Yovel Zoosman, Isaac Bonga and Felipe Dos Anjos have been the top three names emerge from the Adidas Next Generation Tournament in L'Hospitalet

Yovel Zoosman, Isaac Bonga and Felipe Dos Anjos have been the top three names emerge from the Adidas Next Generation Tournament in L’Hospitalet

The semi-finals of the L’Hospitalet stop of the 2015-16 Adidas Next Generation Tournament are set and the biggest question is if either Brose Baskets Bamberg or Maccabi Teddy Tel Aviv can keep reigning champions Real Madrid from facing FC Barcelona Lassa in Wednesday’s final in the Barcelona suburb.

It’s not really a surprise that Madrid and Barcelona went through Groups A and B respectively in undefeated fashion. And Bamberg was truly the second best team in Group B behind Barcelona. But perhaps the biggest surprise of the tournament thus far is that Maccabi will take on Barcelona in the semi-finals as the second placed team from Group A.

Here is a rundown of some of the happenings at Pabello Hospitalet Nord in the first two days of the tournament.

Upset L’Hospitalet, Revelation Bonga

The tournament started off with a surprise right away as host club Torrons Vicens L’Hospitalet upset Baloncesto Seville 75-63 as Nil Baques put his name on the radars of Spanish clubs by collecting 22 points , four three-pointers, six rebounds, two assists, two steals and one block in the win. For Seville, Leo Cizmic confirmed his prospect status with 15 points and 17 rebounds but Giorgi Tvalabeishvili was a no-show and Seville went down.

Bamberg came into the tournament as the third best team with a decent chance of upsetting Barcelona, especially because of the strong inside combo of Moritz Sanders and Lars Lagerpusch – the latter on loan for the tournament from Braunschweig. But one of Bamberg’s main playmakers, enticing 1999-born talent Isaac Bonga, was also on loan to the Germans – from Koblenz/Frankfurt, which meant Bamberg could run into trouble getting their game going.

Bamberg’s opening game was against Barcelona and the Germans stuck with the Spanish powers because of its 57-37 rebounding advantage. But Bonga turned the ball over 10 times and Bamberg committed 27 turnovers to just six assists. Still, Barcelona needed overtime to knock off Bamberg 80-71 with Aleix Font nailing four three-balls in scoring 22 points and Sergi Martinez tallying 20 points and Pol Figueras collecting eight points, three rebounds, 12 assists and four steals.

Still, observers were left drooling over the potential of Bonga, who picked up 20 points, nine rebounds, one assist, two steals and one block. Lithuanian Arnoldas Kulboka was pressing and made just 2-of-8 three points though he scored 14 points and Lagerpusch and Sanders combined for 16 points and 22 rebounds.

The 2013 ANGT champions FIATC Joventut Badalona raced back from a 15-point deficit to knock off Maccabi in the first game in Group A. Macedonian Nenad Dimitijevic flirted with a triple-double for Joventut with 14 points, eight rebounds and eight assists while Yovel Zoosman showed why he’s already made his Euroleague debut for Maccabi with 27 points, 10 rebounds, three assists, five steals and two blocks for a 34 PIR ranking.

The final Round 1 game was a blowout from the beginning as Madrid blasted Olimpija 68-36, giving up just four points in the second quarter. The Brazilian Felipe Dos Anjos emerged as a possible All-Tournament Team selection with nine points, eight rebounds, two assists and three blocks in 21 minutes.

The brutal ANGT schedule has the three group games played over the first two days and the top two teams in each group going to the semis, meaning half of the teams will play five games in three days.

Bamberg overcame a slow start and beat down Seville in the post to win 78-67 to take the inside track of a spot in the semis. Sanders, appearing in his third ANGT, was outstanding with 22 points and 10 rebounds while Lagerpusch had 15 points and six rebounds. Bonga took fewer risks – against lesser skill-level competitors – and collected seven points, four rebounds, three assists and three steals. The one bright spot for Seville was Cizmic with 20 points.

L’Hospitalet’s win over Seville showed the club is improving as they collected their second straight win in the competition after beating Galatasaray in their final game of the 2014-15 ANGT L’Hospitalet tournament – snapping a 20-game losing streak. But facing Barcelona would be a huge task. The hosts lost the first quarter by 10 points but out-scored the powers by one point in both the second and third quarters and stuck around until Barcelona pulled away in the fourth for an 89-71 win to lock up a spot
in the semi-finals. Sergi Martinez (20 points/14 rebounds) and Atoumane Diagne (19/13/4 blocks) were way too much inside too handle for L’Hospitalet, who got another strong game from Baques with 19 points and four assists.

Jurcek heroics nulled by Maccabi, Bamberg end hosts dreams

Day Two started off with an absolute non-surprise but drama built up over the course of the day and culminated with an exciting finish.

Real Madrid woke up to the 9:30am starting bell and hammered Maccabi 69-49, out-rebounding the smaller Israelis 49-26. Dos Anjos continued his great tournament with nine points – making all three of his field goal attempts and three of four free throws – and 12 rebounds while Dino Radoncic showcased his all-around arsenal with 12 points, six rebounds, five assists and one steal. Zoosman didn’t score until the final minute of the first half but the Maccabi forward collected 18 points to go with seven rebounds, one assist, six steals and one block.

