The 2015-16 Euroleague Basketball ADIDAS NEXT GENERATION TOURNAMENT series tips off with the EB ANGT Qualifying Tournament - Torneo Citta di Roma on Sunday in the Italian capital with many of the best young players in Europe eager to take the stage.
Players to Watch: ANGT Rome
Learn more about some of the players to watch from the eight teams about to clash for a ticket to the ANGT Finals.
U18 Armani Junior Milano: Davide Toffali
Toffali will be playing his second ANGT event after averaging 8.5 points, 1.8 rebounds and 0.5 assists over four games at ANGT Rome last season. The 17-year-old, 1.94-meter guard has yet to play for the Italian national team youth ranks, but he has made inroads for the senior teams, with whom he debuted in the Italian League against Scandone AV on October 19. Toffali, who plays regularly with Serie C Gold team Tessilform Bernareggio, is a hard worker and a good scorer with confidence coming off screens and shooting pull-up jumpers. He is improving his leadership skills on and off the court, as well as his defense. While his ability to read the game offensively has gotten better, he needs to work on consistently hitting a three-pointer. Toffali's coaches believe he could be one of the best players in his age group.
U18 CSKA Moscow: Andrei Lopatin
Lopatin will be playing his second ANGT after he scored 6.7 points to go with 6.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 2.3 steals in three games at last season’s ANGT Kaunas. The 2.07-meter power forward played this past summer at the U18 European Championship at a year younger than the average and posted 2.3 points and 3.3 rebounds per game. After having played the U16 European Championship in 2013 and 2014, Lopatin was nominated for the FIBA Europe U18 All-Star Game at EuroBasket 2015. The 17-year-old is currently playing in the VTB Youth United League, which is a U21 championship. Lopatin reads the game well and is a good shooter for his position. He also passes well and looks for extra passes. He does a lot of dirty work on both ends of the court, plays defense and helps his teammates. Lopatin still needs to grow up physically and improve his post game.
U18 Stellazzurra Basketball Academy Rome: Lazar Nikolic
Despite being just 16 years old, this will already by Nikolic's third ANGT. Last season, he helped Stellazzurra to the ANGT Finals and averaged 4.9 points, 1.3 rebounds and 0.9 steals over seven games. The Serbian, who played for his country at the 2014 U16 European Championship, is an intriguing talent because he's a 2.02-meter playmaker. He's playing in the Italian Serie B and averaging 6.3 points, 2.2 rebounds and 2.9 assists, including a 28-point outburst versus Maddaloni and a 12-assist game against Scauri. His coaches used the terms "genius" and "mastermind" in describing his basketball skills. Nikolic is like a coach on the court and does a good job controlling his teammates. He has a good jumper and passes the ball well. His drive to the basket and his defense are two areas where he needs work.
U18 Mega Leks Belgrade: Novak Music
Music will be playing his second ANGT event after averaging 7.3 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 0.8 steals over four games at ANGT Belgrade last season. The 1.89-meter guard did not play for any Serbian national team last summer after having played in the 2014 U16 European Championship, where he averaged 7.9 points, 1.6 rebounds and 1.3 assists. Music is currently playing in the Serbian Junior League and averaging nearly 23 points per game while shooting 43 percent from long range with more than 2 steals per game. Nikolic, who practices with Mega Leks's first team, is extremely quick and excellent in one-on-one situations. He is truly the leader of the team and does a good job pressuring the opposing playmakers. Music still needs to gain muscle mass and must work on his shot.
U18 Anadolu Efes Istanbul: Baran Avsar
Avsar is making his ANGT debut after Efes did not play in the competition last season. The 1.93-meter guard played for Turkey at the 2015 U16 European Championship for the second straight summer and averaged 5.2 points, 1.9 rebounds and 2.2 assists as Turkey took third place. Avsar helped Efes win the U16 Turkish titles in 2014 and 2015. The 16-year-old is currently playing for Efes's U18 team and collecting 10.2 points, 2.6 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game. He averaged 13.1 points, 3.5 rebounds and 4.8 assists last season in the U16 Istanbul league. Avsar is a fearless player, who never gives up. He penetrates very well, which makes him a very important weapon in the open court. He also passes well. Avsar still struggles at times with shot selection on offense and is sometimes weak at one-on-one on defense.
U18 Virtus Bologna: Danilo Petrovic
Petrovic will be playing his second ANGT after leading Virtus in scoring with 17.3 points while also getting 4.8 rebounds and 1.5 assists over four games at ANGT Rome in 2014. At that time, he started only the last two games, collecting 26 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists against U18 Armani Junior Milano and 20 points and 6 rebounds vs U18 Maccabi Teddy Tel Aviv. The 16-year-old, 2.02-meter forward was in the mix to play for Serbia at this past summer’s U16 European Championship, but did not make the team. Petrovic, who used to play for Serbian youth powerhouse Crvena Zvezda, has a strong body, but doesn’t possess a lot of speed or athleticism. He has solid ball-handling and stays within the game. Petrovic makes up for his lack of athleticism with a high basketball IQ and good fundamentals on both offense and defense.
U18 Umana Reyer Venice: Riccardo Visconti
Visconti will be playing his second ANGT event after averaging 16 points, 2.5 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.5 steals over four games at ANGT Belgrade last season. The 1.95-meter guard played at the 2014 U16 European Championship and collected 7.1 points, 2.4 rebounds and 1.5 steals. Last season he played at the U19 finals and scored 12.8 points and also averaged 23.7 points and 10.1 rebounds at the U17 finals. He made his professional debut this season with 3 points against Manital Torino for Umana's Italian League team. Visconti is a talented lefty guard with an unbelievable three-point shot and quick release. He can drive to the rim and finish in traffic even if he's off balance. Visconti also can find the open man on offense and has a very good work attitude. Visconti is still skinny and light and trying to bulk up his body.
U18 Unicaja Malaga: Ablaye Sow
Sow will be playing his second ANGT after helping Unicaja reach the finals last season with a combined 2.7 points and 3.4 rebounds over seven games at both ANGT Rome and the ANGT Finals in Madrid. His two best games saw him collect 5 points, 4 rebounds and 4 steals against U18 Spars Sarajevo and 6 points, 6 rebounds, 1 steal and 1 block against U18 Crvena Zvezda Telekom Belgrade. The 2.09-meter Senegalese big man has already played one game for the LEB Silver team Clinicas Rincon. Sow has excellent length and athleticism, which makes him a good rebounder. He’s willing to work hard on defense and has a decent feel around the rim. He still needs to gain some weight and mass, which will come with his age. Sow also must develop his offensive game around the basket.