BASKETBALL IN EUROPE
|Bojan Dubljevic wasted no time to step out on senior level after a successful U20 European Championship with Montenegro|
No one can dispute that over the years, the basketball education that players have received in the Balkans is second to none.
The region has always been a hotbed for hoops.
There has been no shortage of centers to hail from Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, F.Y.R. of Macedonia, Slovenia and Montenegro.
When it comes to the last of those countries, many now have an eye on the emerging star, Bojan Dubljevic.
The 2.05m pivot was the best player for his team at last year's U20 European Championship in Bilbao, where he averaged 22.4 points and 9.7 rebounds and was named to the all tournament team.
This season, the 20-year-old has excelled for Buducnost in the Eurocup and the Adriatic League.
In the first leg of the team's quarter-final tie with Valencia Basket in Podgorica in the Eurocup, which Buducnost won by four points, Dubljevic was the MVP after scoring 15 points, corralling eight rebounds and coming up with three steals.
The result fueled hopes that Buducnost might just be good enough to reach the Eurocup Finals.
However, despite Dubljevic's 17 points and five boards in the return leg, Buducnost fell 85-63 and were eliminated from the competition.
"Valencia was a very tough opponent," Dubljevic said to Basketball World News.
"They played harder and we couldn't do anything (in the second leg)," he said.
The experience in the Eurocup was a good one for Dubljevic, though.
Expect to see him play in many a big game for his club on the continent in the coming years.
"I am proud to play in a great team and I´ll keep working to improve my game," he said.
Looking Up To Pekovic
There is a tradition of having excellent big men in the Balkans.
The Montenegrins have produced one in recent times that has been fundamentally sound and has drawn rave reviews this season in the NBA.
His name is Nikola Pekovic, and he plays for the Minnesota Timberwolves.
|Nikola Pekovic is performing on the highest level for the Minnesota Timberwolves in the NBA|
There was an adjustment period for the 26-year-old Pekovic, who arrived in the NBA for the 2010-11 campaign after impressing with both Partizan Belgrade and Panathinaikos.
Last year, Pekovic didn't play much but after the EuroBasket in Lithuania, and the NBA Lockout, he returned to the Timberwolves and saw his career take off in America.
Everyone is cheering for him back home, including Dubljevic.
"He is a mirror for me," Dubljevic said.
"He is a very strong and powerful player.
"This year, he's proving he can be even better and that he can play in the NBA."
Another Montenegrin raising eyebrows in the United States is center Nikola Vucevic.
The 21-year-old has enjoyed a terrific rookie campaign with the Philadelphia 76ers.
Dubljevic has been a winner with the Montenegro Under-18s and Under-20s.
Maybe he'll join Pekovic and Vucevic on the senior team, soon, and help them try to qualify for EuroBasket 2013 in Slovenia.
"I would love to," he said.
"For me, it would be an honor if I was invited to the national team."
There are other youngsters like Dubljevic champing at the bit to play for Montenegro.
Competition is fierce for spots on the national team, but this is a good situation for the country to be in.
The tree of the old school still bears fruit.