Local Hero Mocnik Enjoying The Spotlight

12.07.2007

Slovenian fans giving their national team the extra push at the U20 European Championship Men at Nova Gorica may be cheering just a bit louder for Jan Mocnik.

Not only has the play-maker secured three victories with big free throws down the stretch, but Mocnik is also a local guy flourishing in the international spotlight.

Mocnik's free throws with 10 seconds gave Slovenia an 80-78 win over reigning champions Serbia in their opening game.

A day later, the 20-year-old extended a lead to four points with two free throws with 11 seconds to play, securing Slovenia an 84-78 success of France.
It's a nice feeling with the fans who are really our sixth man on the court



And in Slovenia's last two victories over Lithuania and Turkey, Mocnik has collected 18 points and 10 assists and 12 points and seven assists, respectively. Against the Turks, he also drained four free throws in the final 52 seconds.

Mocnik is slowly gaining a reputation for stepping up big time in clutch situations.

"He took the experience from the first game and turned it into confidence and you see that now. But he is a player who likes to have the ball in his hands at the end of the game," said a Slovenian team official about Mocnik.

The 1.76m guard himself says it's just a matter of hard work - that he really doesn't have ice running through his veins.

"This is because of good preparation - mentally and physically. Of course it's a lot of practice too," Mocnik said.

"I just want to give the team as much as I can. Making big plays is the only way to make success, and this is the plan for the following games too."

He has averaged 13.2 points, 6.8 assists and 1.6 rebounds while making 77 percent of his free throws in Slovenia's first five games of the Championship.

For Mocnik, it's just special performing for the Slovenian fans after four years of being away from the national team, saying: "It's a nice feeling with the fans who are really our sixth man on the court. It's great they're coming out in such big numbers."

And it's all the more meaningful for Mocnik that the games are being played in Nova Gorica since he is from the nearby small village Sempeter Pri Gorici.

"My friends are here, and that is a great feeling and motivates me to play as well as possible.

And they really have a big influence in my success here," added Mocnik, who even plays his club games with second division side Nova Gorica at the OS Milojke Strukelj arena.

But he doesn't yet want to think about leading Slovenia to their third U20 gold medal after titles in 2000 and 2004.

"It would be a really great success for all of us. But we can only go step by step and not think too far," he said.

Mocnik did, however, say he wouldn't mind it at all if his U20 showing helped him land a job with a bigger club.

"My wish is to improve myself and maybe go to a bigger club at the highest level," said Mocnik, who before last season played three years with 1A club Kraski Zidar Sezana - all three campaigns with his 24-year-old brother Rok.

"But I get so much pleasure from basketball and the future will decide itself."

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