Fans of Serbian basketball can get used to seeing plenty of the nation's trio of stars at the U20 European Championship for Women as Sonja Petrovic, Maja Miljkovic and Jelena Milovanovic will play for the Serbs in the 2009 EuroBasket qualifiers in August and September.
"The last few years we have been doing the same thing at the youth levels. We are letting our best players play as much as possible to improve their level. Everything we do at the youth level is for the benefit of the senior national team," said U20 coach Jovica Antonic, who also serves as the senior national team boss.
Antonic brought with him to the U20s in Italy two top talents who played at EuroBasket Women 2007 - in Petrovic and Miljkovic. And he teamed them with Milovanovic, who captured MVP honours by leading Serbia to the gold medal at the 2007 U18 European Championship for Women.
And the trio has not disappointed in Italy.
The 19-year-old ing player Petrovic leads the team in scoring with 13.7 ppg while also collecting 7.7 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.3 blocked shots. The 19-year-old power forward Milovanovic is averaging 11.7 points and a team-best 10.7 rebounds. And playmaker Miljkovic is chipping in 10.0 points.
"We have a lot of quality. But these three players are clearly very important for our game. Because they play in Euroleague games and top level competition in their leagues, you can see that they really have made a good improvement since last summer," said Antonic.
"Last summer (EuroBasket Women) was the first step. And this is the next step."
While Petrovic, Miljkovic and Milovanovic are set to join the senior squad for Serbia's Group D qualifiers against Bulgaria, Belgium and Greece, there could be other players from the U20 side making the jump, including power forward Iva Roglic and sharp-shooter Dragana Gobeljic.
Antonic's U20 side suffered a disappointing loss in the final game of Group A, blowing a 24-point second half lead in losing to France. Still, Serbia took first place in the group. And the team's goal remains the same.
"We came here with one target and that's to get a medal. Of course we will respect every other adversary. But we have our own wishes as well," said Antonic, who guided U20 Serbia to the silver medal last summer.