In the last week of July, Montenegro won Division B in Strumica at the U18 European Championship. The young boys coached by Dragan Radovic overcame Poland 64:63 in a thrilling Final and both teams secured Division A promotion for 2014. One of the leaders of the National Team and hero of the Finals was Zoran Nikolic (208-C-96, agency: INVICTUS Sports Group) who was the game MVP with 19 points and 11 rebounds. Eurobasket.com took the opportunity to interview him and ask him to share his impressions with us.
Hello Zoran, congratulations on winning the gold medal at the U18 European B Championship in Strumica (FYR Macedonia). You all must be proud on yourselves after a great achievement. Before the start of European Championship did you hope that a result like this could happen?
Hello, thanks. We hoped that we will go to the finals and we knew that we had the hardest way to A division and after 6 years of failures we had a big burden on our back but we still showed will and motivation for success.
The final game against Poland was very tied and you won 64:63 against undefeated Poland. Whats the secret of this group of players?
Secret of this generation is in our unity, motivation and total devotion to our goal and that was the A division!
Your coach Dragan Radovic is known as a specialist in developing young players. How important for you was to collaborate with him this summer?
Well, it was really great to work with him, because he is committed to every single player in the squad and he gives attention to details to the maximum. He helped in every segment of my game and taught us never to give up!
A year ago your generation won Silver medal at the U16 European B Championships in Bucharest (Romania). It was your first national team experience. How important for you was to make a debut in the youth national teams and would you like to represent Montenegro in the years to follow as a member of U21 National team and hopefully Senior National Team?
It was very important because I had the opportunity to play with other talented players from Europe and it was a great experience; Yes of course I would like to represent my country for as long as possible.
You were born and raised in Niksic. Tell us more about your basketball beginnings. Who persuaded you to practice basketball and what are your memories on your first basketball work outs?
First I started in a small club called BC Anagastum , there my coaches were Peko Visnjic and Jovan Papovic. I played there for five years and then I went to Spain. Well Im coming from basketball family both my parents were amateur players and also my brother played basketball for some time , so basketball is in my blood. My family was my biggest support and they gave me the freedom to decide about my basketball future. I started liking basketball while I was watching my older brother play.
At a very young age you got an offer from Spain and joined Girona, well known basketball club from ACB league, former club of NBA players such as Marc Gasol (216-C-85, agency: Interperformances) , Anthony Peeler (193-G-69, college: Missouri), Predrag Drobnjak (212-F/C-75) etc. How did you decide to go to Spain? What motivated you?
Well I had at that time some other offers from basketball clubs from the region but I wanted to go to Spain because Girona was a former ACB club and had good reputation with some of the best young coaches in Spain. One of the factors that also helped me decide was that a lot of people in the club were from ex-Yugoslavia such as Zan Tabak (agency: INVICTUS Sports Group ) former Nba player and legend of Croatian basketball.
For a young player its always difficult to handle too much pressure and knowing that you were a foreigner also it was probably not that easy to get used to living conditions in a foreign country. Who helped you in adjusting and how did you cope with the language barrier?
I have to mention that probably it is hard for young players who go abroad to get used to the new environment and people but I lived in a family where they helped me a lot in learning Catalan and the Spanish language and their hospitality was beyond a measure. People in Spain are very generous, kind and warm hearted, so I didnt have bigger problems in adjusting. The biggest help in Spain were my Spanish mother Floriana Sanchez known as Tina and my tutor Dejan Kamenjasevic (195-G-76).
Last season you played for Sant Josep Girona senior team in EBA averaging 4.3ppg, 4.2rpg, 1.0spg and also led the junior team in their competition. Are you satisfied with your first professional season? What part of your game you see as the biggest area for individual improvement next year?
Yes Im satisfied but I can always play better and Im always trying to give my best on the court. In next season I will try to enhance my jump shot and my physical abilities.
What are your plans for the future? Are you going to stay with Girona next season?
My plan for the future was always to play in the ACB league! From next season Ill play in the Joventut Badalona club!
Thank you for this interview Zoran. Eurobasket.com wishes you good luck in the upcoming season!
Milko Bjelica selected the top Montenegrin playing abroad in last week's games - 18 hours ago
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Traditionally, every week we bring you a list of the top performances of Montenegrins who are currently playing abroad. This week's number one is an experienced former international power forward Milko Bjelica (207-84, agency: BeoBasket). He led Crvena Zvezda to a victory over the league outsider Spartak in the Serbian KLS in Friday night's game.
