BASKETBALL IN EUROPE
|Sani Becirovic has been impressed by the flow-on effects of his native country hosting EuroBasket 2013, with a notable rise in the number of youth taking up the game|
Veteran guard Sani Becirovic was away from his native Slovenia during EuroBasket 2013 but has noticed the tournament's beneficial effect on young people in the country upon his return.
The 32-year-old Becirovic, a former linchpin of the Slovenian national team, was playing at the time in Iran and is very pleased with the change he's witnessed after coming back in December to join EuroChallenge club Krka Novo Mesto.
"I think that EuroBasket has been fundamental for Slovenia," Becirovic told Italian radio web station radiobasket.net on Tuesday night.
The veteran's statement came in the wake of Krka's loss at Grissin Bon Reggio Emilia in the EuroChallenge Last 16, which did not however mire his positive view on the legacy EuroBasket left in the country.
"During the last years, basketball in Slovenia had been in a relative drop, as we had not produced so many players at the highest level, except [Goran] Dragic who is really doing very well," Becirovic explained.
"But thanks to EuroBasket, Slovenia focused on basketball once again.
"Our youngsters have again found the desire to take a basketball in their hands and start playing the game."
Becirovic is one of four players over 30 at Krka, as the average age of the Slovenian champions' roster is 25.
He spent a good part of his career in Italy and remains a perfect connoisseur of basketball in the country, so the natural follow-up question was whether Slovenian young players are getting more opportunities than their counterparts in Italy.
"Yes and no," Becirovic said.
"It used to be like this, but now I think that things in Italy are changing.
"[EA7 Emporio Armani] Milano for example has a lot of young talents like [Alessandro] Gentile and [Nicoló] Melli, there are [Andrea] De Nicolao and [Achille] Pollonara at Varese, so there are plenty of young players getting big minutes in top teams and that is great for Italian basketball."
|Becirovic mentions Nicolò Melli as a great example of the up-and-coming talent in Italy|
Reggio Emilia head coach Massimiliano Menetti however insisted that Italian young players do not have it as easy.
"It's enough to have a look at the number of foreign players they [Krka] have on the roster and how many we have," Menetti said.
"It's a totally different school of thought, where young players not only get to play sooner but are also ready to play sooner, they are used to that since the beginning.
"Our way of conducting the youth teams, the investment on youth teams from clubs is now almost non-existent in Italy.
"They [in Slovenia] know that in order to continue operating, they need to base their structure around young talent."
Krka's 22-year-old Edo Muric did not have his best game on Tuesday, but Menetti is aware of the small forward's potential thanks to the break-out displays he had with Slovenia at the EuroBasket.
"Muric is an example," the Italian coach said.
"He is a player that Novo Mesto could very well sell to a Euroleague team next season and receive a buy-out fee which they can invest on other young players and continue to develop talent.
"Their system is a virtuous one."