By Paul Nilsen
|Some young players migth feel intimated when they step up an age category, but Croatia U18 point guard Lana Packovski is definetely not amongst them|
It's been a great summer already for Women's basketball in Croatia and Lana Packovski is hoping it can get even better.
The playmaker heads to the U18 European Championship Division B tournament in Miskolc hoping to propel her team to promotion and build on the accomplishment of her nation unexpectedly booking a spot at the Olympic Qualifying Tournament next summer.
Their extraordinary fifth place finish at EuroBasket Women 2011 has really given rising talents such as Packovski something exciting to aspire to in future years and she was quick to praise the senior players for what they achieved.
"I think they all played great at EuroBasket Women 2011. As for fifth, well this was the best result ever for our National Team. They were all fighting and gave their best. They are happy with the result they achieved and I'm so proud - as are the rest of the girls.
"In fact, had we also been able to play Ana Lelas and especially Andja Jelavić who is our top playmaker, perhaps the result would have been even better!"
Packovski certainly has a keen interest on the point guard spot for the senior team, a position she one day hopes to fill and she is already aware of expectations being place on her young shoulders.
"I really like the game of Anđja Jelavić and even already they are calling me her successor," explains the sixteen year old international.
It's quite a bill to have to live up to, although having helped her team gain promotion from the U16 European Championship Division B during 2009, last year she was the engine for a well running Croatian offense in Division A at the same age category.
Despite playing with a sore knee, she averaged an all-action 10.1 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game. Her leadership was enough to not only take a place in the All-Tournament Team but also inspire her team to a fantastic podium finish.
This year, she is hoping to continue her rich vein of form although she is also looking beyond the tournament in Hungary after playing ten games in the intensely competitive Adriatic League with ZKK Medvescak.
"The last two summers have been very hard with all of the preparation, training, and the tournaments themselves. However, I helped win promotion, collected a silver medal and was declared the best playmaker by making the All-Tournament Team.
"My plans for this summer are to get a little rest and prepare for the U18 European Championship Division B in but also the new season."
Packovski is definitely someone who thinks deeply about her own attributes and her role on the floor while also possessing a real appetite to improve.
"As a player I think I have a pretty good overview of the game. I always try to be unselfish and provide some rhythm and tempo."
"In my head I am always thinking of how I can help my teammates as I love to do this and of course no matter what the result is, I always give my best.
"I think my main strengths are that I am fast, can review of the game and have both an excellent dribble and shot.
"But I think that as long as I play basketball, I can always improve my game and improve myself -this is what is most important."
In addition to learning from Jelavic, one of the best women players of the Croatian National Team, Packovski has other figures she draws inspiration from and isn't afraid to spell out just how high she is determined to go in the game herself.
"I also like the game of Becky Hammon a lot while in terms of male players, I like how Chris Paul plays in the NBA but also Dontaye Draper who plays in Croatia with Cedevita.
"There are my role models but one day I want to be seen and remembered for my own game and achievements in basketball too.
"My aims are to one day play in the most powerful leagues and with the most powerful teams in Europe.
"My dreams are to become a member of a great Euroleague Women club and to play for a top category team so I can help to leave a huge dent in women's basketball.
"I will keep investing a lot of effort in practice. Hopefully one day it will get me results because playing and winning is such a great feeling."
For now though, it's a case of back to the future for the guard who will once again try to gain promotion for her team and then who knows?
Perhaps repeat the pattern at U18 level by following it up with a medal next summer.