Traditionally, every week we bring you a list of the top performances of Montenegrins who are currently playing abroad.
#1. This week's number one is an experienced former international power forward Milko Bjelica (207-84, agency: BeoBasket, currently plays in Serbia). He led Crvena Zvezda to a victory over the league outsider Spartak (0-2) crushing them 89-54 in the Serbian KLS in Friday night's game.
Bjelica was MVP of the game. He recorded 21 points in a mere 18 minutes on the court.
Crvena Zvezda MTS Beograd (2-0) is placed first in the KLS.
But this is still an early stage of the season and everything may happen.
Bjelica has individually a very good year with high stats. He averages: 16.5ppg, 1.5rpg, 2FGP: 84.6%, 3FGP: 66.7% and FT: 71.4% in two games he played so far.
Bjelica has a dual citizenship: Montenegrin and Serbian.
He played for the Montenegrin senior national team three years ago.
#2. Second place goes to former international point guard Tyrese Rice (185-87, college: Boston Coll., currently plays in Spain). Rice was the major contributor in a FC Barcelona's victory against the closely-ranked Unicaja Malaga (18-10) 89-70 in the Spanish Liga Endesa last Sunday.
He scored 17 points and added 3 passes.
FC Barcelona Lassa (19-9) is placed fifth in the Liga Endesa.
There are only four games left until the end of the Regular Season. So now every game will be critical.
It's Rice's first season with the team.
Rice has relatively good stats this year: 12.1ppg, 1.5rpg, 3.4apg, 2FGP: 51.2%, 3FGP: 31.0%.
He is a naturalized American.
Rice played for the Montenegrin national team in 2014.
Strangely he has never played in Montenegro.
#3. The Montenegrin player who performed third best last week abroad was an international forward Marko Todorovic (209-92, currently plays in VTB United League). Todorovic contributed to an easy victory against the sixth-ranked Enisey (13-11) crushing them 104-64 in the VTB United League on Sunday night.
He scored 15 points, had 6 rebounds and made 3 blocks in 23 minutes.
BC Khimki Moscow Region (19-5) is placed third in group A.
There are only three games left until the end of the VTB United League Regular Season. So now every game is very crucial.
This year Todorovic has relatively solid stats: 10.3ppg, 7.0rpg, 1.9apg, 2FGP: 70.5%(93-132) and FT: 56.2% in 23 games.
He is also a member of the Montenegrin senior national team.
#4. Power forward Bojan Dubljevic (205-91, also represented by BeoBasket, currently plays in Spain) contributed to a Valencia Basket's victory against one of league's weakest teams Sevilla (8-20) 90-85 in the Spanish Liga Endesa in Saturday night's game.
Dubljevic scored 7 points and grabbed 7 rebounds.
Valencia Basket (21-7) is placed first in the Liga Endesa.
There are only four games left until the end of the Regular Season. So now every game will be important.
Dubljevic is one of the most experienced players in a team as it's his fourth year in Valencia Basket's roster.
He has reliable stats this season: 12.3ppg, 5.5rpg and 1.9apg.
Dubljevic is also Montenegrin national team player.
#5. International power forward Nemanja Djurisic (203-92, college: Georgia, currently plays in Poland) could not help Stelmet (23-8) in their last game. Despite his very good performance Stelmet lost 85-90 on the road to the lower-ranked (#3) BM Slam Stal.
Djurisic was the top scorer with 18 points in 27 minutes; quite an impressive performance considering it's only his second season in pro basketball. Djurisic's team will play only one more game in the Regular Season. And now that game is quite important.
Djurisic's stats this year are: 11.4ppg and 4.8rpg in 26 games.
He plays currently for the Montenegrin national team.
#6. Swingman Nikola Zizic (197-94, currently plays in Serbia) helped FMP win their game against the closely-ranked Mega Leks (1-1) crushing them 90-70 in the Serbian KLS on Sunday night.
Zizic recorded 13 points and grabbed 4 rebounds.
It was the game of the round between two top 4 ranked teams. FMP Beograd (2-0) is placed second in the KLS.
But the season just started, so everything may happen.
Zizic's overall stats this year are: 9.0ppg, 4.0rpg, 1.5apg and 1.5spg.
