Before the tip-off of the U18 FIBA European Championships Division B in Portugal we sat down and had a chat with one of the prospects expected to make the biggest impact in the event – Aleksandar Gavalyugov (c/o 2024).
The 6-foot-1 shifty Bulgarian lead guard has been a well-known prospect within the European basketball world for quite a while. Despite his flashes of great scoring and passing instincts in many events over the past several years, his impressive production over the last season was the focal point that helped him establish and prove himself as a legit floor general against the top competition in Europe. Gavalyugov finished as the the top scorer of the 2022 FIBA U16 European Championship (21.1 ppg and 5.1 apg), guiding Bulgaria to fourth place. During the past season he had a great showing playing for the Select team at the Adidas Next Generation Tournament in Zadar (13.8 ppg and 5 apg) which secured him a spot on the team event for the finals in Kaunas.
Thanks to his outstanding performance this season, the 2024 Bulgarian recruit earned an invitation for tryouts from NBA Global Academy a few weeks ago. After a successful showing there, he signed with the academy, becoming the first Bulgarian to play there. He will bring dynamic 3-level scoring to any collegiate program in a combination with great abilities to facilitate on the floor thanks to his solid understanding of the game. If paired with a solid roller at the next stage, he could be an excellent pick-and-roll facilitator.
The American style of the game seems to be a natural fit to him thanks to his great ability to change speeds/directions, make quick reads and advanced creativity off the dribble. Getting stronger body wise and figuring out how to be more effective on defense seems to be his main areas for improvement.
The Bulgarian recruit shared with us his thoughts on his expectations on the upcoming FIBA summer event in Portugal, his long-term goals, players he likes studying, areas for improvement and more. Check out the interview:
Hi Aleks! Hope you and your family are doing well. Can you tell us more about how did you start playing basketball? Who contributed the most for you to make your first steps in the game? Did you play any other sports?
Hello! Everything is going well, thank you! I was literally born with the basketball in my hands. My dad was the person who taught me on the fundamentals. He’s my first coach and he spent a lot of hours with me in the gym. Yes, I practiced tennis when I was 10.
Last summer in Bulgaria, you were one of the top performers at the U16 FIBA European Championship Division B. There you showcased your impressive scoring and passing instincts, finishing as the top scorer of the event. What was your mentality coming into the event and what was the reason for you to have such a successful showing?
My mentality going through this tournament was only to win it all. I don’t care about the individual awards I won. It means nothing to me when we didn’t win it or at least made it to Division A. But that’s a lesson for the future and I’m sure one day I will win a title with the national team of Bulgaria!
Can you take us through your experience, representing the Adidas Next Generation Select team in two different stages (Zadar, Croatia and Kaunas, Lithuania) this season? Which were the valuable things you would take out of that event to get you better on and off the floor going forward?
I was very proud that I was selected for the team in Zadar. It was a dream come true to play in the best U18 tournament in Europe. It was really good experience for me because I had a chance to play against the best prospects and teams in Europe. The valuable things I would take out are to put more work in the weight room and work more on my defense.
Thanks to your outstanding performance all season long, you earned an invitation for tryouts from NBA Global Academy a few weeks ago. After a successful showing there you signed with the academy. What does it mean for you to become the first Bulgarian to represent such a highly-respected academy?
I’m really happy that I signed in such a great academy! I’m going there to represent Bulgarian basketball like I did on ANGT.
Knowing the successful placement of the NBA Global Academy alumni over the years to NCAA schools and NBA teams and your strong showing this season, your recruiting process is expected to see plenty of offers from D1 schools. What do you think you can bring up to the table for a D1 program and what style of basketball you think fits you most?
College basketball is different than European basketball. I need to go there and be ready to play immediately. That’s why I chose NBA Academy. In college basketball I will bring something different like more fundamental game, high IQ and using my head more, so I can be able to beat the athletic Americans one on one or to be able to guard them. I think the American style of game (NCAA and NBA) fits me great because I’m a guy who likes to create for himself and for others and to have freedom on the court.
I’m really close with Ahmaad Rorie and Derrick Marks and we talk very often. They also think that American style will fit me great. Lessons I got from them when we played 1vs1 were to be very, very tough or otherwise Americans will eat me alive over there. They’re like my mentors and they are always trying to help me get better and fulfill my dream of reaching the NBA. I played with the great Bulgarian PG Stanimir Marinov. From him I learned a lot how to use my head in the game and take quick and right decisions on the court. Nikos Diplaros who played in Panathinaikos also helped me a lot because he’s very creative on offense and very aggressive on defense.
What are your expectations and goals for the upcoming summer? Which aspect/s of your game will you be looking to improve the most?
My number one goal for this summer is to win the European Championship Division B with the U18 national team of Bulgaria. After that, I will work more for my body to get stronger and more athletic.
What are your long-term goals, where do you envision yourself playing in 5 years?
Getting drafted and having a role on an NBA team
Are there any players in Europe and in the NBA you like studying/watching and why?
I’m studying from every PG/SG in the Euroleague and NBA because I’m trying to learn something from everyone who plays on the highest level on my position. In Europe I’m watching more from Shane Larkin and Lorenzo Brown because they’re both great scorers and passers. In the NBA I’m watching Steph Curry because I’m trying to have his off-ball game and Trae Young because he’s undersized and not athletic but still can put crazy numbers in the league.
Thanks for your time Aleks! We hope you have a successful and healthy upcoming season!