EUROBASKET WOMEN 2013
|Snezana Aleksic's role for Montenegro is bound to increase as time is ticking for her teammates. |
By Paul Nilsen
There is arguably no bigger role for any Montenegrin player in the years ahead, than the one which is likely to be thrust upon Snezana Aleksic.
As part of the primary three guard rotation, she is the junior member of the gang with her backcourt colleagues Jelena Skerovic and Anna De Forge having a combined age of 69.
Her more experienced team-mates will once again be absolutely vital in determining whether Montenegro can make the same kind of extraordinary impact as they did on debut two years ago, when they finished in sixth spot.
But, with both players undeniably in the twilight of their respective careers, Aleksic is acutely aware that she is likely to be the one tasked with carrying the torch for her team in the medium term.
The 24-year-old is just thankful that she continues to be able to soak up plenty of tips and learning points from two of the most highly respected guards around.
"They are two great players, from whom I have learned a lot" concurred Aleksic.
"I am giving my best to make progress by practicing and watching them.
"I hope I can do in the future, what they are doing now."
LEARNING FROM EUROBASKET WOMEN DEBUT
The theme of learning is not only strong on an individual basis for the guard, but also in the team context.
Aleksic believes Montenegro can gain strength from their experiences at EuroBasket Women 2011, when they took the competition by storm in the early stages, before eventually running out of steam.
She said, "It was our first time at EuroBasket Women and we went there with a strong will and we started amazingly."
"We didn't have a big rotation and we had to play all of the games with around 7-8 players, so when the important games came, we were tired and I think it may have prevented us from being more successful.
"I think this time, we have to at least try to play with more players which I feel is more of a possibility now.
"Perhaps if we are in a situation where we have already passed to another stage of the tournament, we can give our main players more time to recover which we didn't really do in Poland."
Their success over the last three years in terms of successful qualification campaigns, either side of their terrific work in Katowice, has raised expectation levels - including those of the players themselves.
"I expect us to pass through the group during the opening round" insisted a bullish Aleksic.
"But, we always go step by step and especially since none of the games in the group will be easy - especially against Turkey, who we seem to meet every year at least once."
Montenegro are also scheduled to engage with Slovak Republic and Ukraine in Vannes.
INCREASING POPULARITY BACK HOME
|Jelena Dubljevic an her teammates have put women's basketball on the map in Montenegro|
If they do post another strong tournament, it could also help to further embed women's basketball in the sporting psyche Montenegrins, with Aleksic adamant their displays on their last visit to Eurobasket Women have had a positive impact.
"We don't' have many (active) players in Montenegro, but it's getting better" she insisted.
"Women's basketball is becoming more popular after what we achieved in Poland two years ago."
As for Aleksic and her club basketball, she has enjoyed her time with Dynamo Moscow, who landed the EuroCup Women title and she would love to return to Russia in the future to continue testing her skills at a high level.
She said, " I love both Moscow and Russia of course as a country, as well as the actual basketball league itself."
"It has been great for me playing in one of the strongest leagues for two years and I am really happy about it.
"I hope I will be able to go back next season to somewhere in Russia once again!"
The immediate priority for Aleksic is an opening date with Slovak Republic on Saturday 15 June.