The Joventut-Olimpija showdown was full of drama. The Spaniards fell behind 15 points once again and appeared as though they had collected another comeback victory – and a spot in the semi-finals – when Dimitijevic nailed a three-pointer with 13 seconds for a 67-66 lead. But Ziga Zurcek was left wide open on Olimpija’s final possession and he nailed a three-pointer for a 69-67 victory. Joventut went from being in the semi-finals with Madrid and Barcelona – and L’Hospitalet having a chance to make it an all-Spanish last four – to in serious danger of missing the semis. Olimpija meanwhile went from being eliminated to in a good situation to actually reach the semi-finals thanks to 16 points from Jurcek.

First it was time to decide second place in Group B between Bamberg and L’Hospitalet. After watching L’Hospitalet beat Seville and give Barcelona a fight for a while, Bamberg pulled away in the second half for a 79-49 victory to lock up a spot in the semis. Lagerpusch (21 points, 12 rebounds) and Bonga (10 and 12) both picked up double-doubles while Kulboka added 15 points. Bamberg did allow Elies Velasco to score 21 points for L’Hospitalet, but they kept Baques scoreless after he had totaled 41 points in the first two games.

In the only meaningless game of the tournament, Barcelona blasted Seville 85-47 as Barcelona had first place locked up and Seville were already eliminated. Font continued his productive tournament with 17 points while Nikola Zizic took advantage of the playing time off the bench with 11 points and 12 rebounds.

Real Madrid went into the final Group A game against Joventut still with a mathematical chance of being eliminated – Joventut would have to win by 63 points though Madrid had only allowed 85 points in their first two games. Joventut however desperately needed a victory to stay alive after losing to Olimpija on Jurcek’s heroic earlier in the day. The reigning champs were anything but impressive but got the job done 60-50 thanks to a 45-32 rebounding advantage and holding Joventut to just 29 percent from the field. Dos Anjos was strong with 10 points and six rebounds while Ignacio Ballespin continued his productive scoring output with 13 points. Alejandro Galan scored 27 points for Joventut in the loss.

The group stage ended with a true thriller as Olimpija could afford a one-point loss to Maccabi and advance to the semi-finals. Maccabi needed a win by at least two points to book a ticket to Day 3’s second semi-final. But Maccabi had not collected an ANGT win since beating L’Hospitalet in the 2012-13 season – a nine-game losing streak. The diminutive Amit Ebo gave Maccabi a great start with five three-pointers and 18 points in the first quarter. Maccabi ended up building a 15-point lead in the fourth quarter but watched as Olimpija charged back in the final five minutes to cut it to five points. Zoosman stepped up defensively with a huge block with 53 seconds left to help Maccabi preserve an 82-75 victory. Ebo ended with 28 points and Ido Flaisher had 21 points and 11 rebounds but Zoosman was all over the place with 19 points, six rebounds, four assists, eight steals and two blocks. Gaber Ozegovic’s 20 points were not enough for Olimpija.

SEMI-FINAL PREVIEW: Madrid vs Bamberg

The dust has settled now and we know that Madrid will once again get an early wake-up call with the first semi-final at 930am versus Bamberg with Maccabi taking on Barcelona in the second semi at 1130am. The title game is slated for 630pm.

The more intriguing semi-final is the first between reigning champions Real Madrid, who are riding a 12-game ANGT winning streak with 23 victories in the last 25 games, losing only the 2012-13 ANGT L’Hospitalet final against eventual champion Joventut and the 2013-14 ANGT Finals title game against Crvena Zvezda Telekom Belgrade.

Madrid tower over opponents with the 2.18m Dos Anjos next to fellow centers 2.02m Samba Ndiaye and 2.10m Khadim Sow, not to mention Dino Radoncic at 2.02m, Domagoj Proleta at 2.04m, the 2.00m Francisco Salvador and Acoydan McCarthy at 1.95m. Ballespin has been Madrid’s main weapon from the outside,hitting 6-of-10 three-balls while Mihailo Jovicic is 4-of-11 in the tournament and Radoncic has made just 1-of-10 three-pointers. As a team, Madrid have hit 34 percent from long range. A major issue could be free throw shooting as Madrid have converted just 49 percent from the line (30/61).

Bamberg counter on the inside with the duo of 2.10m Sanders and 2.03m Lagerpusch while the 2.01m Felix Edwardsson and 2.02m Kulboka both hang out more on the wings. The Lithuanian Kulboka made just four of his first 15 three-pointers before hitting 2-of-3 versus L’Hospitalet. Bamberg will likely need him to be on target from long range. They also have the benefit of probably having the best long term potential player on their team in Bonga. But Bamberg cannot afford Bonga to get into foul trouble as they need his great 1.99m frame on the court as playmaker – especially given that the team’s reserve point guard Nils Hassfurther is just 1.81m. Bamberg have hit 70 percent of their free throws.

