×
25 August, 2023
10 September
05/09/2023
News
to read

Slovenia is more than just Luka Magic

OKINAWA (Japan) - To a general fan, this might come as a surprise. Slovenia are more than just Luka Doncic, no matter how much "magic" he casts to command the spotlight each game.

"EVERYBODY WAS TOGETHER, AND WE JUST STAYED TOGETHER NO MATTER WHAT."

 

This isn't a secret, though. Slovenia have been a strong basketball program for years. Sure, Luka Doncic was already a main force of the team that won EuroBasket 2017 but there was always more to Slovenia basketball than just that.

This has long been the case and, even though there might have been some doubts early on, it seems to remain the same in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 as well.

While there's no question that he was the main driving force steering Slovenia in Okinawa, the team's recent performances have shown that there's plenty more to the team.

Doncic took much of the load in their first two wins over Venezuela and Georgia with impressive averages of 30.5 points, 8.5 assists, and 6.0 assists per game, but defenses expectedly began to double down - and get physical - on him when they faced Cape Verde and Australia.

Still, Slovenia pulled through in both games, huge thanks to his teammates who gamely stepped up.

Against the Blue Sharks, it was veteran shooter Klemen Prepelic who took the spotlight. He finished with 18 points on a trio of triples, together with 4 rebounds and 7 assists for an efficiency rating of 25 to help his side overcome a tough challenge by the African side, 92-77. 

 

It should no longer come as a surprise that Prepelic delivers whenever he needs to. The 29-year-old shooting guard has been averaging double-digit scoring throughout his entire senior national team career, ever since he made his FIBA debut at the World Cup in 2014.

But Slovenia has gone even deeper than that in this run. When it hasn't been the senior Klemen, the younger Bine Prepelic can step up as well. He had 11 points versus Cape Verde.

Then there was another veteran Aleksej Nikolic who also chipped in with 11 points. As Doncic struggled to score only 19 points on 17 attempts, the likes of the Prepelics and Nikolic stepped up to the plate to keep Slovenia ahead.

Doncic had another tough night against the Boomers, which applied practically the same defensive scheme they devised against him to beat Slovenia for the bronze in the Tokyo Olympics. He was saddled by foul trouble, already incurring his fourth barely two minutes into the final period.

But he didn't have to worry much when he had to sit out for a while, with Klemen, Mike Tobey, and Gregor Hrovat joining hands for the key 7-0 run to give themselves enough breathing room, and Doncic would later on help close it out to seal the 91-80 triumph.

 

The Dallas Mavericks star still finished with a 19-7-7 line, but he himself was proud of the way the other flagbearers came through when Australia focused on him.

"I'm really proud of how we played today. Everybody was together, and we just stayed together no matter what," he said moments after the match against the Boomers.

Tobey was the definition of hustle with 18 points and 12 rebounds, his first double-double in a World Cup game. Prepelic, as usual, made 11 points off the bench, while Hrovat added 10 points. All 10 players utilized scored at least two points in the victory - their fourth in as many games.

Now, Slovenia are bound for the Quarter-Finals.

 

 

They have Doncic (26.7 points, 7.4 rebounds, 6.8 assists per game) to thank for, no doubt, but then there's guys like Klemen (14.8 points per game on 52.5 field-goal percentage) and Tobey (12.0 points per game on 72.2 field goal percentage, 6.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists per game) as well.

It might feel a bit top heavy, as Slovenia still only average 31.0 bench points per game, but that's more because of how well Doncic has been able to perform to his level.

And when he isn't able to - as we all have witnessed against Cape Verde and Australia - the team has been able to step up and keep on moving forward.

There might still be some concern, especially after Slovenia were unable to overcome Germany in the last game of the Second Round, a game which they might have needed a bit more of a boost from the others outside of Luka. Still, Slovenia have proved themselves more often than not that they have what it takes.

Who will step up next for Slovenia and how far will they go? We'll get to know sooner, with the World Cup approaching its home stretch.

FIBA