The second Athens-based tournament for the new EuroLeague Academy is now officially underway, with eight under-13 teams from local clubs, academies and schools competing for the new trophy.
The tournament is being supported by local powerhouse Panathinaikos OPAP Athens, and the opening act took place last week at the club's home venue as representatives from the eight teams gathered at the Olympic Sports Center Athens for the draw.
The tournament will see the eight teams divided into two groups of four, with a single round-robin format to determine the rankings before single-elimination quarterfinals. The winners of those games will then face off in a Final Four, a one-day event scheduled for mid-June.
The first game took place between PAO BC Academy and Platon School on Sunday, with Panathinaikos senior players Nick Calathes and James Gist in attendance.
"I watched the younger guys playing in the EuroLeague Academy Tournament, and I think it is great that they have the chance to play the game they love as part of a great tournament. Overall it is great effort by PAO BC Academy, and EuroLeague and I am sure we will see even more in the future," Calathes said.
"I got to watch some of the EuroLeague Academy qualification games of the younger guys, and it is a great opportunity to get boys together on a big stage. It is a project going on in different countries. There is a lot of young talent out there. I think it is really positive for basketball and it is good to see that Greece and Panathinaikos are involved in it," Gist said.
The tournament will give boys born in 2006 or younger the chance to enjoy the sport of basketball in a competitive but fun environment. Along with opening-game contestants PAO BC Academy and Platon School, the field is completed by teams from Galatasi, Peristeri, Ilisiakos, Panionios, Panerythraikos and Eurohoops Academy.
"We are proud that only a few weeks after the announcement about launching a basketball program for kids with autism, our academy can announce this new groundbreaking project," Themistocles Karvountzis, the General Manager of Panathinaikos OPAP Athens, said. "EuroLeague Academy brings young athletes closer to the EuroLeague, and Panathinaikos OPAP Athens, as an ambassador of this initiative, is there. PAO BC Academy is an innovative basketball academy in Greece and, through a large number and a wide variety of activities related to basketball, brings more and more children closer to the sport and contributes to the sport of basketball and society."
EuroLeague Academy, the grassroots brand of Euroleague Basketball, is focused on the development of youth tournaments across various cities in Europe. The initiative launched in April and has so far featured tournaments in Tel Aviv, Athens, Istanbul and Vitoria-Gasteiz.
The aim of the tournament is to engage children, both boys and girls, in the regular competitive practice of basketball, also promoting the life skills that are integral to basketball by harnessing the power of EuroLeague players, coaches and ambassadors, who will representing the member clubs and support the tournaments.