Henri Veesaar has already experienced the glory of winning the Euroleague Basketball Adidas Next Generation Tournament title and the center hopes to lead U18 Real Madrid to back-to-back ANGT crowns and finish his junior career in style.
ANGT Finals: Real’s Veesaar aims for perfect end to youth career
Veesaar helped Real fight past U18 Zalgiris Kaunas 60-61 in the ANGT Ljubljana first-place game to book the club’s eighth consecutive trip to the ANGT Finals, where the Spanish powerhouse will be aiming for its fourth crown - and third in a row.
“I think if we share the ball, defend and run the the floor with a good mentality, we can beat anybody. But we need to stay focused and be more consistent,” said Veesaar, who averaged 8.5 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.8 blocks at the ANGT Ljubljana.
The Estonian big man and his teammates saw against Zalgiris what can happen if they let up as they needed everything they could muster to fend off the Lithuanian club, which itself has hoisted the ANGT trophy twice.
“I think it was a great game. We fought hard. The game showed that we need to be more consistent and keep our foot on the gas the whole time and never let go, because if we do that in the ANGT, all teams can come back quickly,” said Veesaar, who had 3 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 block against Zalgiris.
The victory gives Veesaar another chance to play at the ANGT Finals and experience the elite level in youth basketball - something he could hardly have imagined when he came to Real Madrid from Estonia in 2020.
“So far, it has definitely been the biggest decision that I have ever made. As a 15-year-old, it was a bit of a dream come true that such a big club was interested and believed in me,” he recalled. “As a kid, it’s always hard to move away from your parents and friends. But luckily, in the modern era, it’s pretty easy to keep contact through social media and phone calls. Also basketball is a team sport, so it’s not that difficult to make new friends.”
And it was with those new friends that Veesaar won the 2021 ANGT trophy. Two games from the 2021 title run at the ANGT Finals in Valencia last June really stand out for Veesaar.
“For sure the game against ASVEL. It was a very close one and it helped us secure a place in the ANGT Championship Game. And of course, the overtime win against Barcelona,” Veesaar said referring in the latter to Real’s 81-78 win over archrival Barcelona in the championship game. “That game was just full of memories that I will never forget.”
The 2.09-meter big man said the ANGT title “barely beats out” his debut with the Estonian senior national team in terms of top career accomplishments.
“Incredible, I was able to represent Estonia at the highest level possible and I am super proud of it,” he said of facing Germany in a FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 European Qualifiers game in November 2021. “Playing with older players really helps you to understand what you need to do to maximize your potential. It brings out your flaws and helps you to understand what you need to work on.”
Veesaar and co. are happy to be back on the biggest stage of European youth basketball and he wants to finish the job in Belgrade.
“It would be perfect for me to cap off my youth career and end it with an amazing memory with my teammates,” he said.