Yannick Kraag is just the latest in a long line of young talents who have got the chance to shine early at Joventut Badalona.
Joventut's commitment to youth helps Kraag take next step
It shouldn't be a shock at all that, despite his young age, swingman Yannick Kraag is producing well for Joventut Badalona in the BKT EuroCup. A major reason for the 21-year-old's strong performance has been the club's commitment to its own youthful talent.
Playing his second full season in the EuroCup with the Spanish club, the Netherlands international has really taken a step forward. Through six games, Kraag is averaging 7.3 points and 5.0 rebounds in 20 minutes per appearance. That came after his learning experience last season, in which he picked 4.0 points and 1.9 rebounds in 9 minutes per game in 11 EuroCup appearances.
"I learned from last season that every game in the EuroCup matters," says Kraag, who twice this season has already matched his 2022-23 scoring high of 12 points. "It's a tough competition. You can win anywhere and you can lose anywhere."
This is Kraag's fifth season with Joventut since moving from BC Triple Threat Haarlem to Spain in 2019.
"I have developed very good here. It was a great decision to come here and they helped me with everything basketball related. I can continue to grow here and stay for a couple more years," says Kraag, who also made single EuroCup appearances in both 2020-21 and 2021-22.
Joventut has a long, storied and successful history of not only developing talented players but then giving them an opportunity to play.
The list is long with the likes of Ricky Rubio, Rudy Fernandez, Raul Lopez, Alberto Abalde, Alex Mumbru, Albert Ventura and Nacho Llovet. The current team includes Pau Ribas and Guillem Vives, both of whom started at Joventut as kids and have returned after distinguished careers elsewhere. Other Spanish players who came up through Joventut recently include Joel Parra and Xabi Lopez-Arostegui.
Joventut's youth system has also produced many talents from other countries, including Simon Birgander, Nenad Dimitrijevic, Arturs Zagars and Zsombor Marinka. The current pro squad also includes 24-year-old Josep Busquets and Spanish youngsters like Miguel Allen, Jordi Rodriguez and Ruben Prey – all of whom are 20 years or younger.
"When you get older you naturally develop, and for me it was easier here because it was not only me coming from the youth team," Kraag says. "There are a lot of players I have played with for many years. So the transition for me was a lot easier than for a lot of people."
Also helping youngsters succeed when they arrive at Joventut's main team are veterans from whom they can learn, such as the 36-year-old duo of Ribas and Ante Tomic as well as 32-year-old DeShaun Thomas and the 30-year-old Vives.
"A lot of great players have played here and a lot of great players play here now. It's all about listening to the older guys. They give you a lot of tips if you ask them. Just ask and they will help you," Kraag said.
The Netherlands talent feels he can bring something to this Joventut team that it didn't have otherwise.
"I will be able to help on the fastbreak, push the pace of the team, and make sure we play a little bit faster than last year," he said.
Some of his confidence to take the added responsibility came from Kraag playing a leading role for the Netherlands national team at the last window of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 European Qualifiers in February 2023.
"It's a totally different team. I play with more ball responsibility and a lot more scoring responsibilities," said Kraag, who averaged 19.5 points on 45% three-point shooting, 8.5 rebounds and 1.5 steals in 32 minutes against Georgia and Ukraine.
"But playing-style-wise, I think I can do a lot of the same things: running and rebounding, defending, getting some steals. I can bring that to this team as well."
And with Joventut, Kraag can do all those things with the confidence that other youngsters before him were given the same opportunity to shine – and soared from there.