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  • Writer's picturemarisnoviks

Five storylines to follow at the 2024 Final Four

Four teams from Belgium, Denmark, Lithuania and Romania will play for the 2024 European North Basketball league`s title on April 9-10 in Aarhus. Here are the main storylines.

A new champion

Anwil Wloclawek won the inaugural crown in 2022, followed by BM Stal Ostrów in 2023. None of these teams are playing in the 2024 edition and the throne is vacant.

Šiauliai will play in their second Final Four. Last time out, they made it to the 2022 final, where they fell at the hands of the Rottweilers.

Three new teams in the Final Four

Eighteen teams from 13 countries – Belgium, Bulgaria, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Israel, Kosovo, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Poland, Romania and United Kingdom – registered for the 2024 season.

Eight teams from six countries – Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Lithuania, Romania and United Kingdom – made it to the postseason.

Three new teams – Liège Basket from Belgium, Bakken Bears from Denmark and CSO Voluntari from Romania – qualified to the Final Four for the first time.

A Lithuanian tradition

Every ENBL title game has featured a team from Lithuania – Šiauliai in 2022 and BC Wolves in 2023.

Šiauliai may make it to the title game again but they need to beat the home favorites Bakken Bears in order to advance.

Lithuanian teams have a 2-0 record in the semifinals but the hosts also have a 2-0 win and loss ratio.

Šiauliai head coach Žydrūnas Urbonas is 6-0 in the ENBL games.

Home sweet home

Anwil Wloclawek won the 2022 title at the Hala Mistrzow.

BM Stal Ostrów won the 2023 title at the Arena Ostrów.

Bakken Bears may also win in front of their fans at the Sparekassen Danmark Basketball center.

Mirror, mirror on the wall – who is the best playcaller of them all?

Anders Sommer has won seven titles with the Bakken Bears, including four Danish championships (2020-2023) and three Danish Cups (2020-2021, 2023). Sommer joined the Aarhus club in November 2019 and served as an assistant coach until June 2021. He won the 2013 European Championship for U16 Men in division B as an assistant coach for Denmark.

Žydrūnas Urbonas was a professional player until 2012 – he has played in Lithuania, Russia, Greece, Latvia and Cyprus. He finished his career with Juventus Utena (2009-2012) and stayed in the town until 2022. Urbonas worked as an assistant coach (2012-2017) and then as a head coach. After a brief stint with KB Sigal Prishtina he took the coaching reins of Šiauliai. Juventus won the bronze medal in the LKL (2015), bronze in the Baltic Basketball league (2015) and third place in the King Mindaugas Cup (2017). Urbonas won two LKL bronze medals as a Šiauliai player.

Ainars Bagatskis played professionally until 2006. He was a player-coach at Barons Rīga (2005-2006). Bagatskis has coached in Latvia, Lithuania, Russia, Georgia, Ukraine, Turkey, Israel, Germany and Romania. He was the head coach of Latvia (2010-2017) and Ukraine (2019-2023). Bagatskis won Israeli Cup with Maccabi Tel Aviv (2017), two Ukraine Superleague titles with Budivelnyk Kyiv (2013, 2014) and one LKL title with Žalgiris Kaunas (2006). He has coached at 74 Euroleague games. Bagatskis was an assistant coach to David Blatt at Darussafaka Istanbul.

Alex Zampier was a professional player until 2013. He played in the USA, Argentina and Canada. Zampier worked at non-coaching roles for Tampa Bay Rays (Major League Baseball) and San Antonio Spurs. He worked as a player development coach for Utah Jazz (2017-2018), Phoenix Suns (2018-2019) and Detroit Pistons (2019-2022). Zampier is in his first season as a head coach. College wise, he played for Yale (2006-2010) and became the Bulldogs all time leader with 167 career steals. Finished third in the Ivy League in scoring in his senior year with 17.4 points.

Fun facts

Žydrūnas Urbonas and Ainars Bagatskis were teammates at Barons Rīga (2005-2006) with latter as a player-coach.

Ainars Bagatskis has a nickname “The Golden hand” due to his sharpshooting skills – he won the 2004 LKL three point shooting contest.

Žydrūnas Urbonas worked at Juventus Utena from 2009-2022, was a head coach of KB Sigal Prishtina and became the head coach of Šiauliai.

Ainars Bagatskis won Latvian title six times as a player (1994, 1996-1998, 2002, 2003). He also is a champion of Norway (1993) and Lithuania (as a player 2004, 2005; as a coach 2006).

Bagatskis sons are in basketball too. His youngest son, Freds, plays for the NCAA division one team UT Arlington.

Alex Zampier was an baseball operations assistant at the New York Yankees in summer and fall of 2011.

Zampier has studied sociology and economics at the famous Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut.

Alex Zampier coached a youth soccer team for inner city New Haven youth as a sophomore at Yale.

Countries, represented at the ENBL Final Four (all editions)

Poland: Anwil Wloclawek 2022; BM Stal Ostrów, Start Lublin, King Szczecin – all 2023.

Lithuania: Šiauliai 2022 and 2024; BC Wolves 2023.

Estonia: Tartu University 2022.

Czechia: Brno Basket 2022.

Belgium: Liège Basket 2024.

Denmark: Bakken Bears 2024.

Romania: CSO Voluntari 2024.

Final Four 2024

Tuesday, April 9

16:00 Liège Basket – CSO Voluntari

19:00 Šiauliai – Bakken Bears

Wednesday, April 10

16:00 Bronze medal game

19:00 Final

21:00 Award ceremony


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