FIBA BASKETBALL WORLD CUP
|Jaka Lakovic has confirmed that EuroBasket 2013 on home soil was his last stint in a Slovenian national team jersey|
Slovenian veteran Jaka Lakovic confirmed on Wednesday that his decision to retire from national team duty is now final, despite having contemplated a potential return during the past months.
The 35-year-old player had initially announced his retirement from international basketball at Stozice Arena in Ljubljana last September, following Slovenia's 69-63 win over Ukraine in the game for fifth place at EuroBasket 2013.
The heartfelt announcement of the diminutive combo guard, who stood in the middle of the court with all his team-mates surrounding him, provoked a long, standing ovation by the sell-out crowd in the stands, with several fans breaking to tears.
"I had thought about it long and hard both before and during EuroBasket 2013 but because of my enormous desire to play for the national team, I thought I would wait a little longer before making a definitive decision," Lakovic said in a statement the Slovenian Federation (KZS) issued on Wednesday.
"After considering things carefully and looking back at the whole season (with Italian club Avellino), I came to the realisation that my body is no longer so young and needs more time in the summer to regenerate and prepare for the new club season.
"That is why I have decided definitely that EuroBasket 2013 was my last tournament with the national team."
Lakovic's first major tournament with the senior national team was EuroBasket 2001 and he suited up for Slovenia uninterruptedly every summer up until last September's big event on home soil.
During this 13-year long period, he represented his country in seven consecutive EuroBasket tournaments and two World Championships (2006 and 2010).
At club level, he has to date won a Euroleague crown with FC Barcelona as well as two Spanish ACB titles with the Catalan giants and four Greek league trophies with Panathinaikos.
"I think that my international career ended in the best possible way, on our home court," Lakovic said.
"My heart has always been and always will be with the Slovenian national team and its fans, who will forever remain an exceptional memory in my mind.
"I hope that my place in the national team will be filled by young players who will have the same respect for the Slovenian jersey as I had all these years."
Lakovic helped Slovenia reach the semi-finals of EuroBasket 2009, but they fell to Greece in the battle for the bronze medal.
The coach of that Slovenian side was Jure Zdovc, who returned to the helm earlier this year and, in addition to Lakovic, one of their key players was Bostjan Nachbar.
A few weeks after EuroBasket 2013, Nachbar, who turns 34 in July, took to social network twitter and followed suit by announcing that his days of playing for the national team had also come to an end.
|Goran Dragic has confirmed his commitment for this summer's World Cup|
Zdovc will have to steer the national team into this summer's FIBA Basketball World Cup 2014 in Spain without the two veterans, but not all is bad news for the Slovenia and Royal Hali Gaziantep head coach.
Star point guard Goran Dragic, who had initially cast doubts on his participation at the World Cup, confirmed earlier this week that he will suit up for Slovenia this summer, for an eighth year in a row.
"After a month of rest, I feel a strong desire to compete and also my (previously injured) ankle is much better," Dragic, who was named Most Improved Player in the NBA this season, said.
"I will probably not follow the team to the warm-up tournament in China, but otherwise I'm preparing to be there on 16 July, on the first day of training camp, together with my team-mates," the Phoenix Suns playmaker added.
"And If I'm going to give up my family for two months, I certainly don't want to go the World Cup for a holiday, I want to win every game and we have a good, young team that can set ambitious targets."
Slovenia were drawn in first round Group D at the upcoming World Cup, together with Angola, Australia, Korea, Mexico and EuroBasket silver medallists Lithuania.