Burjanadze Rises Under The Radar

19 February 2013

U20 MEN

Beka Burjanadze (Georgia) at the U20 European Championship 2012
Beka Burjanadze (Georgia) at the U20 European Championship 2012

By Dimitris Kontos

In 2009, it was Kostas Papanikolaou of Greece; in 2010 it was the turn of Andrew Albicy of France, the following year Nikola Mirotic of Spain and last summer another Frenchman, Leo Westermann.

They all presented their credentials on international level and earned the MVP award at the U20 European Championship, and then went on to establish themselves as key players at top European clubs.

There will be no shortage of future stars in next summer's U20 European Championship, in Tallinn, either.

Some of them will not necessarily be on teams who land in Estonia with their mind set firmly on a podium finish, but this does not mean they can not put forward their candidature for a place on the All-Tournament Team.

Like, for example, Beka Burjanadze of Georgia, whose main aim will be to maintain their Division A status after finishing in 16th place last summer.

"My only target is to help my team so not to be last again! Not last!" the young Georgian told FIBAEurope.com with a huge smile on his face.

"I want to help the team in every aspect I can: rebounding, scoring and that is all [I wish for]."

The 2.03m forward featured in last year's edition of the U20 European Championship, when he was still just 18, and no one would have guessed his age handicap by watching him play or looking at his stat lines, as he averaged 16.4 points and 8.4 rebounds in Slovenia.

"The U20 European Championship was a great experience for me because there were guys two years older than me who were playing well, showing a great game and I competed against them," he said.

"All I wanted was the chance to play, and I got that chance and I did pretty good, thank God.

"Those games were a great opportunity for me, it was a big wish of mine to play there."

Burjanadze is used to being the younger guy on the team, ever since he made his fist appearance at the U16 European Championship Division B in 2009.

The following summer, he averaged 20 points and 11.4 rebounds and led Georgia to a fifth-place finish in the same competition.

Spanish club Cajasol Sevilla decided they had seen enough to be convinced of his potential and brought him to the capital of Andalusia that same summer.

The Georgian forward with the imposing body build made his ACB debut in January 2011, when he was just 17 years and 14 days old.

He only featured for 35 seconds in that game against Bizkaia Bilbao Basket and did not even touch the ball, but he has not stop working and progressing since.

This season, he has gained the full confidence of Cajasol coach Aito Reneses, who is renowned for his work with young players.

23. Tornike Shengelia (Georgia)
Burhanadze and Tornike Shengelia (pictured) provide reason to be excited about the future of Georgian basketball

Burjanadze has played in 18 Liga Endesa games, averaging 1.8 points and a rebound per-contest; and in eight games in the Eurocup, averaging 2.4 points and 1,8 rebounds.

The 19-year-old has plenty in common with the last four U20 European Championship MVPs beyond the obvious, their talent.

He is a humble and respectful young man, hard-working and completely focused on playing basketball - and, one day, joining the senior Georgian national team.

"It is my dream since I started to play basketball," he admitted.

"Some people say I might be or not this summer (in the preliminary team for EuroBasket 2013) but right now I am just concentrated on getting better as a basketball player.

"When summer comes we will see, but it's my big dream, for sure."

Georgia have risen to the elite of European basketball and will make their second consecutive appearance at a EuroBasket thanks in great part to a generation of excellent players like Zaza Pachulia and Viktor Sanikidze.

Tornike Shengelia and Burjanadze are, among others, members of the younger generation upon whom Georgia will rely in the near future to stay at the highest level.

"It is a big jump to the [senior] national team," the down-to-earth Burjanadze says.

"There are professional players who play in the NBA and top European [clubs], top scorers, top rebounders and I don't think it will be the same level as the U20.

"I've got to work to improve day by day, and we will see."


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