Bosnia and Herzegovina's Campara heads to Spain with hero’s welcome still in mind
SARAJEVO (2016 FIBA U17 World Championship) - Sani Campara and Bosnia and Herzegovina had a whirlwind 2015 summer culminating in the FIBA U16 European Championship title. The Bosnian point guard will be heading to the 2016 FIBA U17 World Championship with the memory of the team's hero's welcome still on his mind - at least a little bit.
The Balkan team was greeted by 50,000 people in Sarajevo after winning their first-ever national team title - a spectacle that still lives on in Campara's mind.
"It was really crazy. We have the best fans. It was so special for us. We were only 16 years old, and it was amazing," he recalled. "We are a small country and nobody expected that from us. It was big news for us."
Bosnia and Herzegovina celebrate their title with the home fans
The title was just the next step in a rise in Bosnian and Herzegovinan basketball. There are currently two Bosnians in the NBA in Mirza Teletovic and Jusuf Nurkic. The country also reached the Semi-Finals of the 2015 FIBA U18 European Championship.
We are confident because we won the European Championship. But that can be pretty bad for us too because we could get a big head. We have to stay humble and play like a team. - Campara
"We have some good teams and a good league, so Bosnian basketball is going up. And players like Teletovic and Nurkic are our idols. We try to be like them and help push Bosnian basketball," Campara said.
The success last summer definitely has the Bosnians looking to Zaragoza with thoughts of accomplishing something big in their first showing in a FIBA global event.
"We are confident because we won the European Championship. But that can be pretty bad for us too because we could get a big head. We have to stay humble and play like a team," the Sarajevo native said. "We really should try to forget about last summer."
The Bosnians - who will play in Group D with France, Dominican Republic and Korea - saw their chances take a hit when power forward Njegos Sikiras was ruled out of the tournament.
Their preliminary squad is currently set at 18 players, including two born in 2000 and one in 2001.
|Bosnia and Herzegovina 18-player squad for 2016 FIBA U17 World Championship|
|Adi Alikadic||Emir Bacvic||Amar Barukcija||Semin Burko|
|Sani Campara||Emir Cerkezovic||Drago Cvitanovic||Nikola Djakovic|
|Aljosa Jankovic||Semin Karic||Srdan Kocic||Amar Mehic|
|Denis Milinovic||Vedran Mirkovic||Dzanan Musa||Lazar Mutic|
|Stefan Radosavljevic||Miladin Vlacic|
Still, the goal for the FIBA U17 World Championship debutants is the podium.
"We know we have a good team and we want to get a medal," Campara said.
The Bosnians will come into the tournament after many of the players collected high level experience this season.
While team leader Dzanan Musa played in the Euroleague for Cedevita Zagreb, Campara got into 19 Bosnian Division 1 games for OKK Spars Sarajevo, averaging 3.6 points, 0.9 rebounds and 0.6 assists in 12 minutes a game. He also starred for Spars at the Adidas Next Generation Tournament at the Belgrade qualifier, helping the club to the final.
"It was a great experience especially for the young guys to play against the beast players in Europe. When we get back together with the national team we will know what it’s like to play against top players," Campara said.
After experiencing the hero's welcome last summer, Campara said a podium finish would be another huge feat for the country.
"It would be a great honour, and it would be a huge honour for our country and more madness for our country,” he said. "We just want to play and what happens, happens."
Again, remember the craziness of last summer, but stay humble.