Euroleague Basketball is pleased to announce that Team England’s U18 national team have been awarded a wild card to compete at the 2013 Euroleague Basketball Nike International Junior Tournament (NIJT) in London, UK from May 9 to 12. The event is held in parallel with the 2013 Turkish Airlines Euroleague Final Four, which will take place May 10 and 12 at The O2. The NIJT is Europe's elite youth club basketball tournament, where future stars face each other with the title of continental club champion on the line.
The wild card is one more step in Euroleague Basketball's strategy to work with all of the stakeholders involved in basketball in the UK in order to help continue to grow the sport domestically. England Basketball have shown tremendous strides in developing their youth players in recent years, with Team England's U18 Men being promoted to Division A last summer being a clear example. The team is coached by Steve Bucknall, Team England Senior's all-time leading scorer, and the first player born and bred in England to play in the NBA.
Team England joins three clubs who have already qualified as the winners of 2012-13 NIJT Qualifying Tournaments. KK Spars Sarajevo of Bosnia and Herzegovina won the Rome tournament, FIATC Joventut Badalona of Spain was victorious in the L’Hospitalet tournament, and Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius of Lithuania was the winner of the Siauliai tournament. A fourth qualifier will secure its place at the Belgrade Qualifying Tournament which is to be held February 22 to 24. The remaining three places in the eight-team field will be filled by Euroleague Basketball.
The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: "The Nike International Junior Tournament is yet another opportunity to show off London's credentials as a world class host of elite sport. It is fantastic news that the England U18 men's team is set to take part in this basketball spectacular, which will help us build on the legacy of the 2012 Games. The London Lions are due to take up residence in the Copper Box and we are also seeing huge success with the London School of Basketball, a grassroots sports programme which I am funding with generous support from Nike."
Mr. Jordi Bertomeu, Euroleague Basketball CEO and President, said: "Having a Nike International Junior Tournament participant representing England was one of our goals when bringing the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Final Four to London as we believe it will engage the local public to come and watch the best junior teams on the continent. The England U18 men's team will bring a breath of fresh air to the tournament as first English team to participate in the tournament's history. This is one more step in our strategy of improving the awareness of basketball in such an important market as the UK."
Keith Mair, England Basketball CEO, said: "The invitation for the England U18 men’s team to compete in the Nike International Junior Tournament (NJIT) Finals in London from May 9 to 13 is a wonderful opportunity for our players, coaches and supporters. The U18 men’s team’s performances have steadily improved in recent years, culminating in qualifying for the first time for the A Division of the FIBA Europe championships in July. The NJIT finals will greatly assist in preparing the team for that event. In addition, and also reflecting the growth and development of basketball in England, a delegation of England national team coaches will attend one of the Nike IJT qualifying tournaments in Belgrade this month as a coach development initiative."
Lynn Merritt, Nike VP Global Basketball Sports Marketing, said: "Seven years ago we joined Euroleague Basketball in the Nike International Junior Tournament with one vision: raising talent of future basketball stars by organizing tournaments across Europe that would feature the best U18 players in Europe every season. The four qualifying tournaments and the final coinciding with the Euroleague Final Four have become the perfect stage for these young players to showcase their talent and get a taste of top professional basketball. Having Team England (U18 Men National Team) competing against the best junior teams in Europe is an important step to continue growing the sport in the UK and globally, which is our common goal."