The 2008 EuroCup champion, Joventut Badalona returned to the competition last season after a 10-year absence. The team started the current campaign with big signings and big expectations and, so far, it has delivered in spades by winning Group A.
Joventut started the season rolling with five straight wins, highlighted by a 91-93 road win at UNICS Kazan. Vladimir Brodziansky's hook shot with 2.8 seconds left in overtime secured the victory that shot Joventut to the top of the standings. After that, a break caused by COVID-19 was followed by a couple of losses, including a 77-87 defeat at home against last-placed Bahcesehir Koleji Istanbul. Joventut got back to speed again late in the calendar year and its Round 7 victory, 90-75 against JL Bourg en Bresse, secured Penya the top spot in the standings.
Ante Tomic signed with Joventut last summer with the halo of a superstar who could take the team to the next level. And that he's done. He missed a few games during the regular season, but ended up averaging 13.3 points, 5.9 rebounds and 3.3 assists for a PIR average of almost 20. Of course, Tomic is a veteran of the European stage, though this is his debut season in the EuroCup and now Penya is hoping he can lead the team a few steps further.
Big man Simon Birgander is another example of the work that Joventut has done producing young talent from all over. Born in Sweden, Birgander arrived in Badalona in 2017 at the age of 19 and has made his debut on the big stage there. Last season he appeared in only two EuroCup games, but this season he has played in all 10 so far in averaging 5.8 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.1 assists in almost 19 minutes. He had career highs of PIR (26) and points (12) against UNICS at home in Round 10. As he hones his skills on the EuroCup courts, Joventut knows Birgander will be a crucial part of the club in the years to come and has already signed him a contract extension through June 2023.
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Joventut racked up a PIR of 100 or more in seven of its 10 regular-season games, which was even more than the teams that led that phase in PIR - Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar and Virtus Segafedo Bologna. In its final game against Bourg, the team had exactly 100, but Penya also reached 120, its highest so far, twice in October - at Bahcesehir Koleji Istanbul and against Umana Reyer Venice. That number was far from the regular-season high, but shows that if Joventut is one thing, that is consistent.
Joventut will continue in Top 16 Group E, which is formed by two Spanish teams and two French teams. The team seems to have found its rhythm after the COVID-19 hiccups with six players averaging double-digits in scoring. The mix of experience and youth is working nicely together and the expectations are high. However, the opponents in Group E have shown many times this season that they can beat anyone, so Penya will not have an easy time. One of the goals for Coach Duran is to have players like Joel Parra, Albert Ventura and Simon Birgander contribute a little bit more to the mix because every point will be precious in a Top 16 that doesn't leave room for many mistakes.