All-new team for reigning U20 European champions Serbia
BELGRADE (FIBA U20 European Championship) - No member of the fantastic Serbian side which marched undefeated at last summer's FIBA U20 European Championship will be in Helsinki in July to defend gold, but that is not necessarily bad news for aspiring title contenders.
Despite the generational change and the fact all 1995-born players on that champion team have now moved to senior level, Serbia can still field at this year's U20 tournament a squad so replete of talent and important experience, that they have every reason to believe they could repeat the feat of their predecessors.
The vast majority of Serbia's 18-strong preliminary squad for the 2016 FIBA U20 European Championship has already won silverware at international level.
|U20 Serbia preliminary squad
This extended Serbian team includes almost the entire roster – 11 players - who won silver at the 2014 edition of the FIBA U18 European Championship, as well as five players of the side who claimed the bronze medal at FIBA U17 World Championship that same summer.
Among them, two 1997-born perimeter players, all-round point guard Stefan Peno and sharp-shooter Vanja Marinkovic, compose an elite duo which played in both competitions in 2014 and stepped on the podium both in Turkey and in Dubai.
Peno led the U17 team in assists and together with Marinkovic they were among Serbia's top-5 scorers in both tournaments.
Vanja Marinkovic, seen here at the 2015 FIBA U19 World Championship, had collected two items of silverware in 2014
Vojislav Stojanovic, who averaged 12.1 points and 6.3 rebounds in Dubai, fellow winger Slobodan Jovanovic and forward Nikola Popovic are the three other members of that U17 team who are included in this summer's U20 preliminary squad.
Meanwhile center Stefan Lazarevic, who had propelled Serbia to the final in Turkey with his team-high 13.1 points and 7.9 rebounds per game, headlines the 11-strong contingent that played together at the U18 event in 2014.
This group also includes point guard Ilija Dokovic, big man Vasilije Vucetic and guard Radovan Djokovic, who had made a huge contribution in the Turkey tournament as they averaged a combined 27 points and 12 boards per game between the three of them.
As is natural, eight of the players on the U20 preliminary squad had played in last summer's FIBA U19 World Championship, where Serbia finished in ninth place, albeit rising star Borisa Simanic is not included as he is a 1998-born player.
The preparations of Serbia's U20 side will commence in Belgrade on 20 June, with the big Helsinki tournament getting under way on 16 July. The defending champions were drawn in Group C, together with Latvia, Slovenia and Ukraine.