Eurobasket.com, as the most complete basketball web site you can find around, does not deal only with Elite competitions but also wants to give a chance to small, ambitious clubs with big hopes for the future. One of these clubs is for sure basketball club Strsljen from Gusinje,a small town in Northern Montenegro. Its founder and player Alen Rugovac (184-PG-85) explains how this idea saw the light and what motivated him to start this great project in probably the most underdeveloped region in whole Montenegro.
Hello Alen, how did you start playing basketball?Who was your idol when you were a little kid?
I started to play basketball when I was 11 years old. When I first moved to America I fell in love with the game. At that time Michael Jordan (199-F-63, college: N.Carolina) was a icon that everyone watched and follow and that is when I decided to pick up a basketball. I loved Michael Jordan but my favorite player of all time Id have to say was Allen Iverson (184-G-75, college: Georgetown). He simply went against the odds. Is my height and weight and never feared the big stage. He is also one reason I fell in love with the game of basketball.
In 2012 you founded Basketball Strsljen in Gusinje and the team will compete in Division II of Montenegro this year. How did you get the idea to bring professional basketball to the town of Gusinje?
Well, when I moved to Gusinje 5 years ago I asked locals about playing for a basketball team out here but unfortunately there was not one. Since than I have had the idea but it always seemed like it was impossible because we didnt have a sports gym. Also this town has less than 1 thousand people living here year around. When I first arrived there wasnt even a gym in Plav which is a 15 minute drive from Gusinje. 3 Years ago a Sport Gym was built in the town of Plav and 2 years ago a handball team was also created there and that is when I saw my chance to create a basketball team. That is pretty much where the idea came from.
Who helped you in the realization of this plan? What you needed to do in order to overcome all the obstacles?
Well, in creating any sports team the most important thing is the financial support. Without that you really cant get anything going regardless of how much talent you may have. The town of Gusinje and Plav has majority of their citizens living in the United States. With that I was able to gather some funds to be able to start. Also the Mayor of Gusinje was my main support in the registration process as well as learning the ropes of creating a sports team here. Also another problem was not having your own Gym and traveling every day 15 minutes away to practice but eventually we just found a way. I also expect help from Gusinje Foundation who helps this end of the country and sports organizations such as ours. I also received help from donators from America as well as the Opstina in Plav.
How did the local authorities react on this idea? Did they support you?
The local authorities showed a solid amount of support. It could have been a lot less and it could have been a lot more. Financially there isnt much support but the reality is we cant blame them because this side of the country isnt in great financial stance therefore even if they wanted to they probably arent financially stable enough to. But I think overall support was solid and it will get better.
Strsljen played its first game in October against BC Gorstak and lost but it was actually a great step for the young club and the whole organization. Do you think you will be able to count on fans this year and in which way you plan to promote the idea?
The reality is that I am disappointed that we lost our first ever official game but it was a overall victory for our organization and this town. We played against a team that is much more experienced than majority of our players. We had a great fan turnout and support. Fans behaved great and support us even after the loss and only gave us positive feedback. The fans will continue to come out and support us and I am sure that they understand that this is our first ever season. We are here for the long run and I hope the fans will be as well. We will promote the idea through the internet, posters and verbally.
Could you tell us more about the current team and what can be expected from you in the year to come?
Our team has great backcourt players. Fast, exciting, and experienced. Players such as my self, My brother Anel Rugovac (192-G-88) who is a very strong player who is also a great scorer, as well as our shooting guard Milos Jankovic (185-G-87). A great post player in Adil Radoncic (205-C-86), a very fast improving post player also in Vladislav Dragovic (198-C-88) and couple of promising young players. We have a good coaching staff in Slavko Knezevic as well as a good young assistant coach Donko Dasic . With that being said I expect us to leave our all on the court each and every game. As I stated earlier we are a new team with not a lot of experience but with enough games under our belt we will only get better and results will show. This year the most important thing for this organization is to play the game the right way, to receive support from people all around the world who know about the team.
Did you make any long term goals and would you be able to tell us more about that as well?
For now my goal is complete this season the best way we can and for all the players to only get better. The next season we plan on creating younger selections and school of basketball. As soon as we may have the opportunity to go to the first league we will do so, but until than we plan on just getting better and expanding basketball in this region of the country. In the future we would like to build this organization into a successful one as other clubs are in this country, where we are able to be financial stable to where we can have at least 3 mens selections and one womens. But of course those are our hopes for the future.
What do you think who is the biggest candidate to win the league this year and play next season in Erste Basketball League?
We havent had a opportunity to play against many teams yet, we have only heard of a few who may be top contenders to get in the first league. I heard that Zeta 2011 has a good team and have good support, fan wise as well as financial. They also brought in several players from the first league and plan on taking their team to the first league right away.
Did you follow Montenegrin National Team led by Luka Pavicevic (agency: Beo Basket ) last summer? Whats your opinion on their results?
Yes I did follow. I do have to say I am very impressed with how far the Sehovic brothers have come. I am also very impressed with how much a coaching change affected the national team. It shows a true meaning of a great coach. I always follow the Montenegro basketball team and I thought that they would have a tough time without players like Nikola Vucevic (210-C-90, college: USC), Nikola Pekovic (209-C-86, agency: Beo Basket) and Omar-Sharif Cook (188-PG-82, agency: Beo Basket, college: St.John's). But instead they did a great job playing together as a team and not worrying about individual stats. Montenegro basketball team showed the great meaning of team basketball and how strong one team can be when playing together.
