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Ivanovic sees bright future for U16 heroes, but "don't pressure them"
TOULOUSE (FIBA U16 European Championship 2017) - Montenegro senior national team point guard Nikola Ivanovic sees a bright future for the stars of the country's cadet team which reached the Final of the FIBA U16 European Championship 2017. But at the same time, Ivanovic stressed Montenegro basketball fans should not put pressure on the talented youngsters.
Ivanovic said he watched some of the U16 games from senior national team training camp and was impressed with the group's run to the Final, which included victories over Spain, Italy, Lithuania and Serbia within seven days before losing to France.
"This medal was amazing and that makes everyone proud back in Montenegro," said Ivanovic, who played at the FIBA U16 European Championship in 2009 and 2010. "It was an amazing run for sure. Beating top teams helps keeping the confidence up and you usually play at your best level when you are in this kind of dynamic. The team lost in the final, but I am sure that if you told them at the beginning of the tournament that they would win the silver medal, they wouldn't believe it."
The result is the greatest performance by a Montenegro basketball team, topping the fifth place from the FIBA U20 European Championship 2008. Ivanovic, who finished eighth at U16 level in 2010 and seventh at the FIBA U20 European Championship 2011, ranks the achievement very high.
"I am very proud of what they did. I watched a couple of games and I saw a great team playing as one," said Ivanovic, adding, "We are a small country, and having guys who succeed and win medals is always nice and historical for us. Those kids made history."
The 23-year-old Ivanovic played in Montenegro for national giants Buducnost Podgorica until 2015, when he moved to Serbian side Mega Leks. After one season there, the point guard signed with Basketball Champions League club AEK Athens for this past season and moved during the year to Italian top flight side, Capo d'Orlando.
"We need to not put more pressure on them and just help them keep improving in order for them to be great players at the different levels of the youth national teams."Nikola Ivanovic
But Ivanovic knows how it feels to be highly touted as a youngster after finishing second among all players in scoring and steals and handing out the fifth-most assists at the FIBA U16 European Championship 2010 - in front of the home fans in Bar, Montenegro.
Now Ivanovic, who will be playing at his second FIBA EuroBasket later this month, said fans should remember that the heroes from Podgorica are still just 15 and 16 years old.