He is a former international player as he played for the Montenegrin senior team two years ago.
#7. Former University international center Mihailo Sekulovic (206-91, currently plays in Bulgaria) was not able to help one of league's weakest teams Balkan (14-10) in their last game. Despite Sekulovic's very good performance Balkan was edged 81-79 in Samokov by the higher-ranked (#4) Rilski.
He was the top scorer with 23 points. Sekulovic also added 8 rebounds in 32 minutes.
Sekulovic has very impressive stats this year: 17.1ppg, 9.2rpg and 2.1apg in 25 games.
He used to play for the Montenegrin university national team
two years ago.
#8. Forward Halil Kanacevic (203-91, college: St.Joseph's, currently plays in Israel) was not able to secure a victory for Bnei Hasharon (16-13) in their last game on Thursday. Despite Kanacevic's good performance Bnei Hasharon was defeated 79-71 in Eilat by the leading Hapoel.
He was the second best scorer with 13 points. Kanacevic also added 7 rebounds and 3 blocks.
There are only four games left until the end of the Regular Season.
Kanacevic's overall stats this season are: 7.8ppg, 5.3rpg and 2.7apg.
He is a naturalized American.
Kanacevic used to play for the Montenegrin U20 national team
back in 2011. Apparently he has never played in Montenegro.
#9. Former international power forward Radosav Spasojevic (204-92, another player represented by BeoBasket, currently plays in Serbia) helped Mega Leks edge the closely-ranked Borac (1-1) 77-75 in the Serbian KLS last Wednesday.
He scored 13 points and grabbed 4 rebounds in 29 minutes.
It was the game of the round between two top 4 ranked teams. BC Mega Leks (1-1) is placed fourth in the KLS.
But the season is still in it's first stage and everything can happen.
This year Spasojevic's overall stats are: 8.5ppg and 2.5rpg in two games.
He used to play for the Montenegrin national team
two years ago.
#10. Power forward Vladimir Dragicevic (206-86, currently plays in Poland) is a teammate of previously mentioned Nemanja Djurisic and both played together in the last Polish PLK game.
Dragicevic couldn't help Stelmet (23-8) in their last game on Saturday. Despite his good performance Stelmet was defeated 90-85 in Ostrow Wlkp. by the lower-ranked BM Slam Stal (#3).
Dragicevic scored 10 points.
Dragicevic averaged so far 12.3ppg, 5.9rpg and 1.3apg.
He is a former international player as three years ago he still played for the Montenegrin senior national team.
#11. Former U18 international guard Amin Hott (192-92, currently plays in Bulgaria) is a teammate of previously mentioned Mihailo Sekulovic. But that was another game of his team in Bulgarian NBL which we would like to mention.
Hott helped Balkan win their game against the closely-ranked Beroe 79-64.
He scored 11 points, had 6 rebounds and dished 8 assists in 37 minutes.
Hott averaged so far 11.9ppg, 4.2rpg, 5.6apg and 1.6spg in 25 games.
He used to play for the Montenegrin U18 national team
seven years ago.
#12. Former international point guard Taylor Rochestie (185-85, college: Washington St., currently plays in VTB United League) helped his Russian team Lokomotiv win their game against the 12th-ranked Tsmoki-Minsk 81-72 in the VTB United League last Sunday.
Rochestie scored 8 points and added 4 passes.
Rochestie averaged so far 11.2ppg, 1.8rpg and 4.1apg.
He is a naturalized American.
Rochestie used to play for the Montenegrin national team
back in 2014. Interesting that he has never played in Montenegro.
#13. Former international shooting guard Ivan Jelenic (192-85, currently plays in Serbia) couldn't help Spartak in their game against Dynamic BG in the Serbian KLS, despite his very good performance on Wednesday night.
Jelenic scored 13 points and added 3 passes in 27 minutes.
But his team was badly defeated by 17 points 92-75.
Jelenic averaged so far 11.2ppg, 2.0rpg, 1.7apg and 1.7spg in six games.
He used to play for the Montenegrin national team
five years ago.
#14. Former U21 international point guard Goran Martinic (187-87, currently plays in Romania) couldn't help Targu Mures in their game against CSU Sibiu in the Romanian Liga Nationala. Despite his very good performance in Tuesday night's game Martinic was the top scorer with 25 points. He also added made 3 passes and 3 steals.
