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Erceg out but Jokic in for Serbia at home OQT
BELGRADE (2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournaments) - Zoran Erceg is the only player from last year's EuroBasket team missing from Serbia's 24-man preliminary squad for the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) in Belgrade.
The 2.10m power forward chose to sit out this season after failing to receive a handsome contract he felt he deserved, giving Serbia coach Aleksandar Djordjevic little choice but to leave out a player who averaged more than 8 points per game at last summer's EuroBasket.
Djordevic nevertheless has plenty of players that compete on both sides of the Atlantic to consider for his roster, including Nikola Jokic, a revelation in his first season in the NBA with Denver. The 2.08m center, who averaged 10 points and 7 rebounds per game for the Nuggets and was named to the NBA All-Rookie first team, is included on the list of players and apparently ready to fight for a spot on the roster.
Jokic, a member of Serbia's squad at the 2013 FIBA U19 World Championship, not only showed off his scoring and rebounding skills this season but also his passing ability.
Nemanja Bjelica had a difficult rookie campaign in the NBA with the Minnesota Timberwolves due to knee and foot injuries but is fit again and one of Serbia's most important players heading into the OQT. He is on the list, as well as Boban Marjanovic, who featured in 54 games for the San Antonio Spurs this season as a rookie but is out of contract and therefore unlikely to play at the OQT. Marjanovic last played for Serbia in 2011 at the EuroBasket in Lithuania.
Serbia have enjoyed two solid summers under the leadership of Djordjevic, who coached Panathinaikos this season but parted ways with the club after the team's 3-0 sweep at the hands of Laboral Kutxa in the Euroleague play-offs.
The Serbians reached the Final of the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup before falling to the United States, a performance that fueled hopes of a EuroBasket 2015 triumph.
Serbia played very well at the EuroBasket, surviving a difficult Group Phase in Berlin before winning games in the Round of 16 and Quarter-Finals. But they lost to Lithuania in the Semi-Finals and then suffered a defeat to France in the battle for third place. The fourth-place finish in a tough 24-team field was still a solid showing.
Serbia will trim the list of players from 24 to 16 and launch their preparations on 15 June in Belgrade. The OQT will be staged in Belgrade from 4-9 July.
Serbia 24-player preliminary squad for 2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) in Belgrade: Stefan Bircevic, Nemanja Bjelica, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Nemanja Dangubic, Marko Guduric, Ognjen Jaramaz, Nikola Jokic, Stefan Jovic, Nikola Kalinic, Marko Keselj, Ognjen Kuzmic, Vladimir Lucic, Milan Macvan, Stefan Markovic, Boban Marjanovic, Vasilije Micic, Dragan Milosavljevic, Nikola Milutinov, Nemanja Nedovic, Miroslav Raduljica, Marko Simonovic, Vladimir Stimac, Milos Teodosic and Rade Zagorac.