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Popovic back for Croatia after six years
31/05/2017
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Popovic turning back the clock with Croatia national team recall

ZAGREB (FIBA EuroBasket 2017) - Croatia playcaller Aleksandar 'Aco' Petrovic has opted to include more veteran firepower in his FIBA EuroBasket 2017 squad following last year's highs which got the entire Balkan nation excited about basketball.

Croatia preliminary 28-player squad for FIBA EuroBasket 2017
Luka Babic Dragan Bender Miro Bilan Bojan Bogdanovic Domagoj Bosnjak
Luka Bozic Ivan Buva Mario Hezonja Toni Katic Filip Kruslin
Dominik Mavra Hrvoje Peric Darko Planinic Marko Popovic Ivan Ramljak
Marin Rozic Damjan Rudez Zeljko Sakic Dario Saric Krunoslav Simon
Nik Slavica Josip Sobin Marko Tomas Roko-Leni Ukic Ivica Zubac
Tomislav Zubcic Ante Zizic Luka Zoric    

Bojan Bogdanovic and Dario Saric, the brightest of the shining stars of the Olympic Basketball Tournament in Rio De Janeiro, are the main headliners on the 28-player list, while the returns of Marko Popovic, Marko Tomas and Damjan Rudez have also stirred some excitement.

"I have an ideal squad already in my mind, but I need to be prepared for everything."PetrovicPetrovic

Croatia had a memorable run last summer, winning the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) in Turin and reaching the Quarter-Finals stage in the main event in Brazil.

The addition of the 34-year-old sharpshooter Popovic, who last suited up for the Croatian national team in FIBA EuroBasket 2011 and turns 35 in June, has been an especially positive development for Petrovic, who struggled with guard depth last year.

"Marko said he wants to play and he has already started his preparations for what's coming up for us," Petrovic said. "That makes me happy, he will be an important asset. I had to play without a point guard at the Olympics once Roko Ukic got into foul trouble. Marko would have been huge for us back then."

Marko Popovic will give coach Petrovic another ball-handling option 

Given the uncertainty surrounding some of the younger players on the squad, coach Petrovic has made a decision to include 28 players in the preliminary pool to be on the safe side.

"We already know that Dragan Bender (Phoenix Suns) and Ivica Zubac (Los Angeles Lakers) will play the NBA Summer League, ending in late July, but we still don't know what their respective clubs have in mind for them after that. We need to see what will happen with Ante Zizic and the Boston Celtics. I have an ideal squad already in my mind, but I need to be prepared for everything," he said.While gaining much-needed experience with the return of some veteran players, there is continued uncertainty surrounding Mario Hezonja, who has publicly expressed some doubts about his availability for the summer. Petrovic nevertheless has the 22-year-old Orlando Magic swingman in the squad.

"I haven't spoken to him yet," Petrovic said. "But he is on the list because he fits the player profile we need. I would love having him on the 14-player list for EuroBasket. We will talk somewhere in July, I want to see if he has changed his mind. I would love it, we need him, but I will not force his decision."

Croatia will begin their FIBA EuroBasket 2017 campaign in Cluj-Napoca, facing off against Czech Republic, Hungary, Montenegro, Romania and defending champions Spain in Group C.

FIBA