Thank you Alen for the interview. Eurobasket.com wishes you good good luck in this adventure and we will keep following your results and achievements.
Thank you very much for giving me a opportunity to tell everyone about our organization. I hope that everyone will follow us and support us in any way that they can. Also if anyone wishes to help us it would be greatly appreciated. As I said earlier any help is help. Please Contact me at Alenrugovac24@gmail.com if anyone has any questions on how they may help us!. As you know our goals are to get kids off of streets and activate them in sports and into something positive and expand basketball in this region. Thank you!
Acie Earl (208-F/C-70, college: Iowa), former Boston Celtics draft pick and the second player ever, after Jerome James (216-C-75, college: Florida A&M) who signed in Montenegro with NBA experience on his resume, is talking to Eurobasket.com about his NBA experience, ups and downs in Europe and ambitions for the future [read more]
Acie Earl (208-F/C-70, college: Iowa), former Boston Celtics draft pick and the second player ever, after Jerome James (216-C-75, college: Florida A&M) who signed in Montenegro with NBA experience on his resume, is talking to Eurobasket.com about his NBA experience, ups and downs in Europe and ambitions for the future.
Hello Acie, most true basketball fans have heard about you- at the University of Iowa, you were a 3 year starter, Playboy Pre Season All American, Chicago Tribune's Big Ten Player of the Year plus 2nd leading career scorer at Iowa and All Time shot block leader at Iowa. But I would like to hear how did it all start? Have you always considered basketball as your dream job?
As a kid in the 3rd grade I saw Magic Johnson (207-G-59, college: Michigan St.) play on tv and I wanted to play since and I followed the NBA and college on tv growing up, even collecting basketball cards.
I was supposed to go lottery that year but the draft lottery had a lot of underclassmen come out of college as the 1st 7 or 8 picks were underclassmen, if they had not come out then I would have been a lottery pick, so to actually have David Stern say my name was unreal and the walk across the stage and shake his hand a dream come true.
You played 4 years in the NBA with the Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks and Toronto Raptors in the 90s. The 90s were considered the era of Michael Jordan (199-F-63, college: N.Carolina) but also the golden age of big and talented post players. Who was the toughest opponent you have faced in your NBA career?
In January 1998 you moved to France and signed with Racing Paris, a very ambitious club at that time, mostly known now as Tony Parkers first club. How hard for an experienced NBA player like you was the transition from NBA rules and comodity to European game?
However, your overseas career lasted eight years in notable basketball countries such as Spain, Greece, France, Turkey. You won many individual awards such as Turkish League MVP in 2001 and Kosovo League MVP in 2004. Considering your enormous experience could you tell us which league was most competitive and where did you enjoy playing and living?
Australia was fun and good life, France also, Austria truly most interesting . Russia most wild, China so different.. all had such ups and downs , Poland Serbia ect.
The Buducnost team was cool. It was fun to play on such as famous euro league team ,but they were on the downward fall and I was brought in late to help but it was too late, the coach was okay, not great not bad, he felt a lot of pressure and I think they fired him after they then let me go.
Adriatic League is now considered as one of the best leagues in Europe. Back in 2003/2004 how competitive it was and did you like the level?
It was okay then, hard play but a lot of young prospects with Red Star and the other big team in the capital of Serbia. I could see it big now as the players could always dribble, shoot and were big, and also played a very smart floor game.
In August 2004 you suffered a career ending injury (torn Achilles tendon), just a week after you signed with Zadar, another Adriatic League team. How hard it was to quit basketball and what were the alternatives at that time?
It wasn't hard to quit, mentally I was drained, at 32 I was starting to feel it and could see myself retiring. I just was not ready off the court yet, also most of my friends were coaching in the states at college or semi pro, so I thought to do that but really after seeing it close up I didn't want to coach at a high level.
Your basketball program (more info at http://www.venomsportstraining.com) is proven for success. You have been running your own kids camp for 3-12th graders for years in Dubuque, Iowa. and also held individual workouts for past Iowa Hawkeyes who wanted to prolong and start their pro careers such as Glen Worley (203-F-81, college: Iowa), Duez Henderson (201-F-80, college: Iowa) and Jason Price (184-G-77, college: Iowa). What are your plans for your coaching career? Would you like to return to Europe as a coach?
Buducnost is the new champion of Erste Basketball League! Actually, its not a big news in Montenegro knowing that the club from Podgorica won all league titles since the independence in 2006 but this time was a bit harder against a solid Sutjeska. Anyway, the third game was not as tied as the games before (67-51) but Dusan Dubljevic 's guys can not regret because they fought bravely against a much more experienced team [read more]
Buducnost is the new champion of Erste Basketball League! Actually, its not a big news in Montenegro knowing that the club from Podgorica won all league titles since the independence in 2006 but this time was a bit harder against a solid Sutjeska. Anyway, the third game was not as tied as the games before (67-51) but Dusan Dubljevic 's guys can not regret because they fought bravely against a much more experienced team. The game was decided after the first half when Buducnost got a big lead and burried Sutjeska's hopes to make a surprise in Podgorica. A curiosity of the game played tonight is that nobody scored in double digits for the winners but all players besides Danilo Nikolic (205-C-93) scored at least two points which proves that Buducnost has a deep rotation. The top scorers were Gerald Lee (208-C-87, college: ODU) and Vladimir Mihailovic (193-G-90) with 9 points each. On the other side the situation was the same, but the guests scored less points all together and thats was the main difference. The leading scorer was Radoje Vujosevic (209-C-89, agency: Interperformances) with 8 points.
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