This season Martinic has very high stats. He averages: 18.1ppg, 3.0rpg, 7.1apg and 2.1spg.
Martinic used to play for the Montenegrin U21 national team
back in 2007.
#15. International point guard Nikola Ivanovic (190-94, currently plays in Italy) couldn't help Betaland Cdo in their game against Scandone AV in the Italian Serie A, despite his good performance last Sunday.
He recorded 10 points and added 3 passes in 33 minutes.
But his team lost 68-76.
Ivanovic averaged so far 12.1ppg, 2.8rpg and 2.8apg in 13 games.
He is also in the roster of the Montenegrin national team.
The list of other players, who all have Montenegrin passport but never been selected to any of Montenegrin national teams:
#1.Nikola Mirotic (207-F/C-91, currently plays in NBA) could not help the Chicago Bulls (41-41) in their last game. Despite Mirotic's good performance the Chicago Bulls (41-41) lost 95-104 on the road to the Boston Celtics.
He was the second best scorer with 13 points. Mirotic also added 7 rebounds in 34 minutes.
Mirotic averaged so far 10.5ppg, 5.5rpg and 1.1apg in 75 games he played so far.
He has a dual citizenship: Montenegrin and Spanish.
#2.Stevan Milosevic (211-C-85, agency: Interperformances, currently plays in Slovenia) led Un.Olimpija to a 1-point victory against the fourth-ranked Zlatorog (4-5) 88-87 in the Slovenian Liga Nova KBM in Wednesday night's game.
Milosevic scored 14 points and blocked 4 blocks.
Union Olimpija Ljubljana (4-5) is placed third in Places 1-6 group.
His team will play only one more game in the Second Stage.
Milosevic's overall stats this season are: 5.7ppg, 4.1rpg and 1.1apg.
#3.Mensud Julevic (200-PF-85, currently plays in Slovenia) was the major contributor in a Terme Olimia's victory against the fifth-ranked LTH Castings (5-14) crushing them 82-52 in the Slovenian Liga Nova KBM in Wednesday night's game.
Julevic scored 15 points, had 7 rebounds and dished 4 assists in 26 minutes.
Terme Olimia Podcetrtek (10-9) is placed fourth in Places 7-12 group.
His team will play only one more game in the Second Stage.
Julevic averaged so far 11.1ppg, 5.5rpg, 2.5apg and 1.3spg in 31 games.
He is another player who holds two passports: Montenegrin and Slovenian.
Despite Julevic's Montenegrin nationality, he previously played for the Slovenian U21 national team and is probably not eligible to play for the Montenegrin team.
#4.Nikola Dragovic (206-F-87, agency: BeoBasket, college: UCLA, currently plays in France) managed to help ASVEL Lyon-Villeurbanne Basket to win against the league outsider Sluc Nancy (7-22) 85-77 in the French ProA in Tuesday night's game.
Dragovic scored 5 points.
ASVEL Lyon-Villeurbanne Basket (15-14) is placed ninth in the ProA.
Dragovic's total stats this season are: 7.9ppg, 4.3rpg and 1.1apg.
He has both Serbian and Montenegrin nationalities.
#5. Experienced Boris Lalovic (207-C-81, currently plays in Romania) led CSU Sibiu to a 2-point victory against the leader Targu Mures (12-12) 89-87 in the Romanian Liga Nationala last Thursday.
Lalovic scored 13 points and grabbed 8 rebounds (went 8 for 8 at the free throw line).
It was the game of the round between two top 3 ranked teams in group Places 1-6. CSU Atlassib Sibiu (18-10) is placed second.
Lalovic averaged so far 10.6ppg, 3.6rpg and 1.3apg.
#6.Nemanja Calasan (204-C-85, agency: HMS, college: Purdue, currently plays in Switzerland) led Boncourt to a victory over the fourth-ranked Massagno 90-75 in the Swiss LNA on Saturday night.
He was the best player in that game. Calasan recorded a double-double by scoring 17 points and getting 18 rebounds. He also added 3 assists.
Calasan averaged so far 13.4ppg, 12.5rpg and 2.0apg.
He also holds two passports: Serbian and Montenegrin.
#7.Vladimir Tomasevic (201-F-92, currently plays in Spain) was not able to help Gandia (8-22) in their last game on Saturday. Despite Tomasevic's very good performance the bottom-ranked Gandia was crushed 82-59 in Amorebieta-Echano by the much higher-ranked Zornotza (#6).