Pick – Sanders and Lagerpusch both have decent games for Bamberg and the Germans really give Madrid a run for the money, but the inexperience of Bonga comes back to decide game – likely because he picks up unnecessary fouls. Madrid won’t dominate the boards but their savvy will get them the big rebounds, especially on the offensive glass. Radoncic is too good of a player to shoot 10 percent from three-point range for a full tournament and he will drain at least three triples and will be the deciding factor in Madrid’s seven-point win. Bamberg score more points in two quarters.

SEMI-FINAL PREVIEW: Maccabi vs Barcelona

Looking at the second semi-final and having watched the tournament thus far, it’s hard to imagine Maccabi really giving Barcelona troubles. Sure, Maccabi built a 15-point lead against Joventut – which they ended up losing. And they also were up by 15 points late against Olimpija – albeit needing a big defensive play by their star player otherwise things could have gotten very
scary. And in their other game, Maccabi were out-rebounded 49-26 against Real Madrid and lost by 20 points despite holding the champs to 69 points. Maccabi have a solid trio among Zoosman, Flaisher and Ebo – with Zoosman being perhaps the best player in the competition at this time. And Barcelona don’t have nearly the size – and especially bulk – of Real Madrid. But Maccabi don’t really have anything else behind their top trio. All told, Maccabi’s starters have scored 83 percent of the team’s points in the three
games, including Flaisher’s 12 points when he came off the bench versus Madrid.

Barcelona have a number of weapons with seven players averaging at least six points a game. Aleix Font is hitting 47 percent from three-point range while Sergi Martinez is leading the team in scoring and second in rebounding – and he’s only getting better with more experience. Diagne ran into foul trouble against Bamberg and wasn’t a big factor but the athletic big man showed against L’Hospitalet that he can dominate against smaller teams. And Eric Vila has flashed his great all-around game, though he’s struggled from long range with just 3-of-12 three-pointers.

Pick – Barcelona throw everything from everywhere at Zoosman and cruise to a victory because Ebo will not make more than four three-pointers; Flaisher will not be able to do enough defensively and Maccabi just doesn’t have a bench. Barcelona roll 81-59.

Zoosman, Bonga, Dos Anjos top talents

Yovel Zoosman, 1.97m, G/F, 1998, Maccabi 
I figured I would just touch on the top talents of the tournament through the group stage. As previously stated, Zoosman is probably the best player right now. He has the full package and will be an excellent player for a long time. Whether or not he has the stuff to take the step to being a superstar remains to be seen. You have to love his determination on defense.
You can’t just gamble your way into 6.3 steals per game, especially not with a rim protector behind you. He’s made 50 percent of three-pointers – 8/16 – and 67 percent from inside the stripe (18/27). One might wonder about drawing only nine fouls in three games, begging if he has the drive to the basket – something I cannot say as I wasn’t observing the games from a scouting perspective. Zoosman definitely has an excellent physical package.

Isaac Bonga, 1.99m, G, 1999, Bamberg (Koblenz/Frankfurt)

It’s impossible to miss Bonga on the court with his great size and length and handle of the ball. The German – on loan to Bamberg for this tournament via Koblenz and Frankfurt – has a great drive to the basket and can finish a lot of different ways. His size makes him a great rebounder at his position and his athleticism and quickness makes him an excellent defender. Bonga has yet to really flash an outside shot yet though he has hit on 83 percent of his free throws.

Felipe Dos Anjos, 2.18m, C, 1998, Madrid 

Dos Anjos has a great motor and really gives you all he has – which is a lot. He’s a good rebounder – not just because of his size. The Brazilian also is a good shot-blocker, doing a good job staying on the ground as late as possible. Dos Anjos doesn’t force things on offense – having hit all 11 of his field goal attempts. The big man is also not afraid to hit the deck for loose balls.

A couple others

Those are probably the biggest three names thus far. Here are a couple of other names to watch for.

Leo Cizmic has great size at 2.04m for Seville and he can really light it upfrom outside while using his height to help out in the blocks. The Croatian still has a ways to go but you have to like that shooting ability.

Moritz Sanders does a lot more than just stand in the paint for Bamberg at 2.10m. He still has to work on his inside moves but he can take the ball outside and dribbles well for a guy his size. Sanders rebounds well but does not really block or change a lot of shots inside. He does shoot very well from free throw line, hitting 8-of-9 in L’Hospitalet

The Barcelona wing Eric Vila has a lot to like with the length of his 2.05m frame as well as his athleticism. Vila still struggles with his shot but he plays tough defense and can handle the ball well.

Dino Radoncic isn’t as smooth as I like in my lefty players but there’s a lot to like about the 2.02m Serbian. The 1999-born wing rebounds well, runs the floor well and can see the floor to find open teammates. His shot still isn’t quite there yet.

One of the youngest players at the tournament, the August 2000-born Brazilian Pedro Barros catches your eye. The 1.96m guard really seems to play hard and with passion, also shown on the defensive end. Barros is still raw and still needs work on his shot and handle, but there seems to be something good in there.

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