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Meet the U18 teams that participating in the first edition of the Youth Basketball Champions League 2023!
Bosnia and Herzegovina club Igokea m:tel has been a powerhouse domestically both in the senior and youth competitions. And after competing three seasons in the Basketball Champions League, Igokea will also be playing in the first edition of the YBCL.
"This is a great thing. It’s an honor to be involved in the first edition of the Youth BCL since we have already played in the BCL for the last three years with the first team. I think this will be a celebration of youth basketball. This is very important for the young players but also for the clubs in the development of their players. We want to come and compete and see how the other teams are because we don’t know them. I hope we just give our best and the players are relaxed because I know they can do things."- Vuk Radivojevic, Igokea sports director
BIH | 1st place 2017-18, 2021-22
Junior ABA | 3rd place 2017-18, 2018-19, 2020-21, 2021-22
BIH | 1st place 2018-19, 2021-22, 3rd place 2017-18
The youth ranks have been able to use the former first team gym Aleksandrovac since the Laktasi Sports Hall was opened in 2010. Four years ago, the club opened an apartment complex for 20 young players in the club, including a kitchen and 15 rooms. The youth players also have their own weight room. Igokea also has been able to recruit top youth talents away from bigger places, including signing both Ognjen Stanković and Ognjen Radosic from Belgrade. In addition, Igokea will be hosting the 2022-23 Junior (U19) ABA League Final Four.
Ognjen Stanković | 2005 | PG
Igokea just recently signed Stanković away from Partizan Belgrade. The point guard played for Serbia at the FIBA U17 Basketball World Cup 2022 and averaged 11.7 points, 4.7 rebounds, a tournament-best 5.4 assists and 2.4 steals. The Belgrade native came up through the Partizan system and played two seasons in the U18 ANGT competition with the Serbian club. Stanković will be playing mainly for the first team. He has a good character and a good basketball body with length and athleticism. Stanković has excellent leadership skills as playmaker and uses his good height (2.00 meters) to excel at it.
Dalibor Ilić | Kosta Kondić | Darko Talić
Ilić spent several years with Igokea, honing his skills and developing his talent in the club's youth program. He quickly established himself as one of the most promising players in the region and was even named captain of the Serbian junior national team, leading them to a the title at the FIBA U18 European Championship 2018.
Dalibor Ilić played for two seasons in the BCL and finished third in the Best Young Player award in 2020-21.
Hapoel Bank Yahav Jerusalem are playing their fifth season in the Basketball Champions League and have twice reached the top eight. The two-time Israeli league champions rely on players from Jerusalem and have been able to produce a couple of national team players. Now they are looking to see where they stand in the Youth Basketball Champions League.
"It’s a great opportunity for us to gain some international experience. For the players it’s a great chance to play against European players to get to know how they are in relation to European basketball. So for them it’s going to be a very good experience. And also for us as a club to see how we stand against top European clubs and to see what we do well and what we need to do better. So it’s an excellent opportunity for both the players and us as a club."- Daniel Shashar, Hapoel Jerusalem CEO and Professional Development Director, and U18 head coach
Champions 2012, 2019
Jerusalem three years ago hired a full-time strength and conditioning coach to work exclusively with the youth teams. The Italian Andrea Cavallari has since left the club and works with Hapoel Tel Aviv’s pro team, while the club continued the existing foundation and replaced him with another strength and conditioning coach. In addition, the Jerusalem general manager Yonathan Alon was a long time youth coach in the club and that has helped the cooperation between the pro side and youth ranks.
Rom Hitkes | 2005 | G
Hitkes forms a three-headed monster with Roi Avneri and Yonatan Abouloff. The 1.90 meter guard is fun to watch as a creator who does great things with the ball. Hitkes can blow by his defender and get to the rim, but is also a very good passer. He is the team’s main creator as he averages 16 points per game and more than 6 assists in the Israeli U18 league while shooting 33 percent on three-pointers.
Rafi Menco | Adam Ariel | Miron Ruina | Yuval Sznajderman
Jerusalem native Adam Ariel came up with the Reds and helped the club win the U18 title in 2012. He turned pro with the club, left for Germany for a season and came back to Israel before re-joining Hapoel Jerusalem in 2020. The Israeli national team player left this offseason for Hapoel Tel Aviv.
Adam Ariel suiting up for Hapoel Bank Yahav Jerusalem in the 2021-2022 Basketball Champions League edition.
Lenovo Tenerife have a storied history in the Basketball Champions League, winning the first edition of the competition in 2016-17 and 2021-22, as well as finishing second in 2018-19; and reaching the Quarter-Finals in 2019-20 and 2020-21. Now the club from the Canary Islands is looking to also win the first edition of the Youth Basketball Champions League.
"This opportunity is a big step for our youth program. Six years ago, the club changed its direction in terms of the players in our program. It was very clear that we needed to improve many things to compete in national championships. We made a four-year plan to be ready to compete in the national championships, but things went quicker. And as soon as we started to make our program more professional the results followed soon afterwards.- Jose Maria Costa, Sports Director of the Youth Program
We think [the Youth BCL] is a great opportunity for the players to grow up in a competition with a high level of different kinds of basketball. They will learn other ways to play and they need to improve every day to compete."
8th place in 2021
3rd in 2019, 2021
2nd in 2022
3rd in 2018
Six years ago, the club made a sustained effort to improve the quality of the youth program, trying to have professional coaching and focusing on individual workouts. Tenerife added three physical trainers, one physiologist, a physiotherapist and four coaches. Starting in 2017-18, the club also registered its U18 team to play in the 1st Division of the regional league - one level below the EBA, Spain’s lowest national league. The team won the league in 2018-19, but the club decided against promotion to EBA because it felt the players were not yet ready for the jump in level. With all the work behind them, Tenerife have jumped to sixth place in the Spanish federation’s rankings of club youth systems based on results in domestic championships from 2018 to 2022.
Diego Fernandez | 2005 | SG
Fernandez has yet to play for Spain though he was on the preliminary roster for the FIBA U16 European Challengers 2021, which Spain did not play due to Covid-19 issues. Fernandez made his Spanish ACB debut on January 21, 2023, playing 1:47 minutes against Real Betis. The Adeje, Tenerife native became the second youngest debutant for the Tenerife club at 17 years 4 months and 16 days. The only younger player was Alberto Cabrera at 16 years 6 months 25 days in 2014. Fernandez can score in any situation on the court: attacking the basket or shooting off the dribble or coming off the screens.
Alberto Cabrera | Danilo Brnovic | Marc Ivankovic | Musa Sagnia | Nuha Sagnia | Jorge Diaz Graham | Guillermo Diaz Graham
Alberto Cabrera is a Tenerife native who came up in Lenovo Tenerife system. In 2014, he became the club’s youngest debutant in the ACB at 16 years 6 months and 25 days. Cabrera debuted in the Basketball Champions League in 2018-19, played there the following two seasons as well and also contributed to the club winning the FIBA Intercontinental Cup title in 2020. Cabrera is currently playing in the third division LEB Silver.
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