Promitheas Patras have been one of the big surprises this season in the Basketball Champions League, and if club owner Evangelos Liolios had his way, his youth team would be competing in an under-18 pan-European league. And if anyone is interested in taking part … just ask him, all the plans are already set up.

A major issue going on right now in youth basketball in Europe is youngsters’ lack of perspective in terms of playing time when they move past their clubs’ youth systems. Far too few clubs recognize the importance of playing their youngsters and that has seen a steady growth in the number of Europeans heading to the United States for high school and/or college.

Liolios is one man who wants to do something to fight that.

“The problem with European basketball is the ages between 16 to 20 because they don’t play with professionals. It’s very difficult. It’s very tough, and if you cannot play then some decide to stop playing basketball. And that’s the biggest problem in European basketball. We are full of American players and we don’t develop our children and we don’t have the patience to wait for them to grow up. We are not ready to lose games in order to develop some of them. That’s a problem,” Liolios told heinnews.

The solution Liolios believes is the European Basketball Development League – a 16-club proper league in which each team faces the others over a Regular Season made up of five Friday-Saturday-Sunday rounds with four mini-tournaments taking place simultaneously in four different cities before the top eight teams qualify for the Final 8 – though the Final 8 organizing team would take the eighth position if they don’t finish in the top eight after the regular season.

Here the planned schedule and calendar for the EBDL if it were to happen during the 2018-19 season – Source: Promitheas Patras

The three teams would arrive for the mini-tournament on Thursday for team meetings with games scheduled for 5pm and 715pm Friday and Saturday and then 10am and 1215pm Sunday, allowing for departure of the teams Sunday night. 

Liolios and his club have also set up the calendar schedule, with one gameday planned for each November, December, January, February and March before the Final 8 in April. 

Liolios says the games should be held at venues at least to the standards for national division games in each country. The games would be streamed live on YouTube and content about the competition would be posted on all participating clubs’ social media accounts while attendance to the games would be free.

The mini-tournament organizers would be responsible for the hospitality of the three visiting teams including transportation to and from the airport. 

Liolios’ plans also include multiple assessment reports to “reassure that all the tournaments always meet the quality standards set by the EBDL.” And they estimate the EBDL participation costs at about 15,000 euros.

The money is not an issue – at least it really shouldn’t be, Liolios argues.

You can spend just a little bit more money on the youth. Instead of having a contract with an American player for 100,000 euros, if you spend just 30,000 you can have a competition with 16 clubs in order to have a championship. You can invest money into the youth to develop them to become professionals,” he said.

The Promitheas owner says he thinks other clubs just don’t care enough about their youth players.

“Why don’t we do that? I think we don’t care. We don’t care about them. They don’t believe in them. It’s easier for them to buy an American player or to buy somebody who is already ready – someone 23, 24 or 25 years old. For guys 18 to 22 years old there is just nothing. That is a problem we will have in three or five more years.”

Liolios said youngsters need to play against their own age group. 

“The next level is to have a competition among the European clubs, the best players at the U18 level with their own championship in order to be competitive and develop them. If I want a 17 or 18 year old athlete to play games against 30 year olds, it’s impossible because of their mass.”

Liolios says he is ready to start the league immediately.

I am ready for everything. I have planned everything … I can give my ideas to everybody. I am waiting … I am waiting for FIBA, for everybody.

Promitheas Patras is also ready to host the first Final 8 of the EBDL

Liolios’ visitor asks if there has been any interest from other clubs around Europe.

“No, you know why? They have the national (domestic) championship. It’s more important for them to have titles and trophies than to develop the young guys. That’s the most important thing for them: to feel proud that I have a trophy from the national championship.”

Liolios says domestic championships are not tough enough.

“I want a competition that is tough and difficult, to be hard in order for the players to be ready when they are 19 years old. Not to have to wait until he is 25, or not to have to send him to an American college.”

Facing better players makes players get better themselves. 

“If you want to have better players you have to play against better players. Not play and win by 30 or 50 points. That is wrong. That is not playing to their ability. And then he plays against other better players and he doesn’t know what it means to play basketball because he was winning games by 30 or 50 points. When he plays against European competition and against the best players he understands the person he will be after two or three more years. I have to practice more, I have to shoot more. I am not as good a player as people say.”

What about the 32-team Adidas Next Generation Tournament?

“The ANGT is not a championship, it’s a tournament. I am talking about a championship, a league,” Liolios argues.

There might not be a lot of support for his EBDL right now, but the Promitheas Patras owner is a visionary who knows one thing is certain: Nothing will ever happen if you don’t speak it out loud first. 

Evangelios Liolios and Promitheas Patras are ready, are you?

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