Get Better Academy U19 team had another chance to compete on the international field and this time they went to conquer the 34th year of the Cholet Mondial Basketball International. This tournament is one of the most prestige tournaments in Europe and through out the years it hosted some of the elite european basketball players like Bogdan Bogdanovic (Euroleague - Fenerbahce Ulker Istanbul), Thomas Huertel (Euroleague - EFES Istanbul), Nicolas Batum (NBA - Portland Trail Blazers) or Andréa Bargnani (NBA - New York Knicks). Some of the teams that climbed to the top and won the championship trophy are also well known teams in the basketball world (Besiktas Istanbul, Real Madrid, Chalon)
This years line up was also very impressive as there were 12 teams from all around the world (hosting France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Latvia, Netherlands, Czech Republic represented by GBA, Brazil and Turkey). The tournament itself was set up to be played in four consecutive days over the Eastern and the first day was also the most exhausting as each team had to play two games in a short period of time.
GBA’s first opponent was a very ambitious French team Sharks Antibes and what a game it was. Score tied at the end of 4th quarter meant that the game had to be decided in overtime where GBA clinched the victory 50:48. This was also the closest win that GBA had in the tournament. The second game was more or less in the same manner but with a more definitive outcome. Torrejon Madrid could not keep up with the GBA’s leading scorer David Pekarek who put up an impressive performance with 30 points and 48% shooting. This meant that GBA took the first seat in their group and was ready for the quarter finals.
Next up was the CBA Amsterdam and GBA was ready to take their scalp also. From the very first second of the game, GBA had the reins in their hands and hustled for another W. Another well executed game by all the GBA players lead to a very satisfying final score 87:64. Players, who contributed with significance, were again David Pekarek, who recorded his first double-double (22pts-11rebs), Lukas Vilkovsky, David Jelinek and Ervins Meznieks (18pts, 14pts, 11pts respectively). Another big step forward for GBA and a huge goal ahead. Unsurprisingly, GBA started to be recognized by the audience and by other teams. The outsider made an impression.
In the Semi-finals GBA was facing one of the favored teams to win the Championship. Stella Azzura Rome, team who managed to get all the way to the final 8 of another prestige tournament, Adidas Next Generation Euroleague (ANGE), is a team of well organized players and a solid bench. The best player on the team, Kristinn Palsson, is a go to player on the team and was also named to the All-star team of the tournament. GBA had to break a sweat on this one. A game with ups and downs was tied at half and at the end of the 3rd quarter, Rome was ahead by a point. Nevertheless one strong quarter by the GBA was enough to steal the game. The final score 73:64 looks rather deceiving considering the intensity and pressure of the whole game. Player of the game was unquestionably Ervins Meznieks. His performance was more then jaw dropping as he put up 33 points and shoot 53% from the field (50% from behind the arc)
The Finals. Nobody expected GBA to appear in the decisive game of the tournament. VEF Riga, team of a great history in European basketball and also one of the final 8 teams of the ANGE, was the favored team but everybody new that the game is going to be remembered. The event drew so much attention that scouts, agents and coaches from Europe and USA came down to the arena to watch the game. The spotlights were shinning especially on one player. Rodions Kurucs (Latvia), arguably the best european player in his age group (1998), is already well know player and everybody was excited to see him play in a venue that big. But GBA’s aggressive defense put a lot of pressure on Rodions and forced him to 6 turnovers. Kurucs finished only with 6 points (1-11 shooting) and left the game early due to his 5 fouls. GBA was so aggressive on the offensive end of the court that the only way to stop the guys from fast breaks and easy baskets was to foul them. This lead to a whopping 28 fouls committed by the VEF players and 3 of the best players fouled out in under 33 minutes. This was one of the deciding factors of the game and GBA secured the victory in a 69-60 win over the VEF Riga. David Pekarek had another double-double night with 19 points and 10 rebounds and Ervins Meznieks finished with 18 points and 14 rebounds. Also Michal Weiss and David Jelinek had a very solid performance with 11 points each and 7 rebounds for Michael Weiss. The Cholet Mondial Champions of 2015, a team from Prague, Czech Republic, Get Better Academy. All the 1500 spectators were amazed by the outcome of the tournament and honored the winners with cheers. Next years tournament is going to take place also here in Cholet and GBA is going to return to defend the title.
Notable awards were given to GBA players. MVP of the finals was captured by Ervins Meznieks with his 18pts 14rebs performance. MVP of the tournament went to David Pekarek and with that also an award for the best scorer of the tournament. David Pekarek averaged 18 points a game which is truly a remarkable performance. The All-Star team was also occupied by two GBA players, the double D, David Pekarek and David Jelinek. The other three All-Star players were Ronions Kurucs, Karliss Silins (both representing VEF Riga) and Kristinn Palsson (Stella Azzura Rome). Julian Beťko, GBA Head Coach, received a very honorable award for the Most Fair-play coach of the tournament.
This extraordinary success definitely put GBA on the map of European and even World-wide Youth Basketball and is an outcome that perfectly summarizes the work that all the guys and the staff puts in. As the head coach Julian Beťko confirms:
“Competing on the international level is a very important part of our player development program. Being able to play at this prestigious tournament gave our guys a lot of experience and more importantly a chance to compare with some the best players in Europe. It is intriguing that we were able to compete with top level european teams and essentially to win the tournament. It only indicates how much of hard work GBA players and coaching staff put in. This would not be possible without all the people who support us form parents to sponsors. I believe, that the main effect of this tournament will be that all the players will find even greater motivation for personal improvement.”