CE Junior ’21: Tournament Review and Featured Players

Yesterday the 2021 Spanish Junior Championship closed in Granada, which Fabián Téllez’s FC Barcelona won against an unknown Real Madrid (63-102). Again the two most famous teams faced each other, whose quarries aspire to emulate their elders and put together real squads that leave the rest of the teams far behind. With a dominating Real Madrid in recent years both at national and European level, there was already a warning in the final of the ANGT this season, where it was possible to see how close Barça was to the whites, although in that match Real Madrid had two important casualties (Núñez and Vukčević) compared to yesterday’s game, although they did have a Matteo Spagnolo absent in this final phase. After six days of competition in which both teams had a parallel trajectory and in which no one faced them, on the seventh day the highly anticipated final arrived.

The result of the crash was unexpected. Surely it reminded lovers of the LEB Oro of the decisive match a few days ago that Breogán took on that same court against FCBG. Barça dismantled Real Madrid, following the match plan perfectly and without lowering the intensity for a single minute of the forty.

The final began with a very concentrated Barça behind, with very clear ideas, very mobile, without letting breathe and going out to run as soon as he could. In attack, the culés moved the ball with enormous fluidity, always looking for the released pitcher; in that first quarter appeared the figure of Ian Granja, unprecedented in semis, who nailed 5 triples in eight minutes. That success from the outside (7 triples in the 1Q) made Madrid look from behind, despite some glimpse of its base Núñez, and hoping that Barça would stop having so much success. As a team with wickers, the white guard Klavžar managed to put the score at a tight 25-28 at the end of the first period. The dynamics of the second quarter were similar, with Nnaji imposing his law on both rings against an Eli N’Diaye who could not breathe and a lost Vukčević. The Catalans continued like ants accumulating points of advantage, with Rafa Villar and Caicedo relentlessly giving solidity against a Real Madrid that crashed against the rival wall, with only Kostadinov adding with his versatility. Four points from Núñez after delicacies and theft put the 43-51 favorable to Barça at halftime.

The third quarter was coming and it was necessary to see if Real Madrid woke up or Barcelona lowered its level of success and intensity. The first minutes were the best example that this final only had one color: the Blaugrana. The aggressive defense of Barça aids continued, running with an omnipresent Caicedo in many facets until that moment and who was starting to score, with Bonilla adding and with Rafa Villar without stopping to appear (what a complete game of the base both in defense and in attack ). Madrid tried to stop the game with time-out, switching to zone defense, but nothing worked in a team that is not used to being behind on the scoreboard and was in a hurry to score, crashing in defense with continuous sterile 1 × 1 and that anxiety to go back. The 46-66 after Villar’s triple hurt and Barça, with confidence through the roof, was still right and ended the third quarter 22 up (54-76) against the Madrid team, in which Vukčević had appeared in the last minutes . With the whites half KO, but playing a sport where anything and more can happen at these ages, there were ten minutes to go for the comeback, but Barça’s 11-1 partial at the beginning of the last period put the 55-87 and Mariano De Pablos asked for time out again to try to get his boys to recover their minds and enjoy the last six minutes of the championship. Barça smelled blood and did not want to stop; supported by that brutal level of success from the triple (17/32 T3), he left a resounding final score of 63-102, breaking the white reign since spring 2017 and proclaiming himself the new Junior champion of Spain.

The most prominent of the final were the basic quartet of FC Barcelona formed by the MVP of the tournament Michael Caicedo (16 pt, 7 re, 6 as), the point guard Rafa Villar (10 pt, 14 re, 5 as), the ‘five ‘James Nnaji (14 pt, 6 re, 8 as) and the Mexican Gael Bonilla (18 pt, 5 re, 5 as), without forgetting the brutal start of Ian Granja with 5 triples in the first minutes. On the side of Real Madrid, where Vukčević and N’Diaye did not have their day, the most prominent was the Bulgarian absolute international Konstantin Kostadinov (15 pt, 6 d); Juan Núñez tried continuously (10 pt, 6 ace, 6 ro).

The best juniors in the EBA 20/21 League

Featured tournament teams and players

FC Barcelona. In such an intense tournament the long squads are noticeable and Barcelona was a roller, giving their players minutes in the qualifying and elimination phase. The Villar-Caicedo-Bonilla-Nnaji quartet was decisive, as seen in the final.

Real Madrid. Immaculate tournament until the grand final, where he suffered the blockade. Juan Núñez showed his talent despite resting some matches due to ailments, while Eli N’Diaye was a sure thing in the paint and Sediq Garuba and Kostadinov did a great job. Perhaps more was expected from Vukčević. In different parties they appeared secondary like Baba Miller or Veesar.

