|14 January 2013|
|Aleksandar Vezenkov was Bulgaria's top scorer and top rebounder at last summer's U18 European Championship |
The summer of 2012 was a very hectic time for Bulgaria's Aleksandar Vezenkov and, if all goes well, the 17-year-old can forget about holiday altogether this year.
In July, he joined the big boys and helped the U20 national team clinch promotion to Division A, by contributing 5.7 points and 4.7 rebounds per contest as one of the youngest players in the U20 European Championship Division B tournament.
In August, Dario Saric and Croatia dominated headlines at the U18 European Championship, but still the Bulgarian forward earned himself a big spot in the limelight.
Vezenkov impressed with his well-rounded performances and averaged 16.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game to lead the Balkan side into the quarter-finals.
Bulgaria fell 88-79 to eventual bronze medallists Serbia and finished in eighth place in the tournament, but they left satisfied that, in Vezenkov, they have found the young star they needed to lead the national team in the not so remote future.
One would expect that the youngster would be looking forward to some leisure time in 2013, but he wants more of the same - and more.
Bulgaria's senior national team will take on Romania and Iceland in Group A of the EuroBasket 2015 1st Qualification Round and the coaching staff have indicated Vezenkov might take part in their campaign.
"Playing for your country is an honour," was the 17-year-old's reaction when viasport.bg put it to him that he may be called upon by the senior team.
"I love Bulgaria and the very fact that the national team coach thinks to call me to join the men's side makes me feel great.
"This inspires me to work harder and I want to justify their trust.
"If I get this chance I'll try to take it and I will give everything to be ready for the challenge."
Vezenkov, whom the Viasport website have named amongst the top 10 young Bulgarian sportsmen, moved to Greece at an early age to join historical club Aris Thessaloniki.
He made his debut with the senior team last year and has featured in six games this season, averaging 1.3 points and 1.5 rebounds in an OPAP A1 league that is dominated by seasoned veterans.
"I feel that playing alongside seniors is very positive," he said.
"The competition is very serious and you need to prove yourself every day to fight their way to the team and get playing time."
|Aleksandar Vezenkov and Bulgaria are eager to prove they belong in Division A |
Despite having to fight for every second of action on the court, or perhaps because of that, Vezenkov does not lose focus on the rest of the tournaments that will take up his summer when he reports for national duty.
"This generation (in the U18 age group) is a two-time champion in Division B and it's time to show this quality at the elite level.
"If I am called upon (to play at the U20 European Championship) it will be the first time at this level (Division A) and it will be an honour and I will give everything.
"Teams in Division A are very good, they are almost men and we will have to work very hard to be successful, but it is possible."
Vezenkov and Bulgaria will certainly look to make a good impression upon their return to the top flight in the U20 age group, but they also have to consolidate themselves in their second consecutive year at the U18 European Championship Division A.
"[In the U18] We might not have the individual qualities of last year's team, meaning not the same players as individuals," the youngster said.
"But our team spirit can give us a chance for a good performance and help forget for good the relegation in 2010."