The EuroLeague Basketball Adidas Next Generation Tournament has developed into one of the world's most prestigious stops for future stars in basketball. From 2003 onwards, more and more players have used the ANGT to showcase their talents at a young age and gain experience in international club competition. One player who gave fans a taste of his future success in the ANGT is Thomas Heurtel, who played the tournament with U18 Pau-Orthez in 2005.
In those years, there was no qualifying tournament and Pau-Orthez was in a strong group featuring U18 AEK Athens, heavy favorite U18 CSKA Moscow and U18 Fortitudo Bologna. Heurtel made his junior tournament debut against AEK on May 6, 2005. AEK downed Pau-Orthez 63-77 and Heurtel had 2 points in over 10 minutes, hitting his only two-point shot and missing three times from downtown. Huertel and Pau-Orthez returned to action the following day for two games. In the morning showdown, CSKA overwhelmed Pau-Orthez 93-44 and Heurtel was held scoreless in 9 minutes. In the afternoon, Pau-Orthez registered a 99-87 loss against Climamio Bologna and Heurtel had 4 points on 2-of-2 two-point shooting. Heurtel had just turned 16 years old and struggled against older, more physical players.
Heurtel joined Pau-Orthez's first-team roster for the 2007-08 season and a year later, he was already averaging 10.0 points and 6.0 assists in French League action. After a season with Strasbourg, Heurtel moved to Spain and joined Alicante for the 2010-11 campaign. A year later, he made his EuroLeague debut with Caja Laboral Vitoria-Gasteiz and tallied 3.3 points in 10 games. In his four seasons in Vitoria, Heurtel gradually improved his numbers and by the 2014-15 season, he was averaging 12.2 points and 6.7 assists when his team reached an agreement to transfer him to Anadolu Efes Istanbul. He quickly won his first title, the 2015 Turkish Cup, and earned tournament MVP honors. By that time, Heurtel had already developed into an elite pass-first playmaker leading the 2014-15 and 2015-16 EuroLeague seasons in assists at 6.4 and 7.9 per game, respectively.
In the 2016-17 season, his last with Efes, Heurtel earned February MVP honors after averaging 16.7 points and 10.7 assists that month. Heurtel returned to Spain to join FC Barcelona, which he helped win the Spanish Copa del Rey title in 2018 and 2019. He earned tournament MVP honors both years. Heurtel has also been successful with the French national team, winning a gold medal at EuroBasket 2013 and helping Les Blues get a bronze medal at the 2014 World Cup. Heurtel ranks fifth all-time in the EuroLeague in assists with 1,187. He is the youngest player in EuroLeague history to reach 1,000 assists and ranks second in assists average (5.6 apg.) only behind Nick Calathes (6.0 apg.). Heurtel has also amassed 2,161 points in 214 career games (10.1 ppg.). Now 31 years of age, Heurtel is at the prime of his career and in the right environment to challenge for more titles.