Follow FIBA on Facebook
"Now it's our turn," Montenegro senior team captain Dubljevic says after historic U16 run
TOULOUSE (FIBA EuroBasket 2017) - Montenegro senior national team captain Bojan Dubljevic was impressed watching the country's cadets' historic run to the Final of the FIBA U16 European Championship 2017. Now, the senior team should follow suit at FIBA EuroBasket 2017, Dubljevic says.
Montenegro were hosting the U16 continental championship and thrilled the Podgorica crowd by making history by reaching the Final, where they lost to France. But the second-placed showing was the best-ever result in Montenegrin basketball history, topping the fifth place from the FIBA U20 European Championship 2008.
"They made a huge effort and I am very proud of them," Dubljevic said. "They made history by reaching the final of the competition and Montenegro's population was behind them. We are a small country but we always fight to make our people proud and show a great example. They gave their best and people won't ever forget about it."
Dubljevic and the rest of the senior national team even sent the U16 players a video message on the day of the final, expressing their pride and wishing them luck against France in the Final.
Montenegro have yet to really make a mark at senior level despite having some strong talent. They finished 21st in their first FIBA EuroBasket in 2011 and were 17th in 2013. But the country failed to qualify for 2015. Dubljevic hopes the senior team can take the example from the U16 team and finally live up to their expectations at the FIBA EuroBasket 2017, where they are drawn into Group B with Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania and Spain in Cluj.
"Now, it is our turn to do a great campaign in Romania and Istanbul and give some good moments of sports to our fellow compatriots," Dubjlevic said.
The 6ft 9in (2.05m) power forward believes Montenegro have a good chance of finishing in the top four of the group and advancing to the Knockout Phase in Istanbul.
"Our group for the Group Phase is not the most complicated of the tournament, as there is room for qualification for the second round if we play at our best level," Dubljevic said. "Spain, Croatia and Czech Republic have more experience than we do, but we can compete against all those teams. Things aren't going to be easy and we aren't among the favorite teams of the tournament, but we are going to give our best to have a great campaign. Montenegro can be one of the most surprising teams of the tournament."
"Now, it is our turn to do a great campaign in Romania and Istanbul and give some good moments of sports to our fellow compatriots."
Dubljevic knows a thing or two about surprising the giants as he helped Valencia to win the Spanish league this season, winning the MVP award for the finals of the playoffs.
"It was an amazing season and I am so happy to have won the league title. Seeing Valencia's fans, the city, the players and the entire staff being so happy was such an amazing feeling," Dubljevic said. "Reaching the title was historical, as usually Spain's league is won by either Barcelona or Real Madrid, so that means we made history. I am very confident about my game and feeling great about my improvement in the last couple of months. I won't give up working on my game, as I want to become the best player I can be."
The exhibition games ahead of FIBA EuroBasket 2017 have seen Dubljevic coming off the bench, something that he has no problem with as captain.
"I don't mind not being in the starting five. The most important for me is the team, and I am here to be the best guy I can be for the team and defend, grab rebounds and help my teammates play great basketball," said Dubljevic, who will be playing his second FIBA EuroBasket after averaging 10.2 points and 4.8 rebounds in 2013. "I am not a selfish player, and I just want to help my national team do great now and in the future."
If Dubljevic and their teammates look at the schedule of games in Cluj and then Istanbul should they advance and are at all intimidated by the caliber of opponents, they only need to look at the U16 team and their run to the Final. Montenegro beat Spain, Italy, Lithuania and Serbia within seven days at the FIBA U16 European Championship 2017.
"That was a hell of a run. Those were probably the best teams of the tournament and beating all of them is just amazing," he said. "Playing at home is a lot of pressure, and that can turn into something negative for some athlete that can't handle it. But all of them used it to get more energy on the court. Those results speak for themselves. Beating one team is good. Beating another top team is great, but four top teams in a week is such a great performance."
One that is inspiring the senior team to follow in the footsteps of their cadet compatriots.