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Underdogs Hemofarm Await Kazan

26 February 2004

Indianapolis was the venue for FIBA's 2002 World Championships but the centre of the basketball universe, it can be argued, is Serbia & Montenegro.

In fact, what's there to argue? Yugoslavia won the 1997 European title and also claimed back-to-back world crowns - the last coming on American soil when they defeated a USA team consisting of NBA players in the quarters.

And Serbia & Montengro, repeatedly, produces some of the best players in the world.

Now starring in the NBA, for example, are Sacramento Kings Peja Stojakovic and Vlade Divac.

At club level, Hemofarm is doing the country no harm in the prestige stakes.

The Vrsac-based club met one of their pre-season aims by reaching the sweet 16 of the FIBA Europe League and then swept past German high-fliers Bamberg to make it to the quarter-finals.

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Vrsac will face Stombergas in the next round
Now comes the daunting task of a last eight tie with  Russian juggernauts UNICS Kazan, one of the best sides in Europe. Vladimir Tica, one of the Hemofarm stars, says that he and his team-mates will be the underdogs when the two sides meet on March 2.

"UNICS are one of the best teams in the FIBA Europe League," he said on the club's website. "They are favourites definitely. They have many Russian and Latvian national players but we won't give up."

In fact, UNICS have two extremely good Lithuanian players: recently crowned European Champions Saulius Stombergas and Eurelijus Zukauskas.

Estonian Martin Muursepp, Australian international Chris Anstey and Lamarr Greer add even more punch.

"We'll try to surprise them in the first match so we could have chance to go to the final four," Tica said.

Hemofarm made it to the FIBA Europe Champions Cup final four last year but they are best known for having been the team Darko Milicic, the number two pick in the 2003 NBA Draft by Detroit, played for.

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Darko Milicic

All is well on the domestic front, too. Hemofarm currently top the YUBA League standings with Partizan Belgrade. Both sides have prevailed in 16 of their 18 games so far this season.

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