09 - 17
July 2016
11 Aleksandra Crvendakic (SRB), POR vs. SRB
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Crvendakic puts Rio to the back of her mind

MATOSINHOS (FIBA U20 Women’s European Championship 2016) – Destined to be the face and future of Serbian basketball in the long-term, Aleksandra Crvendakic isn’t looking more than 24 hours ahead right now.

Even with the tantalising lure of a possible call up for Rio coming into focus and a second EuroLeague Women season to look forward to, it’s impossible to knock her out of her stride ahead of Friday’s Quarter-Final against France at the FIBA U20 Women’s European Championship 2016.

"It’s a great privilege to represent your nation at an Olympics and a great thing for Serbia and for Serbian women’s basketball since we are one of the few countries that have both teams (male and female) there," said Crvendakic.

"But for me personally, I still don't think about it because all my thoughts are focused on this game with France."

You can’t blame Crvendakic for being so driven in Matosinhos and wanting to finish her youth career on a positive note – not least after Serbia almost went tumbling into Division B last year in Lanzarote.

"I really can't give you the right answer as to why we played that way last year," she revealed.

"We had a lot of injuries and I think that during preparations for that Championship, we only had two practices with the whole team because of this. We just had a bad start and we couldn't recover from that. We did find our way eventually and won six in a row, but it was too late.

"Every year we have had a good chemistry in the team, but this year that chemistry is at an even higher level. We are fighting for each other, supporting each other and no matter what happens on the court, we will stay together.

"We just never give up on our system. Even after the loss with Germany, I knew how much we are all worth and that we could show our real faces in the Round of 16 against Portugal.

"The main thing is to believe and for sure against France, we will fight until the end and the team who deserves it more will win."

Riding out of youth basketball on the crest of a wave would be a fitting end for a terrific young player. Although even if Crvendakic doesn’t hit the podium steps during this final bow, she still has some seriously memorable moments to reflect on.

With a wide smile, she stated, "The best feelings are always winning with your country and I can't start to talk about this without mentioning Vukovar during 2013 at the FIBA U18 Women’s European Championship, when we finished with a bronze medal.

"That was the best tournament for me, although with any of these experiences, the one thing that is important to mention is being with the other 11 girls and sharing these moments together."

If she keeps working hard, Crvendakic is on the road to becoming a major player for both club and country. Her rookie EuroLeague Women campaign epitomised the class that she oozes after she led UE Sopron with her performances and also enjoyed domestic success.

"While the EuroLeague Women season wasn't our best, we are a very young and talented team - so basically this past year's games were very important to us all as younger players," she mused.

"You have the opportunity to play against top European players and after you experience that, you can see how much you have still got to learn and improve. It keeps reminding you that you should constantly work and keep pushing yourself forward if you want to be like them.

"Also, it's a great privilege to play in such 'hot' atmospheres with loud fans and I can't wait for that again next season."

So while Crvendakic has barely left her teenage years behind, her performances in an elite competition such as EuroLeague Women has seen her prematurely catapulted into the status of a role model for other younger and aspiring players.

And they would all certainly do well to listen to the 20-year-old.

"What I do is to practice as much as I can and as the coaches like to say, 10 percent is talent and the rest is hard work.

"You also have to believe in yourself and no matter what, you have to know what your aim is and always do your best to protect your dreams," she concluded.