REGENSBURG (David Hein's Eye on the Future) - Club Joventut Badalona showed they are the class of Europe with an impressive performance at the Nike International Junior Tournament (NIJT), winning the title at the 2013 Euroleague Final Four with a dominating 82-59 win over Catalan archrivals FC Barcelona Regal.
Joventut won all four games in London by double figures with a fantastic display of teamwork as Alberto Abalde led the way with 17.8 points and 5.8 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game in taking the MVP trophy. He was joined by Badalona teammate Agusti Sans on the All-Tournament Team, which also included Marc Garcia of Barcelona and the OKK Spars Sarajevo duo of Nedim Buza and Doko Salic.
Joventut were already an impressive group coming into London, having gotten past the supremely difficult L'Hospitalet qualifying tournament - which included the likes of Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona as well as Maccabi Tel Aviv and KK Split.
In London, Badalona showed a true team effort with Abalde, who scored 18 points in the final along with nine rebounds, as the main scoring threat. Sans seemed to be ever-present with 10.3 points, 5.5 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game and Jose Nogues - who really deserved a spot on the All-Tournament Team - did everything behind the scenes with 15 points and 4.8 rebounds.
But the entire Joventut group contributed with seven players averaging at least six points a game - each of those players scoring in double digits in at least one game in London. And Badalona executed at both ends of the floor, averaging 16.5 assists per game while forcing 19.8 turnovers per game by their opponents.
While some may have thought Badalona were lucky to have faced a reigning champions Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius missing their best player - the injured Edvinas Seskus did not come to the tournament - Joventut showed they can handle all takers by knocking off a much bigger Crvena Zvezda (Red Star) Telekom Belgrade team, holding star Dusan Ristic to 12 points, four rebounds and zero assists - he averaged 16.5 points, 12.5 rebounds and three assists in Red Star's other two games. And Badalona booked a spot in the final with a tough win over Team China and then blew out Barcelona in the final.
It shouldn't have been much of a surprise that Badalona would play well as a team. Six of the players - Abalde, Sans, Nogues, Gerard Gomila, David Iriarte and Marc Bauza - captured fourth place with Spain at the 2012 FIBA U17 World Championship.
For that group, there was the added factor of motivation that Spanish U19 national team coach Luis Guil was in London to take in the games.
Talking to Guil before the tournament started, it sounded like Nogues would likely make the U19 team in Prague this summer but the coach said Nogues was the only member of the Joventut team to watch out for regarding the FIBA U19 World Championship.
Abalde and Sans definitely impressed scouts and other observers in London, but will they have shown enough for Guil to pick them for the U19 team? That of course remains to be seen.
Joventut meanwhile were impressive in London and return from the Final Four as the first Spanish NIJT champions - and worthy winners.
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