Cvetkovic Plays Above His Age

17.08.2008

The beauty of the U16 European Championship is to see young kids act as seniors and show how they can take over a game with talent and leadership.

In the vast majority of the cases the young kids are in the maximum age of the competition - 16, but rarely, like in the case of Serbia's Aleksnader Cvetkovic, these future stars are even younger.

In less than a month he'll celebrate his 15th birthday, which makes him still 14 on the 17th of August - the day he showed basketball world what he can do.

Cvetkovic led Serbia to a key win over Greece in a close game, after chasing their opponent for almost 40 minutes.

In the first two games in the competition he hardly played.

A few seconds against Italy and four against Czech Republic.

Today he shined with 24 minutes, 13 points on 66% shooting from the field, four rebounds, a single turnover and the two free throws that sealed the win in the closing seconds.

Despite his height (180cm) and still weak body, he managed to be one of the main reasons Serbia won 77-73 and earned the second spot in Group A.

But it's not only the raw talent that made a difference today.

Cvetkovic showed a couple of things you just can not teach - leadership, charisma and character.

When nobody in Serbia showed up in the first half he held his team in the game to enter the break tied at 40-40.

When Greece took a nine point lead with seven minutes on the clock his coach sent him back on court and from then on Serbia was a totally different team.

If some people were surprised by his performance for at least one person it came as a natural thing.

Mirko Pavlovic, who is here with the Serbian team for the third summer in a row, is also responsible on the youth teams in Red Star Belgrade, where Cvetkovic is playing.

"He's actually used to play against older players," tells Pavlovic in a special interview with fibaeurope.com.

"Aleksander is playing in Red Star with 1992 born kids and we saw he's mature enough to handle that.

"We don't look at the official age. He proved he has the mental strength to challenge older players and for us it was enough."

The near future, after the championship, might face Cvektovic with a bigger challenge, as Pavlovic says he might be promoted to play in the senior farm team of the club, where the players are even 5-6 years older than him.

Today he showed that's challenge is manageable.

"He started to play in Partizan, but we noticed there's something special about him already when he was 11 and we moved him to our club," he shares.

"Since then we saw his progress step by step and believe he can have a bright future," comments Pavlovic before adding.

"Today, everywhere in the world of basketball, people look for top point guards. It's not easy to find players like that who can lead the team."

And Cvetkovic? Outside the court he doesn't look like someone who just led a Serbian national team to a big win in a European Championship.

Still with a baby-face and the next-door-neighbor look he explains in simple words what happened today.

"Somehow when we were down by nine in the last quarter we stopped thinking and started playing, and once we did that we took over the game."

His own experience didn't get to his head when he shared "I just went out there and played my game. That's what coach asked me to do.

"It's not the first time I compete with older players, so I felt comfortable about it and just went out there to do what I need to do."

Off court he's as he is on the court - straight and simple.


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