Cup.

Spain will be loaded for that tournament and have great chances to win repeat - and even win their fourth straight title if you include the country winning in 2019 and their FIBA U18 European Challenger 2021.

Teodosic, Valanciunas or Almasa?

The 2005 generation would then have the opportunity to win the FIBA U20 European Championship in 2025. Covid, however, robbed that group of the chance of matching the only two groups to win all three European youth categories U16, U18, and U20.

Milos Teodosic and the 1987 generation of Serbia & Montenegro and later Serbia; and the Lithuanian 1992-born generation of Edgaras Ulanovas were the only two to accomplish that triple.

Jonas Valanciunas was also part of the Lithuania group and helped win the U16 and U18 European golds as well as the U19 World Cup in 2011, all three times winning the MVP award. But the NBA star did not play at the U20 European event.

Almansa and Valanciunas are the only two players with three MVPs in European or world youth competitions.

What does Almansa's future hold? After two seasons with the Overtime Elite in the USA, he has announced he will play for the G League Ignite team in 2023-24. And he has shown he can dominate against older competition. Fans will have a chance to see him play in September at the FIBA Intercontinental Cup in Singapore.


What about his chances further in the future?

"He has improved from last year with excellent motor skills combined with intriguing height, wingspan, and lateral agility flexibility. He has improved his face-up game from the high post, putting the ball down and attacking one-on-one. But he needs to improve his touch range and finishing around the rim through contact and traffic," said one Europe-based scout.

"He is a natural rim protector, good rebounder, and slasher. He can be a perfect rolling man on pick-and-roll plays with a good passer feeding him. While he’s a good above-the-rim player, he must also improve his defense on the ground and stop wings in one-on-one situations. And he is excellent in denying the entry pass and over-playing."

Regardless of what happens long-term, Izan Almansa is fresh off making history - and accomplishing something that may never happen again.