Radovic hopes third U16 tournament ends in U17 global ticket
LJUBLJANA (FIBA U16 European Championship 2017) - It took Rok Radovic two summers to get Slovenia back to Division A at the FIBA U16 European Championship. The Slovenian talent is hoping a third time at the U16 age level ends with his country qualifying for their first FIBA U17 Basketball World Cup.
Radovic first played for Slovenia in 2015 and the country finished seventh in the FIBA U16 European Championship Division B. Then last summer Radovic was back and guided the team to a victory over Ukraine in the Third-Place Game for promotion back to Division A for the first time since 2012.
"In the last two years playing with the U16 national team I got a lot of experience in preparations and also in European Championships," said the 6ft 6in (1.98m) small forward. "The fact that I will play with my generation in Division A means a lot to me. It is easier to compare myself and my team with the best players and teams in Europe."
"Our goal is a really high one. We want to finish the tournament among the top five teams and qualify for the FIBA U17 Basketball World Cup. That would be a great success for me, my team and the country of Slovenia. We haven't achieved that with the U16 generation. So it would be amazing."Rok Radovic
Slovenia return to Division A and will take on Finland, Germany and Turkey in Group B. The top five finishers in the tournament will book their tickets to South America next summer for the FIBA U17 Basketball World Cup 2018 in Argentina.
Slovenia not only have never competed at the U17 global tournament, but their best finish at the U16 continental competition would not qualify them for the event. Slovenia's top showing at the FIBA U16 European Championship came in 2003 when Gasper Vidmar helped them to sixth place.
That won't keep Radovic from dreaming.
"Our goal is a really high one. We want to finish the tournament among the top five teams and qualify for the FIBA U17 Basketball World Cup," the Ljubljana native said. "That would be a great success for me, my team and the country of Slovenia. We haven't achieved that with the U16 generation. So it would be amazing."
Still, Radovic remains realistic.
"But we would also be happy even with staying in Division A," he added.
One of the keys to Slovenia's chances would be Radovic, who averaged 9.2 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.9 assists at last summer's U16 Division B. In 2015, playing two years younger than the rest of the competition, Radovic averaged 5.2 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.6 assists.
"It's my third time competing at the FIBA U16 European Championship, so I expect a big role and I'm prepared to take it," Radovic said.
Gregor Glas will be a major player for Slovenia as well at the FIBA U16 European Championship 2017.
Montenegro will also be a second time that Radovic plays together with Gregor Glas, who also appeared last summer at the U16 tournament a year younger and averaged 8.5 points, 1.2 rebounds and 1.2 steals.
"Gregor and I are key players of this team and I think our experience will help our team to achieve our goals," said Radovic, who has also formed a strong bond with the 6ft 3in (1.90m) shooting guard Glas.
"I have a great relationship with Gregor. He is one of my best friends and we understand each other also on the court."
Radovic is hoping that relationship with Glas and some other talent within the team can result in a historic first ticket to the FIBA U17 Basketball World Cup.