06 - 21
August 2016
9 Dario Saric (CRO)
to read

Saric hails the unity in Croatia's squad

TURIN (Rio 2016 Olympic Games) - Dario Saric and Croatia are in the clouds after winning the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) in Turin to clinch a spot at the Rio de Janeiro Games.

Less than a year removed from a EuroBasket 2015 horror show when the Czech Republic gave them an 80-59 beat down in the Round of 16 in Lille, France, the Croatians are headed to a grand sports spectacle in Brazil. The Balkan team knocked off European giants Greece on Friday at the OQT and then hosts Italy in a Saturday night overtime thriller, 84-78.

Saric, who had 18 points and 13 rebounds against the Italians and was named MVP of the OQT, spoke to FIBA.com. 

FIBA.com: Well done on the win.
Saric: I told you before the Greece game that that would be a battle and this would be the second battle.

FIBA.com: This Croatia side had a tremendous team spirit.
Saric: The guys showed their character, showed how to play. If a player wasn't in a good rhythm, everyone clapped hands for him and used positive words to try and wake him up and I was in this situation. I played terrible in the first half but heard the clapping hands and after that, because of my teammates (I got better). We had a tough schedule, were unlucky, but now this team is happy. We showed our character. I'm happy.

FIBA.com: What does it mean to qualify for the Olympics?
Saric: For me, it means a lot. I spoke with our captain (Roko Ukic) for three years and he said you must bring me to the Olympic Games and now he is going. The feeling is amazing. It's overtime, you fight, you play more than 40 minutes. There were so many battles. I can't find the words.

Bojan Bogdanovic (CRO) was outstanding at the OQT in Turin

FIBA.com: Can you talk about Bojan Bogdanovic, who had another huge game with 26 points?
Saric: Bojan is the best player in our team. He played a good NBA season [with the Brooklyn Nets]. He led us in every game and he showed in the Final his winning character. All 12 players showed us the good mood, jumping on the bench, they feel the game. Maybe that's the biggest step in our team (from last year).

FIBA.com: Krunoslav Simon had a couple of big performances against Greece and Italy, drilling a combine 9 of 18 3-pointers.
Saric: Kruno, he started well last game and started this well. We supported him and he brought us three three-pointers in a row. We have so many good players. We must find two or three players and I think we can beat everybody.

Krunoslav Simon (CRO) gave the team a huge boost in Italy

FIBA.com: Can you look ahead to the Olympics?
Saric: Of course, we are thinking about the Olympics. But we have to celebrate this win because so many times we have been unlucky and now, we deserve this win and deserve to enjoy it.

FIBA.com: What does it mean for such a proud basketball nation to go back to an Olympic Games, with your last qualification eight years ago? 
Saric: For me, the players, it's one of the biggest things. It's like a final. You represent your nation. You represent your friends. You represent your mother your father, all your people in your country and for me, it means a lot.