Star center Jokic to play at World Cup for Serbia
BELGRADE (Serbia) - Nikola Jokic will play for Serbia at this summer's FIBA Basketball World Cup in China.
Fresh off his best professional season with the Denver Nuggets, one that saw him earn All-NBA First Team honors, Serbia's star center from the Rio de Janeiro Olympics has confirmed to Serbian news agency Tanjug he will be in China with the national team.
The 24-year-old Jokic said: “I am very satisfied with everything I did this past season in NBA. I had a great year with my participation in the All Star game and election in the All-NBA first team.
"A crown of this amazing season for me would be a World Cup medal for which I'm sure that Serbia can win and I am fully ready to contribute in achieving of that goal.”
Jokic made a huge splash with Serbia in 2016 when he first played at the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Belgrade and was their best player and then competed at the Rio de Janeiro Games, leading his country to its first Olympic Final.
The better the competition in Brazil, the better Jokic seemed to play.
In a Preliminary Round game against the United States that Serbia barely lost, Jokic poured in 25 points and then in what many viewed as as upset of Australia in the Semi-Finals, a game his team won decisively, 87-61, he had 9 points, 11 rebounds, 3 steals and a block.
Jokic played well but lost twice to the United States at the 2016 Olympics
He has only gotten better in the three NBA seasons that have followed. In the campaign that recently ended with Denver falling in a thrilling seven-game series with Portland, Jokic averaged an eye-popping 20.1 points, 10.8 rebounds and 7.3 assists per game. In the play-offs, he averaged 25.1ppg, 13rpg and 8.4apg.
At the World Cup, Serbia will compete against Angola, Italy and the Philippines in First Round Group D and if they finish among the top two, they will enter Second Round Group J and take on the top two sides from a Group C which is made up of Spain, Tunisia, Puerto Rico and Iran. The top two sides from that group will advance to the Quarter-Finals.
Jokic wasn't in the Serbia side five years ago at the World Cup in Spain when the team survived a difficult Group Phase before blowing out Greece and Brazil in the Round of 16 and the Quarter-Finals, respectively. They next edged France to reach the title game before crashing to a heavy defeat to the United States.
Serbia, who did not clinch a spot in China until their very last game in the European Qualifiers with a home victory over Israel, will be among the favorites to reach the podium.