The stars of tomorrow will get the balls bouncing at the Euroleague Final Four in Paris as eight of the world's finest under-18 squads square off in the annual Nike International Junior Tournament starting on Thursday, May 6. Defending champion FMP of Serbia is one of four winners of this season's alsoNIJT qualifying events, having taken first place in Belgrade in February. The others are Citta di Roma tournament winner Zalgiris Kaunas of Lithuania; Ciutat de L'Hospitalet tourney champ Cajasol Andalucia of Spain; and the new London qualifying tournament winner, Union Olimpija Ljubljana of Slovenia. They will be joined by invitees Benetton Basket Treviso of Italy, Unicaja of Spain, INSEP of France and KK Split Croatia Osiguranje of Croatia. The teams will be split into two groups and each team will play once daily on the side courts at the Palais Omnisports de Paris-Bercy between Thursday and Saturday. The group winners will meet on Sunday, May 9 for the NIJT title - just hours before a new Euroleague champion is crowned on the same spot. The winner will also advance to compete at the 2010 Nike Global Challenge in August in the United States.
In the past, the NIJT has proven a fine stage for many of Europe's best younger players. In fact, a quartet of NIJT alumni are dispersed among three of the Final Four teams in Paris: Branislav Djekic of Partizan, Anton Ponkrashov and Nikita Kurbanov of CSKA Moscow, and Milos Teodosic of Olympiacos. Among other Euroleague regulars who played in the NIJT are Luksa Andric of Cibona Zagreb, Mirza Begic and Mantas Kalnietis of Zalgiris Kaunas, Jonas Maciulis of Armani Jeans Milano and Luca Vitali of Lottomatica Roma. Among the junior players to keep an eye on this weekend are FMP's Nenad Miljenovic, who was an NIJT All-Tournament selection last year; Toni Katic of Split, the NIJT qualifying events leading scorer; Miki Servera, who made his Euroleague debut for Unicaja this season; and Alessandro Gentile, who played for Benetton in the Eurocup. With many other players ready to make names for themselves, the 2010 NIJT could be the best yet!