Ivanovic Confident For Final Round

03 January 2013

EUROBASKET 2013

Every player dreams of making this once-in-a-lifetime game-winner that will have fans raving over for a long time.

On paper, the recipe for success reads quite simple.

Deciding the outcome of a game requires courage and confidence, paired with a pinch of luck.

In reality, however, there's a thin line between becoming a hero and ending up as a tragic figure.

20. Nikola Ivanovic (Montenegro)
Let it fly: Nikola Ivanovic sends the ball on its way from half-court right into the basket and Serbia's hearts

Last summer, Nikola Ivanovic (vote for him as Young Player of the Year) joined the club of heroes.

Montenegro were playing Serbia in Belgrade on the second game day of the EuroBasket 2013 Qualification Round.

When Milos Teodosic sunk one of two free throws to put the hosts 71-70 ahead with three seconds to play, the crowd at Belgrade Arena were on their feet, but were left in disbelief as Ivanovic crashed their party.

The 18-year-old caught the inbound pass, took two dribblings and nailed a buzzer-beating game-winner from half-court to give the Montenegrins a precious 73-71 victory that sent shock waves through the Balkans.

With the heroics done and dusted, the 18-year old, who is on the books of Buducnost Podgorica, competing in the Adriatic and Montengrin Leagues and the Eurocup, spoke to EuroBasket2013.org about the great Qualification Round run and expectations for the Final Round.

Montenegro finished the EuroBasket 2013 Qualification Round on first spot in a tough Group A. How satisfied are you with the final outcome?

"The Qualification Round was excellent. We won all 10 games and are awaiting EuroBasket in Slovenia with great self-confidence. The qualifying round lifted the whole nation on their feet and at the end we can be satisfied with the outcome. I am really happy for that."

You started the Qualification Round with two important wins against tough opponents. Did you expect at that point for it to continue so successfully?

"Our main goal was to make it to the Final Round of the EuroBasket. Since we won some important games that we didn't expect to win, like the games in Belgrade or in Tel Aviv, our confidence grew. That's how it happened."

Did you see that your three-pointer from half-court at the buzzer in the away game against Serbia was chosen for the best moment of the Qualification Round?

"I did. I'm really happy to see that. Otherwise, the more important thing for me at that time was the team's success, and that was really the only thing that was on my mind back then. But I'm certainly flattered to see that shot at the top."

You were among the youngest players in the Qualification Round. How did you feel when you decided the outcome of such an important match in such an spectacular way?

"It was a moment of unbelievable happiness. Every basketball player and especially young player dreams about such a moment. But it happened coincidentally. I just got the ball in the key moment, I took my chance and threw the ball hoping for the best... Well, for sure I will remember that moment form my entire life."

What is in your opinion the main reason for the renaissance of your national team in the previous Qualification Round, after a not really brilliant appearance at EuroBasket 2011?

"Throughout the summer we had a superb atmosphere in the squad. And we worked hard even in the preparation period. We started our preparations earlier than other teams. The credits go to every single player on the team, who contributed to the success with unique struggle and of course to our coach Luka Pavicevic."

What did the new coach change in your system for the things to improve so rapidly?

"On the team we had some players that didn't have the best possible club season and they played really well later with the national team. He established an excellent relationship with each player and boosted our confidence not only before the start of the Qualification Round, but also before every single game."

Next summer, two NBA players are expected to join your team that was very successful last summer without them. What does that mean for your team?

"We will be stronger with two of our best players on the squad and I think that we can show even better performances at the Final Round than we did in the Qualification Round. [Nikola] Pekovic and [Nikola] Vucevic are two players that can contribute a lot to the system of the game as a whole and I believe we can advance from the group with their help."

What does the presence of such quality inside players on a team mean for you as a guard?

"For us guards that is of utmost importance. They can convert points playing 1 on 1 and represent a constant threat for the opponents' basket. Outside players therefore get more playing space and scoring opportunities and we can put on a better performance."

What was the first thing on your mind when you saw the EuroBasket First Round Group B with so many Balkan teams in it?

"Actually, before the draw I was thinking that we will definitely finish in the same group with Serbia and F.Y.R. of Macedonia. In the end it came true and we have almost every former Yugoslav team in the same group. We played against most of them already, even Latvia, so we know each other well. The only exception is Lithuania, which is as a true basketball country one of the biggest favourites of the group alongside Serbia."


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