Perasovic inspired by Croatian U19 World Cup Final fight v USA
SANTA FE (FIBA U17 Basketball World Cup 2018) - Ivan Perasovic hopes inspiration from one of Croatia's greatest games in youth basketball will lead him and his Croatian teammates to an upset of the United States at the FIBA U17 Basketball World Cup 2018.
Croatia face the United States in the Quarter-Finals in Santa Fe, looking to hand the four-time reigning champion Americans their first ever loss in the competition.
"They are definitely the most talented team in this tournament but we have a lot of talented players as well," said Perasovic of his team, which lost only to France in group play before fending off Egypt 68-55 in the Round of 16 to set up a date with the Americans. "We play hard, we play tough, and I think we can give them a big challenge."
The last time these two countries faced off in youth hoops was arguably one of the most thrilling youth games in history as Luka Bozic missed a free throw with 4.3 seconds to play which would have given Croatia the lead in the Final of the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup 2015. The Americans pulled away in overtime and won 79-71.
“I remember watching the game live when I was younger back in 2015,” said Perasovic, who was 13 years old in July 2015. “We really had a chance to win the game. Unfortunately the game went to overtime and the States won.”
Croatia were playing in the Final with only seven players as superstar Dragan Bender had left the team before the tournament started due to a dispute over his shoes while starting center Ante Zizic as well as Roko Badzim, Ivan Majcunic and Ivan Vranes were all out injured.
Yet the likes of Marko Arapovic, Nik Slavica and Ivica Zubac gave up a fight for the ages against a team that featured NBA players such as Jayson Tatum, Josh Jackson, Terrence Ferguson and plenty more.
"I definitely hope that we can make the same impact. They are definitely an inspiration," Perasovic said.
Perasovic really doesn't need to look too far for inspiration in the game since his father Velimir Perasovic was a legend in his playing days, a FIBA Basketball World Cup 1990 champion for Yugoslavia alongside Drazen Petrovic, Toni Kukuc, Vlade Divac and Zarko Paspalj. The elder Petrovic also faced the original USA Dream Team in the 1992 Olympics for Croatia with Petrovic, Dino Radja and Kukoc.
Nikola Prkacin (left) played in the 2008 Olympics and seven FIBA EuroBaskets for Croatia.
One player Velimir Perasovic did not play with is long-time Croatia international Nikola Prkacin, who played in the 2008 Olympics and seven FIBA EuroBaskets. But both former Croatia stars' sons are starring together for their homeland in Argentina - both a year younger than the competition as 2002-born players.
While Ivan Perasovic is averaging 9.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists and , Roko Prkacin is collecting 10.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 2.0 steals and 2.0 blocks per game.
When asked if having sons of former greats on the Croatian youth national teams is a trend, Perasovic laughed and said: “I hope so. I definitely hope we’re going to be the next great generation of Croatian basketball. It’s a great honor to be part of this great generation.”
For all the talent that Croatia have developed, they are appearing at the U17 World Cup for just the second time after the country took third place in 2012 - with the likes of Mario Hezonja, 2015 U19 World Cup hero Arapovic and Karlo Zganec.
"It means a lot to be back," Perasovic said. "It is going to be very hard against America, but we will give our all and hope to win."
And hope to provide future Croatian generations with some inspiration of his own.