He was the top scorer with 22 points. Tomasevic also added 7 rebounds (went 5 for 5 at the free throw line).
Tomasevic averaged so far 10.7ppg and 4.3rpg.
#8.Brion Rush (186-PG-84, agency: Three Eye Sports, college: Grambling St., currently plays in France) faced previously mentioned Nikola Dragovic in the French ProA last game.
Rush was not able to secure a victory for Sluc Nancy in their game against ASVEL Lyon-Villeurbanne Basket.
He scored 5 points.
His team was defeated 85-77.
Rush has individually a very good season with high stats. He averages: 15.3ppg, 3.3rpg and 3.9apg.
Rush is a naturalized American.
He used to play for KK Sutjeska Niksic in Montenegrin league.
#9.Mikaile Tmusic (188-G-93, currently plays in Kosovo) contributed to Bashkimi's victory against the closely-ranked Peja 92-81 in the Kosovan SuperLeague on Wednesday night.
Tmusic recorded 8 points and grabbed 4 rebounds in only 14 minutes.
This year Tmusic's total stats are: 9.1ppg, 3.6rpg, 2.8apg and 1.2spg in 24 games.
He has Montenegrin and Kosovan nationalities.
#10.Nikola Rakocevic (191-G-91, agency: Dynamics Global Management, currently plays in Spain) couldn't help Caceres Basket (13-20) in their last game on Friday. Despite Rakocevic's good performance Caceres Basket was defeated 79-71 on the opponent's court by the higher-ranked Burgos (#10).
He scored 10 points and added 4 assists.
This season Rakocevic has very high stats. He averages: 15.1ppg, 2.2rpg and 2.0apg.
Everybody expected an interesting series between two old rivals and here it is. Buducnost and Mornar are tied at 1-1 after the last night's win of Mornar in Bar (73-62). Mornar started the game great and the result after first quarter says it all (21-8). Buducnost cut the deficit in the second quarter but Mornar still had the lead and kept it until the end without struggling to much against the powerhouse from Podgorica. Antabia Waller (191-G-88, college: Auburn) had a great shooting nigh... [read more]
Everybody expected an interesting series between two old rivals and here it is. Buducnost and Mornar are tied at 1-1 after the last night's win of Mornar in Bar (73-62). Mornar started the game great and the result after first quarter says it all (21-8). Buducnost cut the deficit in the second quarter but Mornar still had the lead and kept it until the end without struggling to much against the powerhouse from Podgorica. Antabia Waller (191-G-88, college: Auburn) had a great shooting night and scored 22 points for the winners. He was followed by his fellow Americans- Octavius Ellis (208-C-93, college: Cincinnati) and Lamont Jones (183-PG-90, college: Iona, agency: Stanislav Ryzhov) who scored 16 points each. On the other side only J.R. Reynolds (188-G-84, college: Virginia, agency: Inception Sports), who scored 13 points, played according to his standards. Other Buducnost players will need to play much better in the next game on Thursday in Podgorica if they want to keep the title at home.
The finals have started in Montenegro and its already 1-0 for Buducnost. Tonight the team from Podgorica played much better than in the semifinals and got a deserved win (78-64). The game did not start easy for Buducnost as Mornar had the lead in first quarter but Buducnost stayed close and by halftime increased the lead to +5. The third quarter was decisive and Buducnost got a double digit lead. However, in last quarter Mornar bounced back and made the game close again but due to foul tr... [read more]
The finals have started in Montenegro and its already 1-0 for Buducnost. Tonight the team from Podgorica played much better than in the semifinals and got a deserved win (78-64). The game did not start easy for Buducnost as Mornar had the lead in first quarter but Buducnost stayed close and by halftime increased the lead to +5. The third quarter was decisive and Buducnost got a double digit lead. However, in last quarter Mornar bounced back and made the game close again but due to foul trouble was not able to take back the lead. The final score is not a good indication of what happened tonight in Podgorica but in any case better team won. Experienced foriegners Nemanja Gordic (193-PG-88) (14 points) and Boris Savovic (208-F-87, agency: BeoBasket) (13 points) led the home team to the opening win. On the other side Lamont Jones (183-PG-90, college: Iona, agency: Stanislav Ryzhov), who scored 20 points, was the only one to score in double digits.
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