Serbia & Montenegro: Pekovic Eyeing National Team Call

06.12.2004

By Ben Collins, PA International

Marko Pekovic has set his sights on winning a place in the Serbia & Montenegro national team squad after making a promising start to this season's FIBA Europe League campaign.

The Lavovi 063 guard has been one of the leading performers for the Belgrade-based outfit, who are making their European debut in Group D.

But after last week's demoralising defeat at Hapoel Tel-Aviv, which left them with a record of 2-4, the pressure is on to get a victory in Tuesday's home clash against Paris Basket Racing and revive their qualification hopes.

A lot will now rest on the shoulders of Pekovic, with star-man Slavko Stefanovic departing for Red Star Belgrade after just two European games, but Pekovic is hoping he can take this opportunity to catch the eye at international level.

"I was captain for the national team at cadets and youth level and I might have been pushing for a place sooner this season, but I had problems in Greece so I'll have to start all over again," said Pekovic, referring to the sprained ankle which ruled him out of the defeat by Iraklis.

The 23-year-old also missed the 102-75 home defeat by St Petersburg, but has averaged 15 points in the other four group games and 4.5 assists in the domestic league.

"This season I've been back to playing like I can play and if I carry on then the results will come," he told PA International.

"Serbia & Montenegro have lots of good players in the same position as me - Milos Vujanic, Igor Rakocevic, and Marko Jaric at the LA Clippers - so it will be very hard to get in, but if I continue to work hard and can reach that level then why not?"

Pekovic found it difficult to reach his best in last week's 109-79 loss to Hapoel though, where he was subjected to some aggressive defence and committed 11 turnovers.

"It wasn't good to lose by 30 points but I think the final score did not show the real difference between the two teams," said Pekovic.

"We had a few players on three or four personal fouls so the coach had to be careful with how he used the players, and they capitalised on that.

That setback has dented Lavovi's hopes but Pekovic reckons as long as they can use home advantage, starting against Paris, they are still very much in the hunt.

"When we went there we didn't have to win so we had no pressure," he added.

"Now we're 2-4 though so we have to continue winning at home and maybe then we can put ourselves back in the top four.

"The coach wasn't here at the start of the season so we have to get used to his way of doing things again but when we do that we'll be playing much better."


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