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July 2017
9 Vanja Marinkovic (SRB)
17/07/2017
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Marvelous Marinkovic vows to keep improving

CRETE (FIBA U20 European Championship 2017) - After practice, almost every day, Vanja Marinkovic keeps hoisting up shots in a determined bid to improve.

The 20-year-old has starred during the opening games of the FIBA U20 European Championship 2017, fueling Serbia's unbeaten start. On Day 1 against Italy, Marinkovic was lethal with 30 points including nailing six shots from beyond the arc. Backing up that terrific effort, Marinkovic struggled to recapture his hot form from deep making just 1-of-5 against Slovenia but still scored 18 points.

Impressively, when his shot wasn't falling, Marinkovic showed he is far more rounded than a specialist shooter through a series of drives to the basket. He might not be particularly explosive but he has good balance and innate basketball smarts, making him a nightmare for defenders. Watch him closely and you can see traces of Klay Thompson, the Golden State Warriors star.

Clearly, Marinkovic's hard work is paying off and his game seemingly has several levels it can still reach. At 6ft 6in (1.98m) and blessed with being a sharpshooter, Marinkovic undoubtedly has the attributes to excite NBA scouts.

Like his idol Kobe Bryant, he loves improving his game. "I feel good about where my game is," he says. "I always do more after practice, like practicing spot-ups, dribbling and layups. My whole life I watched Kobe play and I loved watching him. It always made me hyped up. I would love to be able to do some of his moves."

Marinkovic says playing in the NBA would be a "dream" but he is currently focusing on his career in Europe, where he has already notched an impressive resume playing for Partizan, including being part of the Basketball Champions League.

As part of powerhouse Serbia, Marinkovic has already tasted numerous successes including medals at the FIBA U16 European Championship 2013 and the FIBA U17 Basketball World Cup 2014.  After consecutive victories in Crete, Serbia are firming as one of the favorites to take out the FIBA U20 European Championship 2017.

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Marinkovic says Serbia have high expectations but need to focus on the task at hand, starting with a heavyweight battle against reigning champions Spain on Day 3. "We are going well…started well against Italy," he says. "It was a tough game against Slovenia, but we finished well. It will be a classic against Spain.

"Of course, our aim is to win the tournament but we need to focus on every game and go from there."

Ever diplomatic, Marinkovic prefers focusing on the team rather than his individual feats but says he is in good rhythm despite some shooting struggles against Slovenia on Day 2. "I missed some shots, but I feel good and think I am playing well," he says. "Naturally you improve as you keep playing and I am learning how to get better all the time.

"But it's not about me, it's about the team," he added. "We want to get better and we know we have to against Spain because it is going to be a really tough game."

FIBA