Real Madrid headed into Thursday night’s meeting with CSKA Moscow fearing the worst after a turbulent week saw the club afflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic, forcing the team to enter the game with only five senior players: Nigel Williams-Goss, Sergio Llull, Rudy Fernandez, Jeffery Taylor and Edy Tavares.
Supplementing that quintet was a batch of players from the youth team which won last season’s Adidas Next Generation Tournament, triumphing against FC Barcelona after overtime in a thrilling title game at the finals tournament in Valencia in June.
One of those players, 18-year-old Tristan Vukcevic, had already made his mark at the senior level by appearing in eight Turkish Airlines EuroLeague games this season. But the other three – forwards Baba Miller and Sediq Garuba (younger brother of former Real player Usman) and guard Urban Klavzar – were all making their debuts in the competition. And all of them were only 17 years old.
The quartet certainly wasn’t only there to make up the numbers, as Vukcevic showed by opening the scoring with a statement-making dunk. With a shorthanded roster, they were needed to spend some serious time on the floor. Although Miller managed less than 2 minutes, the other three were all fundamental to the team’s performance; Vukcevic played 10:25, Garuba 15:27 and Klavzar 22:53 – the latter spending more time in the game than CSKA’s established stars Tornike Shengelia, Daniel Hackett and Johannes Voigtmann.
Of the young talents, no one played a bigger role in Real’s 71-65 victory than Klavzar. The Slovenian-born playmaker – who was 17 years, 6 months and 27 days old for his debut – made an instant impact by coming off the bench in the first quarter to score 6 points in less than 5 minutes, including a coolly converted three-pointer with his first-ever attempted shot in the competition.
Klavzar returned to the fore in the final quarter, striking his second three-pointer of the game during a crucial 9-0 run to start the period which eventually proved enough for the victory as CSKA’s misfiring offense continued to struggle. Notably, that triple took Klavzar to 10 points, making him the seventh-youngest player in competition history to score in double digits.
1?8? Baba Miller
1?6? Sediq Garuba
7? Urban Klavzar pic.twitter.com/deP1j9CaEe
— Real Madrid Basket (@RMBaloncesto) December 23, 2021
The list is led by Manuchar Markoishvili, who was only 16 years, 4 months and 30 days old when he netted 15 points for Benetton Basket against Virtus Bologna back in April 2003. In second place is a more recent star, whose name is more than familiar to Real Madrid fans: a certain Luka Doncic, who scored 12 points – also against CSKA – to reach the double-digit mark for the first time in January 2016 when he was 16 years, 10 months and 9 days old.
In a freakish coincidence (or is it?), Thursday’s young hero Klavzar is also a Slovenian guard, who also wears the number 7 on his uniform. Of course, this doesn’t mean necessarily that Klavzar will go on to enjoy anything like the same kind of stellar success as his compatriot, but so far he has gone one better than Doncic: the former EuroLeague MVP’s first 10-plus points game against CSKA resulted in defeat, whereas Klavzar played a full part in a famous victory.
Seen at: Euroleague.net