25 August, 2023
10 September
0 Jusuf Nurkic (BIH)
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FIBA Exclusive with Jusuf Nurkic: 'I would love to compete at the World Cup'

PORTLAND (USA) - The biggest fan of Bosnia and Herzegovina when the team goes into its do-or-die games against Montenegro and Hungary in the sixth and final window of the FIBA Basketball World Cup Qualifiers will be in Portland, Oregon.

The star center of the country's European Qualifiers win over France this past summer, Jusuf Nurkic, will be attempting to transmit his positive vibes from the United States, where he plays for the NBA's Trail Blazers.

"I would love to compete at the World Cup with the national team," he said, "and I'll be supporting the guys for the next window and sending them all my love and support."

Bosnia and Herzegovina (5-5)  are fourth in Group K behind Montenegro (6-4), but a mere victory over their Balkan neighbors won't be enough. Bosnia and Herzegovina will be aiming to win by 20 points to claim the goal differential advantage, since Montenegro won the first meeting, 88-69. 


Should they win by 20 points or more, and also defeat Hungary, then Bosnia and Herzegovina would be assured of playing at the World Cup for the first time. If Bosnia and Herzegovina win but not by at least 20, a win over Hungary coupled with the Montenegrins falling to the Czech Republic would also Nurkic's team reach the World Cup.

"Those games are going to be finals," Nurkic said. "Two tough battles, two tough opponents that still have hopes to qualify but we have to win because we want to be on the world stage.

"The guys will have to play that game (against Montenegro) as if it were a final. We have to win, we have to finish in a spot to go to the FIBA World Cup. Montenegro is a very solid team, and they also want as much as us to qualify for the World Cup, but the goal is to take advantage of being at home and get the win.

The Bosnia and Hezergovina fans will be a factor in the second meeting with Montenegro

"The fans are going to be the sixth man, I am sure they will be fantastic as usual, and that my teammates will have a great game, probably one of the most important in the history of Bosnia’s basketball, and I know that the guys will put all their hearts and souls into it."

Nurkic was charged up by his country's fans when Bosnia and Herzegovina edged France, 96-90, in a double-overtime thriller on August 27. He showed why people in America, and particularly Portland, have taken to calling him the Bosnian Beast.

One of his contributions was a spectacular dunk over France behemoth Vincent Poirier. He finished with 21 points, nine rebounds, four assists, a couple of steals and a block.

"It was such an amazing game, a fantastic win after a very tough battle against one of the best teams of the world," he said.

"We showed what we're capable of, that we could win games at the highest level. This game was tense with a lot of pressure but we did an amazing job and getting a win against France helped us gain more and more confidence for the present, and for the future. The fans were amazing, noisy, pushing us to give our best and we thanked them by winning the game. This is one of my best moments of joy with the national team."

As for the dunk on Poirier, which went viral, Nurkic said: "It got the crowd going crazy, but I prefer to win than dunking and having my dunks everywhere on social media."

The summer had highs and lows for Bosnia and Herzegovina. The country got impressive wins over Hungary and Slovenia at EuroBasket 2022 in the group of death, Group B.

Narrow defeats to Germany, France and Lithuania prevented Bosnia and Herzegovina from advancing to the Round of 16, though.

Nurkic says it has been important for his career.

"When you play against top players and top teams, you only get better," he said.

"When you play at FIBA level, you always learn, and I am one of the leaders of the national team, so I have more responsibilities, so I have to show and play my 'A' game all the time.

"I learned a lot at the EuroBasket, and I really enjoy playing at FIBA. It’s a different game, and when you play with your country, you feel something bigger than yourself. You play for the country, for the flag, for the whole nation. That makes me very proud; I love that feeling."