By Yarone Arbel
Two years ago Serbia and Montengro were preparing to host a EuroBasket.
Though the event was a huge success the finish was not what the home team was looking for as they failed to make it out of the first round.
Two years on, and now known simply as "Serbia", expectations are a bit more reasonable which may be one reason to think this is a team capable of springing a surprise.
The Good News
Karma- If you didn't use the summer under a rock, you probably noticed that 2007 was a Serbian summer. The Serbian men's National Teams won every single competition the world of basketball had to offer: U16, U18 and U20 European championships topped off with the U19 World Championship. Obviously EuroBasket is a different game, but just for the sake of karma, keep Serbia in mind.
Darko is back- After being mocked for several years since being taken with the number two pick in the 2003 NBA Draft, Darko Milicic is here to show the world what he's all about. Not sure it'll be enough to convince the world he deserved the 2nd pick in the draft, but surely enough to prove he's a great player. In Serbia they already announced in the open Darko will be the best center at EuroBasket. The European fans who don’t follow the NBA closely never really got to see up until now what Darko is all about. After a few good seasons with the Orlando Magic Milicic earned a big deal with the Memphis Grizzlies, and EuroBasket will
be his stage to show the homeland continent what he's made of. Be ready for a show. A lot of Serbia's success will relay on his play.
|Marko Jaric hopes to help restore "Serbian Pride".|
Serbian pride- They still got talent and lots of it: The big brain on court of Marko Jaric obviously Milan Gurovic who can score 40 ppg if you just give him the chance (and he might get that chance) and Darko are the big boys. Three players with wide shoulders to carry the team. Behind them are great talents such as Teodosic, Erceg, Aleksandrov, Labovic, Cvetkovic and so on. Young but surely very talented. Despite the oozing talent, that's not going to be enough to have a good tournament by itself, and that's why Serbia brings something else to spice up the "names on paper".
Behind all that there's one thing that unites them all – Pride. Sorry, this requires modification – Serbian pride. The 2005 outrageous performance and shock is still in the minds of Serbians. The 12 going to Spain want to win back their pride. Even if it's not going to be gold, they want Europe to respect Serbian basketball again, and not make fun of it. Every player who showed up is committed to the task.
Do not under estimate this attribute.
The Bad News
MIA- There's a whole chapter in psychology, which goes down to sports psychology as well, about people who fail their task and say: "If I had really wanted it to be done, I would have made it." Since their 2001 title Serbia hasn't showed up with their full roster. Even in 2005 there were some big names missing, which allowed Serbs to use the above excuse in a refined version: "If we had the real full roster, we would have won it." Well, 2007 won't be the year to check out this theory. The list of absences is way-way too long once again.
Size matters- Serbia will be one of the tallest teams in Spain. Only one player under 197cm (and even he above 190), with three guys above 210cm, but they could still face problems in the paint. Milicic is the center, but he tends to get into foul trouble, and as much as he would try to avoid it, once in a while it'll probably happen. Then what? Slavnic has three big guys on the bench, two of whom are 20 years old and another who is just 22. Aleksandrov is 211cm but a forward. Labovic has good size, but is not a great athlete and lives somewhere on the line between a center and a power forward. The "veteran" Erceg will be one of the best players in Europe in the next years, and is already showing great ability in the practice games, but he's not a pure center as well. The absences of Krstic and Ilic can hurt Serbia a lot throughout the tournament.
Age too- So Serbia won all the youth competitions this summer, but seems like they took it a little bit too far this time. If the rumor is true and Serbians are born with a basketball in their hands, then 75% of the roster didn't hold one 23 years ago. It's questionable if there was any team in the history of EuroBasket with such a young roster. Experience, experience, experience. There lack of it is undeniable.