by Jeff Taylor
If Montenegro found it relatively easy to win promotion to EuroBasket Division A at the first attempt, chances are they are going to find the going much tougher to reach next year's Final Round in Lithuania.
As draws for qualifying campaigns go, they and four other teams received something that is akin to a kick in the teeth.
The reward for reaching Division A was a 'group of death' campaign against Italy, Latvia, Israel and Finland.
"We got the toughest group by far," said Montenegro's naturalized point guard from America, Omar Cook, to Basketball World News.
"I think Italy have three NBA players, Israel have an NBA player, but I think we'll be ready.
"For me, I'm playing in the ACB so I want as tough a competition as possible. I didn't want this tough a group, but I think we'll be ready."
Though Italy will be missing one of their NBA trio in Danilo Gallinari, they will have Toronto Raptors duo Andrea Bargnani and Marco Belinelli, while the Israelis will boast Omri Casspi.
Israel and Latvia played at last year's EuroBasket in Poland while Finland and Italy reached the Additional Qualifying Round.
Montenegro are well equipped to face all four of those teams, as their unbeaten run in Division B suggests.
"We have a great team, a great coach (Dusko Vujosevic)," Cook said.
"With maybe his worst (Partizan Belgrade) team in four years, he went to the (2010 Euroleague) Final Four.
"We have the best big man in Europe, Nikola Pekovic. We have me and a lot of great role players that play hard."
Vujosevic was so prolific in Serbia that CSKA Moscow decided to appoint him coach this summer.
Cook played in the ACB with Unicaja Malaga the past two seasons and joined Power Electronics Valencia this summer.
He used to play in the Adriatic League, though, and remembers facing Vujosevic's Partizan teams.
"The year before I got there, he had maybe a good team but then my first year, he had his best team with Pekovic, (Milt) Palacio and (Dusan) Kecman," Cook said.
"The next year, he lost three players and they got to the Final Eight and he lost three players again and he got to the Final Four.
"He's a great coach."
So what is that allows Vujosevic teams to get stronger every year, despite the loss of key players?
"He pays attention to detail, his scouting reports are great," Cook said. "He knows who to go at on offense and he knows how to play defense.
"Our (Montenegro) scouting is incredible. We have amazing scouting and we play hard."