EuroCup signings: Young guns

Aug 26, 2021 by Print
EuroCup signings: Young guns

The 7DAYS EuroCup has long been a springboard to stardom for some of the best young players in Europe. Past EuroCup Rising Star Award winners have gone on to great success on both sides of the Atlantic whether as EuroCup champions, medalists in the World Cup or EuroBasket, or NBA All-Stars. Many of the top youth talents are homegrown, but there is a growing number of top prospects who are signed in their late teens and early 20s to develop their games and help their teams battle for glory. Here are some of the top players signed by teams this summer who will be eligible for the 2022 EuroCup Rising Star award, too.

Igor Drobnjak, Buducnost VOLI Podgorica

Drobnjak, 21, takes a step forward this season after already emerging as a force in the ABA League second division and earning a spot on the Montenegrin national team. The point guard returns to Buducnost for a bigger role after previous stints with the club. Last season Drobnjak averaged 12.6 points and 4.0 assists in helping Studentski Centar finish atop the regular-season standings and reach the championship in the ABA second division. Coach Aleksandar Dzikic has high hoped for him.

Blaz Habot, Cedevita Union Olimpija

Cedevita plucked the 20-year-old Habot away from domestic rival Hopsi Polzela over the summer and gave him a four-year deal. The 2.06-meter big man is still a work in progress, but he continues to work hard and raise his level. Last season he averaged 4.8 points and 1.9 rebounds in the Slovenian League and in Coach Jurica Golemac he has an ideal role model to help build his game.

Lukasz Kolenda, Slask Wroclaw

The oldest player on the list at 22, Kolenda, comes off an excellent season with fellow Polish squad Trefl Sopot. The combo-guard showed his chops as both a scorer and playmaker with 11.4 points and 3.6 assists per game while starting roughly two-thirds of his team's games. Once he finds his role under Coach Petar Miljovic, Kolenda will look to leave the maximum impact as one of the top young players in Poland.

Yam Madar, Partizan NIS Belgrade

Not only was Madar one of the top players in the Israeli League last season as a 20-year-old, but the point guard was also the captain of his Hapoel Tel Aviv team. Scouts have closely followed Madar's progress since his breakout with the Israeli national team at the U20 European Championships in 2019. Despite being two years underage, Madar helped Israel to the gold and was named to the all-tournament team. The coaching and fan support in Belgrade will surely help Madar take his game to the next level.

Nico Mannion, Virtus Segafredo Bologna

Born in Italy, Mannion was raised in the United States where he became a basketball prodigy. His father, Pace Mannion, was a professional basketball player and his mother, Gaia Bianchi, was a pro volleyball player. Nico played for Golden State in the NBA last season, but now comes for Bologna in search of a larger role. With backcourt mates like Milos Teodosic and Marco Belinelli, Mannion will have the chance to learn on the fly while trying to lead his team to a title.

Mario Nakic, MoraBanc Andorra

Just two years removed from earning MVP honors at the 2019 Euroleague Basketball Adidas Next Generation Tournament with U18 Real Madrid, the 20-year-old Nakic will debut in the EuroCup. The small forward displayed his excellent shooting in the Belgian League last season by making 56.7% of his three-pointers for Filou Ostend. That world-class stroke figures to be his ticket to a big role with Andorra.

Nikos Rogkavopoulos, Promitheas Patras

Rogkavopoulos, 20, debuted for the Greek national team at the pre-Olympic tournament in Canada alongside a host of accomplished EuroLeague stars and showed he belonged thanks to his all-around skills, outside shooting and hustle on defense. He had already impressed scouts worldwide with Greek junior national teams at both the European and world championships. Promitheas penned Rogkavopoulos to a three-year deal and will allow him to grow into a big role with the club.

Alen Smailagic, Partizan NIS Belgrade

After three years overseas, Smailagic returns home to Belgrade to play for the legendary Zeljko Obradovic. The 21-year-old big man boasts a mix of size, shooting touch and athleticism that could make him a dominant force in years to come. After he shakes off the rust and adjusts to a new system, all signs point to Smailagic becoming a core piece for Partizan this season.

Tarik Sezgun, Frutt Extra Bursaspor

Earning playing time as a teenager on the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague champs is nearly impossible, so Sezgun, now 20, switched sides to Bursaspor where he hopes to have a bigger role. Sezgun has been one of the top players in his age group in Turkey for many years and played on all the Turkish junior national teams. Bursaspor locked him up on a four-year deal and hopes to make him the core of the franchise for years to come.

Fedor Zugic, ratiopharm Ulm

The youngest player on this list, Zugic will turn 18 next month, but has already started seven EuroCup games and averaged 5.3 points per game for Buducnost last season. He also became the youngest player to ever appear in a EuroLeague game the season before. Coach Jaka Lakovic is not afraid to give young players chances and Zugic will have even more opportunities to show his skills this season in Ulm.