| Kenan Sipahi and Ludvig Hakanson are set to be star acts in Saturday's U18 All-Star game|
At least one player from the U18 All Star Game 2013 will play at a EuroBasket over the course of their long and promising futures. That's because one player already has.
Sweden's Ludvig Hakanson will be one of 24 of the best and brightest young stars in the game who will get the chance to showcase their skills at Stozice Arena. The game Saturday at noon will be the third edition of the event.
Hakanson was actually hoping he could have been playing in the Ljubljana arena all the past week as the 17-year-old emerged as a leader with the Swedish national team.
But Sweden were eliminated in the First Round and Hakanson is flying back to Slovenia for the game.
The 24 players are from 17 countries with four of them coming from the 2013 U18 European Championship gold medalists Turkey. Tournament MVP Kenan Sipahi, who also worked out the senior national team, will be on hand in Slovenia as well as fellow title winners Metecan Birsen, Dogukan Sanli and Kerem Kanter.
Silver medal-winning Croatia are represented by All-Tournament Team member Domagoj Bosnjak.
Latvia, who finished fourth have two players - Anzejs Pasecniks and Ivars Zvigurs - while Serbia also have a pair of players - Nikola Jokic and Rade Zagorac the former of whom played at the U19 World Championship but not the U18 European Championship.
The group of 24 also includes the All-Tournament Team from the U18 European Championship Division B in Hakanson, MVP Damian Jeszke of Poland, Vincent Kesteloot of Belgium, Milovan Draskovic from champions Montenegro and Andrej Magdevski of hosts F.Y.R. Of Macedonia.
Also in the group is Julian Gualtieri of San Marino, who won the U18 European Championship Division C tournament.
While Hakanson has already moved into the Swedish national team, a number of alumni from the first two U18 All Star Games were playing in Slovenia for their senior national teams.
From 2009's game in Poland, there is MVP Jonas Valanciunas of Lithuania, Martins Meiers of Latvia, Serbians Nemanja Nedovic and Danilo Andjusic as well as Slovenia's Edo Muric.
|"Just have fun. An All Star Game is to have some fun. I always enjoy playing basketball, so that would be my biggest advice." - former U18 All Star Jonas ValanciunasJonas Valanciunas |
"I had the honour to be in the first All Star Game in history. When I got the invitation, I was so excited because I knew I would play against the best in my generation in Europe. When I came to Poland I also had the honour to watch our senior national team and I said this is my dream," recalled Muric.
"It was an honour to be selected into the All Star Game. And it was a pleasure to play there," said Valanciunas, who collected 18 points, 19 rebounds and three blocks in the 2009 game.
The All Star Game in 2011 has also graduated players to senior teams in Slovenia. Dario Saric of Croatia and Serbian Vasilje Micic are still playing in the EuroBasket 2013 quarter-finals while Przemyslaw Karnowski of Poland and Russian Sergey Karasev have both headed back home after getting bounced in the first round.
"It was a big game, and it was a nice experience for me in my career," said Saric.
Micic recalled all the talent in the game and said the idea is a good thing.
"It's a good test for young players. In that game you can see that many players have talent. And you can expect to see them in the future for later European Championships or World Cups. This game is a good thing for young players, and I hope we will see more players from this game," said Micic.
When asked what he would suggest to this year's group, Valanciunas said: "Just have fun. An All Star Game is to have some fun. I always enjoy playing basketball, so that would be my biggest advice."