EUROBASKET WOMEN 2013
|Jelena Dubljevic (right) has a new lease on life after being cleared of any serious damage to her back|
By Paul Nilsen
Fully recovered from the injury problems which affected her last season, Montenegro star Jelena Dubljevic has put her team on her back and carried them into Round 2 of EuroBasket Women 2013.
Having recovered from back spasms which meant a stop-start club season at ZVVZ USK Prague in EuroLeague Women, she could not have done anything more in Vannes to show her spine can take the strain, with a string of magical performances.
She has not only produced some stunning numbers, but is playing with a broad smile on her face and flourishing in the freedom she claims is derived from a change in mentality.
"I had some problems with my back when I was younger and when I got the injury last season, I admit that it scared me a lot," said the 26-year-old.
"After the rehab, I now take care of myself much better than I ever have before and everything has turned out very well because of this.
"I am feeling absolutely great, not only with my back, but also every minute I am on the court."
"The truth is, I am playing with a smile on my face because that it what the game is all about" continued Dubljevic.
"You need to do this to be able to enjoy and appreciate it more.
"Before I ever thought this way, I used to feel more pressure and so now it is a real release for me to have the freedom mentally, to enjoy myself and play much more freely.
"My mind-set is to now focus only on enjoyment and helping my teammates."
Whilst the headline so far is racking up over 20 points-per-game, the sub-plot shows a myriad of other notable numbers, all of which illuminate just how much of an impact she has had in France.
Her new relaxed mood has contributed to total perfection on the free-throw line - she is yet to miss after visiting 23 times.
Dubljevic has also shown her versatility by adding 3.7 assists to the hard work which has returned 7.3 rebounds-per-game.
|"My mind-set is to now focus only on enjoyment and helping my teammates" - Dubljevic |
There is now hope that Montenegro can go one step further than on debut two years ago in Poland when they were just edged out of a top five finish.
But, if they want to avoid a little bit of history repeating and running on empty down the tournament stretch, Dubljevic knows that they are going to have to look more and more to their bench.
"Our rotations are not yet like we want, because we need more players to play," agreed the forward.
"Our starters have had almost forty minutes and to be honest, it's a lot.
"I know that when it comes to the most crucial moments, you can suddenly feel the tiredness in your legs and you just can't do what you need to do out there.
"We have had a hard group and will face more good teams in the second round, so we will try to steal at least one win in those games.
"We can play without any great pressure and I just hope we can continue with confidence so we can be excited about seeing what happens."
Montenegro take one win forward to Round 2 and will next take to the court on Thursday 20 June, when Group E action tips-off.