It’s not easy to look for a star among so many talented players in Croatia’s roster. But Nikola Vujcic, Maccabi’s big man, has it all: the body, the skills and the rings. The Croatian team lacks the latter, and Vujcic can lead them to the podium, after a ten year drought.
Nikola Vujcic is not your typical star. Being a celebrity is his biggest nightmare. His situation is currently such that he can hardly get out of his Tel Aviv home without being "harassed" by fans looking for an autograph or a chat. That is the reason why Nikola is the happiest when fishing on his boat outside his home town, Split.
In his own words, fishing this summer has been good. So was fishing for trophies last season. Vujcic conquered Europe once again with Maccabi, as well as the Israeli championship. Ever since, it has been a mad house in Tel Aviv and Vujcic has fled to the Adriatic coast to enjoy the summer with his family. "I'm able to walk the streets with my family again and no one recognizes me. Nevertheless, my newfound peace was disturbed once, when I stumbled onto a high school excursion from Israel..."
No wonder Nikola is so popular. His career in Maccabi has been stellar. After he was loaned for one season to Asvel Villeurbanne, he won the French championship in 2002. The next three seasons, he moved on to clinch consecutive Israeli national titles. As icing on the cake came two Euroleague titles in 2004 and 2005. Vujcic is one of the best players in a rock solid Maccabi team loaded with talent. With his rebounding and offensive finesse, he has established himself as one of the top big men in Europe. From the very beginning of his career in Croatia, the promising 210 cm power forward aimed at the stars, excelling in various Croatian young selections and dominating international competition from a young age.
Today he enjoys star status on Europe's best team, although, as he says, he privately hates publicity. "I am an ordinary guy" Nikola says. "If the tabloids followed my private life, they would soon go broke." But the period that awaits Nikola and his friends from the Croatian national team shall certainly be everything but boring. In his own words, Croatian basketball has been living a nightmare for ten years and in Belgrade it will have the opportunity to wake up and rise from the ashes. "We have to end this nightmare. I dream of listening to the Croatian national anthem on the podium in Belgrade, even if this was to be with booing in the background."
Vujcic knows that his team will face a hostile atmosphere should they make the quarter finals in the Serbian capital. But his job will be to lead it when push comes to shove: that is why on the eve of the championship he was appointed the team captain. And as such, he is by no means modest. Asked what his goal at EuroBasket was, he says: "The gold, why not?”