Club Joventut Badalona. The best team of “mortals”. It was the alternative to the two coconuts and it did not fail, reaching third place true to its style. La Penya returns to produce talents and, unlike other teams, with a lot of nationality. With a team with a lot of young people, the singing voice was carried by those of 2003: Miguel Malik Allen, a player to aim well in red, left very good performances, showing off his plasticity and even surprising with his success from the triple, while Guillem Vázquez was the hinge player. But watch out for other juniors like the physical base Nogués, the physicist Gerard Bosch and the shooter Jordi Rodríguez. The Portuguese cadet Rubén de Oliveira left a very good feeling.

5 + 11 Foundation. After seeing them a lot both in EBA and in the Championship, the Basque squad showed their best face in the decisive phase, showing the competitive character that Miguel Ángel Hoyo prints from the bench. A group stage in which they stood up to Real Madrid and were surprised by a competitive Manresa made them play in crosses with a first (Torrelodones), whom they beat. In the quarterfinals and without bases (Querejeta did not travel and Shooter was injured) he took out his physical roller and gave UCAM no option in the second half. Already in the semis the effort weighed him and he finished fourth after losing to La Penya. The gladiatorial character of a team that added the best scorer, assistant and rebounder is to be commended. Watch out for the French Sidy Cissoko (2004), who after standing out at EBA continuously demonstrated his talent, his physique and his ability to generate for others and for himself. Pape Sow offered balance, while on the inside we have to mention the good physical work, rebounding and medium distance throwing of Diakhaté and cadet Faye, without forgetting the exterior success of Birmingham and Sigismonti. Much future in the squad.

Catalan Occident Manresa. Fifth after defeating Unicaja, showing that the block above all works. Always competitive, they defeated Obra in the round of 16 and faced Joventut in the quarterfinals. Very good activity with the mobility and ease to add of Musa Sagnia. Also, good job from youth squad Toni Naspler, who signed his first professional contract before the tournament; He was not successful in the shot, but he did not hide and brought order and options. We must not forget the work of secondary such as Gerard Gutiérrez or Rubín de Celis.

Unicaja Andalusia. It was not the best tournament for the Andalusians, who at least reached the quarterfinals, something that other classics such as Real Betis or Basket Zaragoza did not achieve. They could not beat Penya in the group stage, they beat a physically inferior Piélagos in the round of 16 and Real Madrid dropped them in the quarterfinals, finishing sixth after losing to Manresa. Good job of the future NCAA Pablo Tamba, showing physicality and not hiding when pitching, and great work inside a very effective Daniil Shelist.

UCAM Murcia CB. They bet in summer for an elite and quarry job different from the one they had and the group has responded with a good progression of its players and the germ that this seventh position in Spain must mean. A block that tried to make aggressive and pressing defenses, looking for the easy in attack. With a good roster rotation, Danish scorer Noah Churchill Sørensen was his man. Juan Carlos Marín’s exhibition from the triple was anthological in the second round. Keep an eye out for Turkish Mestoglu, who has brought his improvement in throwing to his fight and his ability. With a limping Falk, the national bloc (Casado, Hurtado…) also added.

Cajasiete Canarias. The Tenerife youth academy is gradually increasing its presence in the different categories of the national team. They beat Betis in the group stage, but fell to Torrelodones; in the second round he beat Andújar, with his best man Guillermo Díaz-Graham in MVP mode of the day. Already in the quarterfinals they were no rival for Barça, while an irregular last quarter against UCAM made them finish in eighth place. In addition to Guillermo, his brother Jorge also did well, with contributions from players like Konrad, Bercedo, Plasencia and Ivanković.

In the second round, several teams were left on the ground. Real Betis Baloncesto left without winning a single game, although we could see good performances from Roveres and that the next generation gained experience (García, Gómez, Seixas, Demba Sheriff…). Casademont Zaragoza did not have its tournament, but cadet Aday Mara left details. Keep an eye on Canterbury Academy for years to come with a very young block (only one senior player on the roster). After a good qualifying phase, Obradoiro Peleteiro did not know how to tie the game against Manresa and fell in the round of 16, with Christian Hernández as a standout. Two very tough and tough teams were Piélagos and Iveco Real Valladolid Baloncesto, who played very good basketball. Jaime Pérez Arquitectos CB Andújar endorsed their good work in recent years, being the Jienense group the alternative to the usual Andalusian powers; He beat La Salle in his group and was about to surprise in the second round with the Martinez duo (Javier and Antonio) and company. Huge work of a Torrelodones Basketball that despite not having a senior team in the first row slipped into the eighth in both the women’s and men’s categories; the Madrilenians, whose singing voice was led by Eddy Pinedo and Jorge Sánchez, beat ACB quarries in the qualifying phase to be first in the group and only a Baskonia physicist prevented them from going further.

Of the rest of the teams that did not pass the qualifying phase, we must highlight the non-qualification for the quarters of Gran Canaria (the only ACB quarry that did not do so), the role of an unknown Zentro Basket Madrid (despite the MVP on matchday 1 of the talented Japanese guard Taiga Okada), the honor of Gonzalo Rodríguez’s Stadium Casablanca Jam and the meritorious work of Enrique Soler (he added two victories and stayed one step away from the eighth; Sergio Curbelo, outstanding).