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Bogdanovic ready to write a new page of Serbian basketball history
SACRAMENTO (USA) - There has been a lot of buzz around Bogdan Bogdanovic in recent national team tournaments, with the Serbian guard capturing All-Star Five honors in FIBA EuroBasket 2017 and FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019, the last two major events.
What he craves much more than personal accolades is the glory that comes with being a champion. He'll have a chance of satisfying that desire next summer at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
The hope will first be to win one of the four FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournaments, with Serbia again, for the second straight time, hosting one in Belgrade. If Bogdanovic and Co. succeed, they'll soon after leave for Japan.
As runners-up of the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, the Serbians have their sights set on reaching the Final for a second consecutive time and trying to take it one step further.
"We want to win the OQT at home, see our fans happy and smiling and go to Tokyo to write another great page of Serbian basketball history," Bogdanovic said to FIBA.basketball. "Competing in the Olympics is such a unique opportunity for every athlete, and the spirit, the competitiveness and the big stage that it is is amazing."
Bogdanovic has experienced second-place finishes with Serbia at the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2014, the Rio Olympics and FIBA EuroBasket 2017. In the last of those, he averaged 20.4 points and 5 assists and made the all-tournament team.
"WE WANT TO WIN THE OQT AT HOME, SEE OUR FANS HAPPY AND SMILING AND GO TO TOKYO TO WRITE ANOTHER GREAT PAGE OF SERBIAN'S BASKETBALL HISTORY."
There is going to be a different vibe with Serbia in 2020.
Igor Kokoskov, a Serbian who led Slovenia to a 93-85 victory over his homeland in the EuroBasket 2017 title game, was recently appointed coach of Serbia. He is an assistant coach of the NBA's Sacramento Kings, where Bogdanovic and fellow national team star Nemanja Bjelica play.
Kokoskov was an assistant to Zeljko Obradovic when Serbia and Montenegro played at the 2004 Olympics and then hosted FIBA EuroBasket 2005. He excelled as the coach of Georgia, leading the country to its first three EuroBasket appearances in 2011, 2013 and 2015.
He'll have big plans for Bogdanovic, who was sensational at this summer's World Cup in China where Serbia fell in an upset to Argentina in the Quarter-Finals, but won their last two games to end up fifth. He averaged 22.9 points per game and shot an eye-popping 53 percent (35 of 66) from behind the arc.
"We had a very good first part of the tournament but didn't do well in the most important part of it, which is the Second Round and the knockout stage," Bogdanovic said. "We're going to learn from the mistakes we made and come back next summer with the goal of doing way better and showing our full potential."
Bogdanovic averaged 22.9 points per game and shot 53 percent (35 of 66) from behind the arc at the World Cup
Nothing would be sweeter for Serbia than to have a great Olympics but first, they have to get there.
They made it look relatively easy in 2016 while winning the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament but next year promises to be complicated with games against the Dominican Republic and New Zealand in the Group Phase.
If they advance, a game against Puerto Rico, Italy or Senegal in a Semi-Final would follow. If successful again, Serbia would need to win the Final against the other Semi-Final winner.
Will playing at home be a significant advantage as it was in 2016?
"It's going to be very important for us," Bogdanovic said. "Everyone loves to play at home and we really want to feel the crowd, our 'sixth man' pushing us. I am so excited to play at home, and I want to give my best to help Serbia qualify for the 2020 Olympics.
"Everybody knows that Belgrade is a huge basketball city, and the tournament is going to be a fantastic one. We know that the crowd is going to be very good, to make so much noise and that is a big strength for us, that is for sure."