01 November, 2022
21 May, 2023
to read

Seven takeaways from Day 1: History is made with thrills, drama and highlights

BURSA (Turkey) - Europe anxiously awaited Day 1 of the inaugural Youth Basketball Champions League, and the action on the court in Bursa, Turkey delivered plenty of thrills and storylines - not to mention history-making performances along the way.

If you missed the games - don't forget you can go back and re-watch them here - here is a rundown of seven takeaways from the opening day of action.

#1 - Firsts of a first

As with any competition, there are records and firsts that are recorded for history. And with the 2023 YBCL being the inaugural event, the opening set of games gave us some historic moments. Jakub Zajíc of Basketball Academy Nymburk scored the first points in YBCL history - a running layup against Hapoel Jerusalem.


Nir Rotem of Jerusalem meanwhile netted the first three-pointer in YBCL history, and the first victory ever went to BC Rytas, who beat Bnei Herzliya 88-68. Rytas were involved in the first overtime game in history, albeit at the losing end 95-87 to hosts Tofas SC. And by prevailing in OT, Tofas became the first team with two victories.

#2 - Driver's seat for Tofas after thriller

Occupying the driver's seat in Group B after Day 1 is the aforementioned home side Tofas, thanks to the thrilling 95-87 overtime win against BC Rytas. The game had plenty of twists and turns with 22 lead changes.

Ozgur Cengiz

The contest also featured big performances from the Tofas duo Ozgur Cengiz (33 points, 7 rebounds, 9 assists and 5 steals) and Cem Kucukozkan (29 points). Cengiz tallied six straight points late in overtime as he makes an early case for tournament MVP.

Rytas showed their balance with six players in double figures - led by Nojus Kuliesa's 17 points. Kristupas Smirnov tallied 15 points including two free throws with 0.9 seconds left to force overtime. Despite dropping to 1-1, Rytas will undoubtedly still have their say in who takes home the first trophy.



#3 - Three Amigos for Jerusalem

Hapoel Jerusalem coaches before the tournament talked about having a trio of leaders - Rom Hitkes, Roe Avneri and Yonathan Abouloff - reluctant to distinguish just one as a Player to Watch for the site's team preview. And the trio lived up to their billing as the Three Amigos, each scoring 20+ points and combining for 22 rebounds, 8 assists and 8 steals in Jerusalem's tournament-opening win.

Roe Avneri made 5 three-poitners to help beat Nymburk

All three as well as Yair Yadin ended up playing at least 32 minutes against Basketball Academy Nymburk. The three-headed monster will definitely need some friends to help out - especially knowing that the schedule has two games scheduled for the final day of the Group Phase.

#4 - How good will Igokea get?

The other 2-0 team after one day of games is Igokea m:tel following Group A wins over Oostende CORETEC Basketball Academy and UCAM Murcia COC Oftalmologia. Unlike Tofas, the Bosnia and Herzegovina powers were missing two of their main players for both games … and for game two Igokea were facing a team playing their first game of the tournament (Tofas beat BC Rytas, who were also playing a second game).

Ajidin Becirovic (left) scored more than 20 points twice on Day 1

Murcia were a fresh, athletic and energetic team excited about their YBCL start. The Spanish side led 35-28 but Igokea took control of the game - save for a couple series when Murcia pulled back ahead. In the end, Igokea showed their class with a 77-67 win thanks to 23 points from Ajdin Becirovic.

Igokea can now look ahead knowing they have overcome their two-game day without the services of Ognjen Stankovic and Ognjen Radosic - two highly talented guards who arrived just before the Murcia game and spent it on the bench. Stankovic plays for Igokea's first team and was firing up his teammates the whole game. Starting Day 2, he will be on the court leading them. Watch out.

Ognjen Stankovic ready to lead Igokea


#5 - How soon will Gjergja give them the BCL call?

The Oostende CORETEC Basketball Academy has fed a number of players into the lineup of first team Filou Oostende, where head coach Dario Gjergja has been willing to give youngsters a chance to play - also in the Basketball Champions League. It looks like Oostende's best at the YBCL could soon get a call from Gjergja for the BCL.


Two players BCL fans might want to remember are Jarne Elouna Eyenga and Corentin Efono. Both 2006-born athletic forwards have already played at a high level, appearing for Belgium at the FIBA U16 European Championship 2022, Division B and helping the country get back to Division A with a third placed finish.

Corentin Efono

Both also shined on Day 1 of the YBCL. Elouna, who will not turn 17 until December 31, averaged 19.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 3.0 steals and 1.5 blocks - topped by the 25 points and 11 rebounds against Basketball Academy Nymburk. Efono for his part had 13.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.5 blocks. It won't be long before those two youngsters are introducing themselves to BCL fans.

 #6 - Tenerife work out kinks, ease nerves in blowout 

Lenovo Tenerife only had one game and it was a pretty comfortable 79-60 victory over Porsche BBA Ludwigsburg. Diego Fernandez paced the team with 17 points and 6 rebounds and 2007-born big man Mohamed Sangare showcased his breathtaking skills with 13 points, 13 rebounds and 2 blocks. 


It wasn't all rosy though for the Spanish side, which committed 25 turnovers in their opening game. Still, Tenerife shot 56.3 percent on three-pointers, which will go a long way to winning games over the course of the competition. The islanders are far from a finished product but they can be happy with their opening performance.

# 7- Riga needed with Txus

Lenovo Tenerife did, however, come to Turkey missing one of their best players. Many had hoped to see wing talent Louis Riga play for Tenerife, but the Frenchman did not make the trip because he was needed with the pro team.

First team head coach Txus Vidorreta is facing major injury concerns without Jaime Fernandez, Joan Sastre, Leandro Bolmaro and Sasu Salin, and Riga was needed to step up. The prospect played 7 minutes against Real Betis on Sunday, April 9 for his ACB debut, becoming the fourth youngest debutant in Tenerife team history with 17 years 7 months and 3 days.