Dedovic, A Young Nation’s Young Star

16.06.2011

Destination Lithuania

Mark Woods

Every week, fibaeurope.com collaborator Mark Woods talks to players with a single travel destination in mind this summer, Lithuania.

Next in the series is Nihad Dedovic, Bosnia and Herzegovina's 21-year-old guard/forward.

Mark Woods writes on basketball for a number of British newspapers as well as broadcasting for the BBC and Sky Sports. He is also assistant editor of mvp247.com and can be found on Twitter @markbritball.


Nihad Đedović is too young to remember much about the war. Through the eyes of a young boy, he could hear the tumult all around as Bosnia and Herzegovina walked along the bloody path towards independence.

Aged just five when peace was declared, he grew up as a witness to the bullet holes and the destruction left behind. A new country forging an identity of its own still bore the scars of history.

Sport, internationally, is just one way that a new nation can express itself on the world stage.

However, while the Bosnians had contributed to the once mighty Yugoslavia, basketball here had sustained its own deep wounds amid the conflict.

14. Nihad Dedovic (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
Nihad Dedovic made his debut with the senior Bosnia and Herzegovina national team in 2007, when he was just 17 years old

"I started to play two years after the war in 1997," Đedović recalls.

"It was really tough because you didn't have a lot of basketball courts. It's changed a bit now. Then it was difficult. It's growing now step by step but it's still really slow.

"You have a lot of good players but first of all, they don't have enough gyms and facilities. It's the same in Serbia and Croatia. But I think Bosnia and Herzegovina is behind them. It's sad that we have talent but it doesn't get the opportunity to show what it can do."

Featuring in the EuroBasket finals this summer for the first time since 2005 will provide a platform to exhibit the country's youthful talents. Đedović, who plays for Lottomatica Roma, is their most promising hope, a shooting guard who was lured to FC Barcelona at the age of 17 before switching to Italy last summer.

A professional career was an escape route out, a means to forge a better life, the 21-year-old admits. Nothing came easy in the new Bosnia and Herzegovina. It was neither a place where scouts arrived with cheque books in hand nor a country which could afford to shower its best prospects with luxuries.

"It made me more determined," he confirms.

"I remember when I was practicing 3 or 4 times a day and going to school. It was tough. I was lucky. I was playing in the U16 European Championship Division B when people saw me. That opened doors. Otherwise, I might not have been found because the Bosnian League wasn't playing in European competition."

Đedović made his debut for Bosna in the Adriatic League when he was only 15. He was a quick learner. It helped, he says, that he got that exposure so early in his career. He was a natural shooter. Still is. Bit by bit, he has added extra tricks to his repertoire.

"I know I have to work a lot to reach my goals. This season was excellent for me. I took steps forward. I had an excellent opportunity here in Rome."

11. Ratko Varda (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
At 32, center Ratko Varda was the oldest player on the Bosnia and Herzegovina roster during their Qualifying Round campaign last summer

He will stay in Italy next season, having decided to withdraw as an early entry candidate for the NBA Draft. There is unfinished business in Rome.

"After that, I'll look toward the NBA," he declares. First on his task list is helping Bosnia to make its European breakthrough in Lithuania.

Only in its debut year, in 1993, did the country reach the top eight. In five straight tournaments, they finished fifteenth. In the last two, they failed even to qualify.

Even for 2011, they arrived through the back door. No matter, Đedović states. The opportunity has been presented. It is time to take advantage.

Only Henry Domercant, the American-born guard, remains from the class of 2005. Bosnian coach Sabit Hadžić has placed his trust firmly in the next generation, drawn from clubs across Europe.

"We've now made a break from the older players to the young ones," Đedović acknowledges.

"Almost 60 per cent of team is younger. We have experienced guys like Mirza Teletović, Ratko Varda, Kenan Bajramović, four or five players who can help us along. But in the future, I think we will have a great team."

Bosnia and Herzegovina will not be facing strangers in the first round in Alytus. The draw placed them with Greece as well as Croatia, Montenegro and FYR of Macedonia. It adds to the excitement, Đedović affirms.

"We were all in the same country (with the last three). Now we're each alone. There's a rivalry there, not just in basketball but in every sport. We don't hate them - it's just sport."

Hadžić will have his strongest line-up available, with Caja Laboral forward Mirza Teletović free of injury and Goran Ikonic coming off a MVP showing in the EuroChallenge Final Four. Eager to impress, there will be no going easy on their neighbours.

"We have a tough group, especially with Greece and Croatia," Đedović states.

"Montenegro have a great team with possibly the most depth at centre in Europe. FYR of Macedonia has Bo McCalebb. We'll have a qualifier.

"Every game will be important, especially our opener against Greece. I think that we can advance past the first group stage but we have to be focused and give everything for 40 minutes."

Progress would bring the chance to create a new history. For Bosnia's children of war, it is time once again to make noise.


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