When Montenegro's basketball federation was welcomed into the FIBA family two summers ago at the FIBA Congress in Japan, some may have questioned if this small country in the Balkans would have enough talent to compete at the top level of European competition.
After the performance of young center Nikola Pekovic this year at Partizan Belgrade, though, there shouldn't be any questions.
With his national team coach, Dusko Vujosevic, also at the helm of Partizan, Pekovic has blossomed into one of the top centers in Europe this season, wreaking havoc on opponents in both the Adriatic League and the Euroleague.
He scores, rebounds and blocks shots, but the 2.10m star's biggest attribute may be his humility.
Pekovic prefers to give the credit for his rise to prominence to others, namely to Vujosevic.
"He's great," Pekovic said of his coach. "And he gets most of the credit for my good displays. Without him I would have probably done a lot less."
In the Adriatic League, Pekovic has twice earned the league's weekly most valuable player award.
At the Adriatic League All Star Game that was played shortly after Christmas, he played for the East team and was voted MVP after pouring in 26 points and pulling down eight rebounds.
It was quite an occasion for Pekovic, who only turned 22 earlier this month.
"These kinds of games are good for basketball," he said. "It was nice to meet up with my old friends from the other clubs again."
As for his award at the All Star Game, Pekovic said: "I am honored to be the MVP, it gives me even more motivation to improve."
The coach of the West, Alesandar Petrovic, just shook his head and smiled when asked about Pekovic.
"Once again, Nikola Pekovic impressed me," he said. "He showed that he is without doubt one of the most dominating players in Europe. He deserves both awards - especially because he also knows how to behave himself."
The other honor Pekovic received at the All Star Game was the Best Young Player in the Adriatic League.