Djordjevic: ''Great honor for me to lead China against Serbia at World Cup''
MANILA (Philippines) - Aleksander Djordjevic no longer holds the reins of his native Serbia yet he's going to be thinking about his old squad a lot in the coming weeks.
His new team, China, was drawn with Serbia in Group B of the FIBA Basketball World Cup, along with Puerto Rico and South Sudan.
Djordjevic, who coached Serbia to the 2014 World Cup Final in Spain and the 2016 Olympic Gold Medal Game in Brazil, was at Saturday's Draw presented by Wanda in Manila and had much to ponder after China fell into the same pool with his homeland.
IT'S GOING TO BE A GAME FULL OF EMOTIONS AND GREAT PRIDE. SERBIA IS ONE OF THE CANDIDATES FOR THE MEDALS.
"It's a great honor for me to lead the China national team against my country at the World Cup," he said in remarks to zurnal.rs.
"For me, it's going to be a game full of emotions and great pride. Serbia is one of the candidates for the medals, a big-time favorite in our group.
"Regarding the other two opponents, they are very tough, athletic ... Puerto Rico has a big experience playing at these types of competitions. South Sudan doesn't, but has a great team that managed to get the national team to the World Cup."
Djordjevic coached Serbia for several years but is now is at the helm of China
"We are all talking about what's next for all of the teams, but I'm simply thinking about tomorrow, and how to prepare ourselves for everything that is coming.
"Of course, we have everything already prepared, nothing will change with our friendly games."
His experience as both a World Cup winner as a player for Yugoslavia in 1998, and his success as coach of Serbia, made Djordejvic an attractive candidate to lead China.
He was put in charge of the team during the last window of the Asian Qualifiers. Because of his past work, Djordjevic has a broad and deep understanding of international basketball and the quality of squads that will make up the 32-team tournament.
Djordjevic was put in charge of China during the Asian Qualifiers and will now lead them at the World Cup
"There are some very tough groups," he said. "The interesting one is where USA and Greece are (Group C with also Jordan and New Zealand). The Japanese group (Group E with Australia, Finland and Germany) is very tough, and the Philippines got good opponents (Group A with Angola, Dominican Republic and Italy).
"I believe that the atmosphere here will be amazing and that it's going to be tough to play against the host. The popularity of basketball in this country is amazing.
"European teams have their strength, and goal, and know what they want. Of course, there are Slovenia, Spain, and Germany which are rising after the amazing EuroBasket..."
Djordjevic was among the huge basketball personalities at the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 Draw presented by Wanda.
China legend Yao Ming, now the Chinese Basketball Association President, was in attendance, as were Global Ambassador Luis Scola of Argentina, FIBA's Player Commission Chairman and FIBA Central Board Member Dirk Nowitzki, and Spanish Basketball Federation President Jorge Garbajosa.
China's Yao Ming, who averaged 25.9 points and nine rebounds at the 2006 World Cup, was at the Draw
Scola played in World Cup Finals in 2002 and 2019, while Garbajosa helped Spain beat Scola's Argentina in the 2006 World Cup Semi-Final and then Greece in the Final. Nowitzki was the MVP of the 2002 World Cup after spearheading Germany's run to third place.
"The Draw was organized magnificently," Djordjevic said. "It was a spectacle. Clear, fast, with a lot of basketball legends such as my president of the federation Ming, Scola, Nowitzki, Garbajosa...
"We're expecting an amazing World Cup. And I can't wait for it to start."