|Goran Ikonic hopes Bosnia and Herzegovina can be inspired by the success he had with KRKA Novo Mesto|
By Paul Nilsen
Sharp shooter Goran Ikonic is no stranger to causing upsets and attaining success as an underdog.
Last season the guard helped propel KRKA Novo Mesto to a glorious Eurochallenge Final Four success with an MVP performance that will live long in the memory.
Few people outside of Slovenia and the club itself gave them much of a chance to finish top of the podium and yet with the right chemistry, attitude and players excelling in every position on the floor, they emerged victorious.
While nobody is realistically expecting Bosnia and Herzegovina to reach the latter stages of EuroBasket 2011, Ikonic is at least hopeful they can learn from what KRKA Novo Mesto achieved and will embrace their status as one of the Group C underdogs and try to upset the odds.
"Last season was excellent for me and everybody in Novo Mesto," he said.
"We won the Slovenian Super Cup, the Championship and made the big surprise of winning EuroChallenge also which I don't think anybody expected from us.
"All of this success was because of our mentality and the way we didn't think about the status of the other teams we played.
"We only focused on trying to make sure we were positive, had good chemistry, a great spirit and of course always the most important thing - everyone always gave one hundred percent effort at every moment on the court.
"Eurochallenge Final Four wasn't easy because we had to play the home team BC Telenet Oostende and a very strong team in Lokomotiv Rostov during the Final," Ikonic recalled.
"Nobody else truly believed in us but we believed in ourselves and each other which was the big reason we were able to win the title.
"Perhaps it's a good lesson for the situation we find ourselves in now with the national team."
It's been a great calendar year so far for Ikonic and if he can reproduce the dazzling form he showed at club level, then Bosnia and Herzegovina have a wonderful opportunity of making life difficult for the other teams in Alytus.
"Last season was definitely one the best in my career, if not the very best since I really shot the ball well although it's much easier to perform when you have a good coach and great team-mates.
"I am truly excited for this tournament and playing with the national team because if we can keep the nice atmosphere we now have in the locker room and work together then I can help to get good results for us."
Ikonic has a lot of faith in some of the younger players on the roster who are preparing to write their names in bright lights by showcasing their talent on the big stage but was quick to fire a warning to his team-mates about relying too heavily on star man Mirza Teletovic.
|Nihad Dedovic is one of the young players Ikonic has |
high hopes for
"We have some very dynamic and exciting young players who can all be big players for us both now and in the future, especially Nemanja Gordic and Nihad Dedovic," he pointed out.
"I think we are also sometimes guilty of forgetting that Mirza Teletovic is also still pretty young compared to many other players. We understand he will be important for us because he's one of the greatest forwards in the tournament.
"However, we can't hide behind him any longer because it's important that we all take responsibility to perform and do our jobs on the court alongside him.
At 31 years of age, Ikonic is a veteran of the Bosnia and Herzegovina team although this will be his first EuroBasket and he is as excited as anyone with what he will experience in coming days having already felt the Lithuanian love of basketball.
"This is where every player wants to be and it is definitely going to be one of the highlights of my career. It's great to be playing at such a big tournament," he said.
"I already want to thank the Lithuanian people and tournament organisers for everything so far because so far, it has been truly great.
"As a player and a team, it makes you want to make it to the second round even more than you could ever imagine."