U18 ASVEL Villeurbanne made history by grabbing first place at the Euroleague Basketball Adidas Next Generation Tournament Belgrade this weekend. For Killian Malwaya, who was awarded with the tournament's MVP trophy, a major motivation for his performance came from one of the lowest points in his young career.
Loss last spring motivated Malwaya to ANGT Belgrade success
Malwaya put together an outstanding showing at both ends of the floor as he helped ASVEL knock off host side U18 Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade 73-80 in the ANGT Belgrade first-place game on Sunday. It marked the first time that the French club took first place at an ANGT event.
"It's so special. It's a special moment. The first ASVEL team to win an ANGT trophy, and that's so dope," said Malwaya, who collected 22 points, 4 rebounds, 2 steals and 2 blocks for an index rating of 25 in the final. "We worked so hard and we were really focused on winning this tournament. It was a goal for everyone and we did it. We will be a part of ASVEL history."
Just the fact that ASVEL was facing Zvezda on Sunday in the Serbian capital was a major accomplishment, given that the French team needed to win its last group game against U18 Mega Mozzart Belgrade by at least 13 points to reach the first-place game.
"Before the game I just told myself that I need to be 100 percent and give everything for the team. We were calculating how many points we needed to win by so we were a bit stressed. But we did it and created a way to get to the first-place game," Malwaya said.
The 1.97-meter guard was all over the place in that impressive 88-52 victory against Mega, collecting 26 points, 8 rebounds – including 7 on the offensive glass – on the way to PIR of 24.
Those two performances locked up the MVP trophy for the 2005-born guard, who averaged 20.0 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 19.8 PIR. Malwaya ranked third in both scoring and PIR for the weekend.
"Mission accomplished. That is what I thought when I heard my name," admitted Malwaya, who suffered an ankle injury in the first-place game and fought through it to help his team win. "This is my third year playing the ANGT and I always wanted to be the MVP. And now I am."
As rewarding as taking the trophy in Belgrade was, Malwaya's last appearance on the ANGT stage featured his biggest low point.
He and ASVEL had beaten Zvezda in the opening game of the 2021 ANGT Finals in Valencia and, in the second one, found themselves in a battle with reigning ANGT champion U18 Real Madrid. The biggest lead in the final three quarters was 6 points. Malwaya's 2 free throws with 5 seconds to play tied the game, but Eli Ndiaye converted his 2 foul shots with 3 seconds remaining and Real prevailed 80-82.
"It was a really, really tough loss. We did everything we could to win but we just couldn't. We were really down in the locker room," Malwaya recalled.
ASVEL would beat U18 Zalgiris Kaunas the next game but missed out on a chance to reach the ANGT Championship Game, which Real ended up winning to repeat as the U18 continental champion.
"At the end of the tournament, we talked in the locker room and we said that we will try to make it back this season – and we did it," he said. "It's a great feeling. We did the job."
Malwaya and co. now can look forward to the ANGT Finals at this spring's EuroLeague Final Four, where they are looking for more history – not to mention maybe a hint of revenge.
"We don't know the teams yet, but we will try to write more history," Malwaya said. "Real Madrid … this is a goal since last year. We are waiting for them. They are the reigning champions. We all remember last year and we want our revenge."
That loss motivated ASVEL in Belgrade and it will still be on Malwaya's mind at the ANGT Finals.