|Vasilije Vucetic: "We need to play like a team and know each other. We need to trust in one another...be brave."|
By David Hein
Sixth place for Serbia at a European youth championship borders on a national tragedy.
Vasilije Vucetic and the Serbians will be out to right their disappointment from last summer as they prepare for the 2014 U18 European Championship.
Vucetic was playing an age group older last summer when Serbia lost to eventual champions Turkey in the quarter-finals and then finished the tournament in Latvia in sixth place - matching the sixth place from 2008 as the country's worst showing at the level since becoming Serbia.
"We were good but we could have done more. We were a better team than sixth place, but that's gone. And now we focus on this summer," said Vucetic, who averaged 7.8 points, 3.9 rebounds and 1.0 assists last summer.
When asked if the 2014 team will use the bitter showing from last summer as motivation, Vucetic said: "This is another generation. But we can still use it as motivation. Everybody says that generation, 1995, is better than us, but we want to prove that we are better."
Vucetic now returns to his usual age group. And the 2.05m center has already had success with the 1996-born generation, claiming third place at the 2012 U16 European Championship.
"We know we are a good team. And we know each other from back at the U16s."
Serbia come into the U18 European Championship, which will take place from 24 July to 3 August in Konya, Turkey as podium contenders, despite being drawn into Group D with Russia, Montenegro and Spain.
"It's a European Championship in Division A, every team is good and every game is tough. We need to give our best to play how we know and hope for some good results," said Vucetic, who plays club basketball with Slovenian side Union Olimpija Ljubljana.
"We need to play like a team and know each other. We need to trust in one another...be brave."
|Serbia last won the U18 title in 2009, defeating hosts France in the final |
Serbia followed the 2008 disappointment with the U18 crown in 2009, taking fourth place in 2010, second in 2011 and third in 2012.
Vucetic said he and the team don't feel the pressure to finally claim another U18 title.
"Winning is the most important thing, but we also want to improve as players, which is also very important so that we can become good senior team players. And that's where we want to win the medals. Now it's important, but it's not the main thing," said Vucetic.
While a podium finish would be great, the minimum goal for Vucetic and Serbia will be a top-five showing as the top five teams will play next summer at the 2015 FIBA U19 World Championship.
The Vrbas native is moving closer to becoming a senior level player, playing for Union Olimpija at the Nike International Junior Tournament and for Serbia at the Albert Schweitzer Tournament this season.
Vucetic has been with the Slovenia club for three seasons.
"I just went there because I wanted to improve," he said.
"I need to work on my athleticism and on my defense. I also need to be more aggressive."
When asked what his goal was, he added: "As fast as I can, I want to play at a senior level and then play at a high level. That's the goal, to play with seniors."
First off, there is righting the disappointment from last summer.