Montenegro's Pekovic Focuses On The Here And Now

28 January 2008

It may be a small country, but Montenegro will pack a mean punch when it comes to national team games for the basketball team.

That is obvious when you consider the potential impact of 22-year-old center Nikola Pekovic, one of Partizan's biggest stars in this season's Adriatic League and Euroleague.

The big man has been averaging 17.8 points and 7.8 rebounds in the Euroleague, helping Partizan stay on course for the Top 16, while in the Adriatic League the team is first at 17-2 with Pekovic pouring in almost 14 points and pulling down more than five boards per contest.

The 2.1m Pekovic is optimistic about Montenegro's chances on the court, but he is also realistic.

"First of all, we've not had any practices together," he said to FIBA Europe.

"So first, we need to meet each other. I think we'll have some games later this year to try and begin qualifying for the European Championships.

"We'll meet for the first practices. I don't know which players will be available."

The Basketball Federation of Montenegro was officially recognized at the FIBA Congress in Japan two years ago, allowing them to go it alone without Serbia in international competitions.

Another good sign was the play of their youth team last year when they won the Under-20 European Championship, Division B.

Pekovic is not expected to spend much longer at Partizan, with Panathinaikos rumored to be hot on his trail and NBA scouts also monitoring his progress.

It's not something that enters his mind, though.

"Now, I don't think about that," he said.

"My concentration is on Partizan. I only think of Partizan and on Partizan's next game in the Adriatic and the Euroleague.

"If we stay first (in the Adriatic League), we have some points and if we win the final eight, we'll have enough points for a three-year contract with the Euroleague."

Just how has Nikola Pekovic developed into one of Europe's premier big men?

Through hard work, of course, but also with the guidance of his Partizan coach Dusko Vujosevic.

"He's great," Pekovic said. "He is the best coach for young players. He can teach everything to young players.

"And it's great for me. This is my third year with him at Partizan and I have made some great progress."

That's good news for Montenegro because Vujosevic is their national team coach.

But really, one brief conversation with Pekovic and one gets the feeling he has it made.

He is relaxed and very happy in Belgrade and is in no rush to go anywhere.

"I have a little time for my friends, just usual stuff for young players," he said, when asked about what he does in his spare time.

"Everything is great in Belgrade, though," he added. "I think that Belgrade is the best town in the world."



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