Mensur Bajramovic is relishing the opportunity to coach Bosnia-Herzegovina at the EuroBasket in Serbia & Montenegro.
His expectations are tempered by the fact there are so many good teams in the competition, but he likes the make-up of team with the start of the tournament quickly approaching.
An assistant to coach Drasko Prodanovic on Bosnia-Herzegovina's last two EuroBasket teams, Bajramovic use to be a national team player, too.
He spoke to PA Sport on behalf of FIBA Europe.
FIBA Europe: "Are you looking forward to the EuroBasket?"
Bajramovic: "I cannot wait. I have been head coach of the national team since the qualifying games and I am very proud to be guiding Bosnia at the EuroBasket. I love this job, I wouldn't change it for anything else in the world."
FIBA Europe: "Does this feel like a second chance for you since you missed out on playing in the EuroBasket?"
Bajramovic: "Well, I had a chance to play in the 1993 European Championships but for bureaucratic reasons it was not possible. I was playing abroad at the time and there were problems with paperwork."
FIBA Europe: "The tournament in Serbia & Montenegro will be Bosnia-Herzegovina's fifth consecutive appearance in the EuroBasket finals. That is the definition of consistency."
Bajramovic: "Basketball in Bosnia has had a long tradition since we were part of the former Yugoslavia. We have continued with this tradition after the war and our success is very important for our country. Our football and handball teams have failed to qualify for the European Championship finals so it's a big achievement for us and for our nation to have qualified."
FIBA Europe: "Bosnia-Herzegovina lost all their games at EuroBasket 2003 in Sweden. Do you believe your team can do better than in previous tournaments?"
Bajramovic: "We have a better team than we did back in 2003. We didn't have much luck in Sweden but I certainly hope that we can improve and qualify for the second round. We have made some changes to the team, with the retirements of Nenad Markovic, Haris Mujezinovic and Terrel Ray Castle forcing us to bring a new generation. I think we have the right mix of young players that want to prove their worth and experienced players like Damir Mrsic."
FIBA Europe: "Do you believe you are in the most difficult group, with Bosnia-Herzegovina paired in Group C against France, Slovenia and Greece?"
Bajramovic: "This EuroBasket is going to be the best that we have had in the past 10 years. There are 10 or 12 teams that can compete for the medals and among those are our group rivals. My team doesn't have stars, unlike France that have Tony Parker, Slovenia's Sani Becirovic or Greece's (Theodoros) Papaloukas but the important thing is that we have a team. Our biggest weapon is team chemistry. My players expect very hard games against these
three teams but we will not go to the court thinking that those games are already lost. We aim to win every game. We have a good atmosphere in the team and a good vision that we have the quality to go through to the second round."
FIBA Europe: "Do you feel other teams will resent the fact that Bosnia have incorporated American-born Henry Domercant in the EuroBasket squad?"
Bajramovic: "I don't believe so. We had an American, Terrel Ray Castle playing with us in the 2003 EuroBasket but he recently retired at the age of 34. We have problems on position two and considering that Domercant was the best player in that position in the Euroleague, we offered him an invitation and we are very happy that he accepted. He had no problems adapting to the national team, his team-mates have accepted him because he is a nice guy, a
good player and he has experience having played in Europe with Efes Pilsen.
He is very happy to play with us and to be able to play at the EuroBasket so it works both ways, he helps us and we help him."
FIBA Europe: "Will it be difficult to replace Haris Mujezinovic and Damir Kruplaja, who are not in the squad, and what do their absences mean for Bosnia's chances?"
Bajramovic: "Haris had a difficult season because he was out injured and wanted to have a rest while Kruplaja feels bad that he cannot play with us due to injury. However, we have young interesting boys like Kenan Bajramovic and Mirza Teletovic who will come in for them. My young players need experience and the EuroBasket is a big opportunity for them to develop and
to allow us to make the team for the next qualification. This our aim as well as qualifying for the second round."
FIBA Europe: "How important is Damir Mrsic for the national team?"
Bajramovic: "Damir has a lot of experience. We don't have a better point guard than him, and he is great. He is consistent during training, games and he has earned the trust of all his team-mates."
FIBA Europe: "Have the absences of Mujezinovic and Kruplaja given captain Jasmin Hukic more pressure to carry the team on his back in the EuroBasket?"
Bajramovic: "We have good chemistry in this team and we don't think about the players who are not with us. Hukic is our captain and he has a lot of experience which is good as it brings the right balance in our young squad."
FIBA Europe: "Are you looking forward to facing your neighbours Slovenia in the first game of the EuroBasket?"
Bajramovic: "It's funny, in Sweden we were paired with Slovenia, too. They are a team that we know well and I think they will be the big surprise at the EuroBasket. They have a strong group, with four NBA players, they have a great coach and I think they can play for the medals. For us, it doesn't have a special significance to play against them although it would be nice
to beat them."
FIBA Europe: "Do you feel that Bosnian basketball has improved over the years?"
Bajramovic: "We have economic problems in our country and it's not getting any better. Of course, this situation affects basketball clubs as they cannot work normally and this pushes our younger players to go elsewhere.
Although many of our players go abroad they always return to play for the national team and this is very important."