The Euroleague Basketball Adidas Next Generation Tournament Is one of the biggest highlights on the calendar for U18 PFYM INSEP Paris, which has twice hoisted the continental trophy. And now after the famous academy missed the competition last season, Rayan Rupert and the rest of the PFYM players are looking to make up for lost time at this season’s ANGT Finals in Belgrade.
ANGT Finals: Rupert, PFYM hope to make up for lost season
Rupert captained his team to first place at the ANGT Varese and a ticket to the ANGT Finals - the eighth time that PFYM will be playing in the spectacle at the Turkish Airline EuroLeague Final Four.
“It's great, but it's only a first step. We still have a lot of work to do and we hope to win in Belgrade,” Rupert said about winning the Varese event, where he averaged 12.5 points, 2.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 4.0 steals and 0.8 blocks for an average PIR of 14.0. “It's a great experience for me and my team to be able to face the best teams in Europe and the goal will be to win.”
PFYM claimed the trophy in 2010 and 2017 and is one of six teams with multiple ANGT titles along with U18 Real Madrid, U18 CSKA Moscow (both three), U18 Zalgiris Kaunas, U18 FMP Belgrade and U18 Rytas Vilnius (all two).
“It would be a great accomplishment for INSEP and for our team to reward all the work of the season,” Rupert said.
The 1.97-meter guard is playing in the ANGT a second time after he collected 4 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 steal in 18 minutes of two games at the 2019-20 ANGT Belgrade.
“It allowed me to learn that each game, each possession is important; that the truth of yesterday is not that of today; and that we must always stay focused on the final objective,” Rupert said of those games in February 2020.
Rupert was two years younger than the rest of the competition in the 2019-20 season and then he missed out on the ANGT last season as the team was not granted permission by the French government to play due to COVID-19 measures.
“We were very disappointed because we had worked very hard for that moment,” Rupert said about missing the ANGT in 2020-21. “We had a very good team with Ousmane Dieng, Adama Bal and many others and we would have liked to have won.”
Winning is something that runs in Rupert’s family. His 20-year-old sister Iliana Rupert has won multiple medals for France’s women’s youth and senior national teams, including the 2020 Olympic bronze medal, and also was named MVP for leading Bourges Basket to this season’s Women’s Eurocup title.
“I am very proud of her early career and I hope she will still accomplish great things. We often talk about our games and basketball in general. We advise each other,” said Rayan, who is nearly three years younger.
Rupert’s father, Thierry Rupert, played three seasons in the EuroLeague for French team Pau-Orthez from 2004 to 2007 and also spent three seasons in the EuroCup with Pau-Orthez (2007-08) and Le Mans (2009-2011).
Thierry Rupert died in February 2013 after spending six months in a coma, and both Rayan and Iliana wear No. 12 in memory of their father. Rayan said there are still many lessons he remembers learning from his father.
“Always work very hard, that in this environment we do not receive anything for free and that all you want is up to you to go get it and give yourself the means and work for it,” he said.
Rayan Rupert said playing the game was clear to him early on.
“From a very young age I always knew that I wanted to make basketball my job and I feel ready to go professional next year and climb the ladder year after year,” he said.
Assisting him in that climb are the leadership skills he is learning as the PFYM captain.
“It's an honor and a role that I take very seriously. I try to talk to the guys a lot on and off the court, to lead by example,” he said.
And led by the example of PFYM captains before him, Rupert hopes to lift the ANGT title before he starts to climb that ladder.