Young Montenegro Already Flying High

24 October 2008
From Darko Nikolic, Belgrade

Montenegro are relative newcomers to the FIBA Europe family but judging from their performances in international competition so far, the country could become a powerhouse on the old continent very soon.

Less than a year and a half after claiming independence from the joint state with Serbia, Montenegro have celebrated basketball successes.

In the summer of 2007, Montenegro won the U20 European Championship Division B gold medal.

This summer, the senior side won four games without a single defeat in their EuroBasket Division B campaign.

The success rate made the new country proud, and their head coach Dusko Vujosevic as well.

"Our results speak enough how good and how hard we've worked this summer," Vujosevic said.

"My players responded wonderfully to the call for the first Montenegrin national team in basketball and I really have plenty of reasons to be happy," said Vujosevic.

The Partizan Belgrade coach has won seven consecutive club titles on the domestic scene and he is looking a good bet to achieve something big on the international stage, too.

With Montenegro, his charges won 70-63 on their international debut at the Netherlands and then claimed three more triumphs: 96-73 over Austria, 80-66 at Iceland and 96-60 against Denmark.

"I have to salute my friends as they've worked hard since our first practice and acted as true professionals until the very last moment," Vujosevic said.

"I really expect that next year, they'll be even better."

Power forward/center Nikola Pekovic and naturalized guard Omar Cook from the United States were leaders of the squad in the qualifying games in points, rebounds and assists per game.

Montenegro have played in other games as well against more prestigious opponents.

They have defeated Turkey and FYR of Macedonia in friendlies, and they also won a mini-series with Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2-1.

"We've played as visitors in those games, and among the rivals there were teams that will play at the EuroBasket in Poland," Vujosevic said.

"And, out of all those games we've suffered just a single defeat, one in Sarajevo, which was a good sign for qualifying (to Division A).

"Then, when the ‘real deal' started, we showed that there are no secrets in basketball. The only secret is hard work. Or, let's say it's about good preparation and a good atmosphere. And we've had that."

Looking ahead to the forthcoming second phase of qualifying for EuroBasket Division A, Vujosevic says his players have no reason to be afraid.

"We are witnesses that surprises happen in sport," he said.

"We can be one of those. Therefore, we don't need to be afraid of forthcoming challenges.

"We just have to work hard and the award for that will come, I'm sure.

"On the other hand, we can't afford to be relaxed, as we are going to reach our goals only if every single member of the national team stays focused on the joint task."

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