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Serbia squad at 15 following changes to frontcourt line-up
BELGRADE (2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournaments) - Serbia's preliminary squad underwent some late modifications and has been reduced to 15 from 16 players just before they gathered in Belgrade to kick off preparations for the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) the city is hosting from 4-9 July.
Center Vladimir Stimac and power forward Stefan Bircevic received a call-up by head coach Aleksander (Sasha) Djordjevic to join training camp, in replacement for big men Boban Marjanovic and Nikola Milutinov, who pulled out of the team. Star forward Nemanja Bjelica meanwhile is struggling with an injury and will be unable to compete at the big event which will determine the recipient of one ticket to Rio 2016.
|Serbia 15-player squad for 2016 FIBA OQT in Belgrade|
|Bogdan Bogdanovic||Stefan Bircevic||Nemanja Dangubic||Marko Guduric|
|Nikola Jokic||Stefan Jovic||Nikola Kalinic||Milan Macvan|
|Stefan Markovic||Nemanja Nedovic||Miroslav Raduljica||Marko Simonovic|
|Vladimir Stimac||Milos Teodosic||Rade Zagorac|
"It's the first gathering this summer and, always on the national team, there is great atmosphere between us," Serbia captain Milos Teodosic told a press conference at a central Belgrade hotel. "This summer is a little particular because there is not much time, some players like [Milan] Macvan played their last club game as recently as Monday. But notwithstanding the conditions, we will be ready to give our best and fulfil our dreams and if we play in front of a full arena it will be easier to achieve our goal. We have a problem with Bjelica, I hope that his rehabilitation will go well and he will back soon."
When players put on the national team jersey, their mind clicks and they give a hundred percent of what they have. - Djordjevic
In Bjelica's absence, Macvan, Nikola Jokic and Bircevic are expected to share the power forward position, with Nikola Kalinic available to play there whenever Serbia want to go small. Neither Bircevic nor the other late addition, Stimac, are new at the national team, in fact they were both members of the fantastic Serbian side which reached the final of the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup.
Jokic was one of the biggest revelations in his rookie NBA season at Denver Nuggets as he became a starter and averaged 10 points, 7.0 rebounds and 2.4 assists. Whereas Bjelica had the ball in his hands a lot and was a creative force on offense, what coach Djordjevic gains from these other players is a more physical presence and more options in the low post or off the pick'n'pop.
"I want to thank all the players who decided to be with us this year, all members of the coaching staff, our country which has made a big effort to help us to reach the desired result and of course the KSS (Serbian basketball federation) and all the people who are working to prepare everything," Djordjevic said.
"I hope that all this enthusiasm and great desire to represent Serbia at the Olympics will gives us a good boost. We only look right now at Puerto Rico and Angola, the first two games in the group. We have problems with long club seasons, it will not be easy to program these 20 days before the first game. We've never been in this kind of conditions but it is not an excuse, rather an even greater incentive to tackle obligations with a higher degree of concentration and desire. When players put on the national team jersey, their mind clicks and they give a hundred percent of what they have."
Serbia will play three warm-up games prior to the Belgrade OQT, two of which will be against France. Djordjevic's men will first travel to Paris to face Les Bleus on 21 June and the two teams will square off at Belgrade Arena four days later. Their final friendly game will be again at the OQT venue, on 28 June against Greece.