Nikola Vucevic (213-C-90, college: USC) is a well known name to basketball fans in the whole world. Born in Switzerland, raised in Belgium and Montenegro, professional player in the best league in the world- the National Basketball Association (NBA). EuroBasket.com interviewed him during his stay in Montenegro, while he was on a mission with Montenegrin National Team which ended successfully (Montenegro qualified for the European championship).
Hello Nikola, could you tell us how did your basketball career start?
I have started playing basketball in Belgium, my father played there professionally. I watched him play, he was my role model and I felt in love with basketball at the age of 9. Then my family moved back to Montenegro.
Coming back to Montenegro was probably a cultural shock knowing that you were raised in Belgium?
Actually, it was not such a big cultural shock for me as I already had friends here. We used to come every summer for vacation to our home country. The only little issue was the knowledge of the local language. I went to French schools so it took me a while to adjust to learning in a different language although I was able to speak it fluently. Basketball was not a problem, its a very universal language so it did not take me long to learn basketball expressions. I was very skinny and I played as a shooting guard at that time.
Your father Borislav Vucevic (201-F-58) was a well known player who played in KK Bosna and Yugoslavian National team as well as abroad. He had a long career and even played at the Belgium League All Star game in his 40s. Did you see his basketball past as a burden for your basketball development or as a motivation to become even a better player?
He did not put any pressure on me. I told him that my wish was to play basketball and he replied that I was talented but I need to work a lot and make sacrifices to be successful. He warned me that I would not have the same life style as my friends if I wanted to be a good basketball player but I was motivated to give it a try. Both my mom and dad played basketball so after a while I realized basketball could be my profession.
As a high school student you were at the crossroads- what to do next? Not many people know that you actually went to Serbian team FMP Zeleznik for try-outs but at the end decided to go to a high school in America. Could you tell us more about that decision?
My first option was FMP Zeleznik. I did try-outs with them, for head coach Slobodan Klipa. They were interested in me but we did not reach agreement. At that time I head from a family friend Vito Dragovic whose son Nikola Dragovic (206-F-87, college: UCLA, agency: BeoBasket) played for UCLA that American basketball would be an option to consider. My dad liked the idea, we thought about it and decided to take a chance. Now I realize it was the best move for me and I am proud on my decision. I was also lucky to go to a good high school and later to a good college. I think that the US system can be very beneficial for our basketball players because between 300-400 NCAA colleges you can choose one that will give you a chance and help you improve.
From a small city like Bar you moved to a big state (California). You got a chance in a good school and after promoting yourself there you had another choice to make- finding the right college to continue your basketball development. How did that choice go?
I talked to my family. It was a hard decision to make, I did not have many offers though. The most serious offers were Nevada Reno and USC. There were some other schools that showed interest too. My first choice was Nevada but at the last minute I changed my mind and went to USC. It took me one month to make that decision. But it was the right decision. I had a chance to collaborate with good coaches and teammates, got a chance to play immediately. As a sophomore I started and played over 30 mins a game.
After your junior year you decided to apply for the NBA draft. You had one more year of eligibility. Why did you make that decision?
I thought the level I reached in college was good enough to try to fulfill my dream and play in the NBA. I made a big step forward in the final part of my junior year and it convinced my to try new challenges. I also knew that I was as good as any other post player in my draft class so it gave me confidence. My goal was to make to be a first round pick. I had work outs with 13 NBA teams, two work outs a day. The predictions were that I would be picked as a late first round pick or early second round. But after the work outs my chances got better and I was chosen by the 76ers as a first round draft pick.
You spent your rookie season with the 76ers. How did the team accept you as a rookie? It was a good year for me, I had ups and downs of course but I believe I had a good rookie season. The team was a mix or experienced and young players and they accepted me well, especially Andre Iguodala (198-SF-84, college: Arizona) who was the team captain and best players and he helped me a lot to adjust to the NBA level.
After the 76ers traded you to the Magic you came to a team that started a rebuilding phase. You got a chance immediately to show your worth as a started. How hard it was to adjust to a new role knowing that you were just a rotation player at the 76ers? I was not sure that I would be a starter. They had Gustavo Ayon (207-C/F-85, college: San Jose St.) as a center but I knew I could fight for the starting five position so I arrived earlier to Orlando, 20 days before the start of the training camp, and it helped me a lot. It was a big change for me. I was not one of the leaders because Orlando had Jameer Nelson (183-PG-82, college: St.Joseph's), Hedo Turkoglu (208-F-79), Glen Davis (206-F-86, college: LSU) etc but I played as the starting center and contributed to the team's results. The teammates and coaches believed in me and I started growing as a player during the season.
This season you were considered one of the elite centers in the NBA. During the summer there were rumors that you would move to a new club but it did not happen and you decided to stay in Orlando. Yes, the club brought few good players this summer and I believe we can make the play offs in the upcoming season. Of course we will need to work hard to do that but its my desire to reach the play offs with Orlando as I am now one of the most experienced players there and its my fifth year in Orlando.
You got a call from Montenegro National Team at the end of season and decided to play for your home country in the qualifications for the European Championship. Interestingly, the head coach of the National Team is Bogdan Tanjevic (agency: Interperformances ) who coached your father in Bosna long time ago. Do you feel honored to be coached by him? I did not have any doubts about that decision. Actually, I was looking forward to collaborate with coach Tanjevic. He helped us a lot because now we have good team chemistry and its very important for any team. We come to practices happy and he is a big reason why Montenegro had a successful campaign this summer and qualified for the European Championships. I am very glad I was a part of this team.
Thank you Nikola for the interview and good luck in the upcoming season.
Latkovic number one in Montenegro for round 19 (by Court Side) - 14 hours ago
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Guard Milos Latkovic (196-G-93, agency: Dynamics Global Management) had a great game in the last round for Lovcen, receiving a Court Side Player of the Week award for round 19.
The 23-year old player was the main contributor (35 points, five rebounds and four assists) to his team's victory, helping them to outclass Jedinstvo (#7, 7-10) with 34-point margin 98-64. Lovcen maintains the 4th position in Montenegrin Erste Liga. They would have been even better if they hadn't lost a few games... [read more]
Guard Milos Latkovic (196-G-93, agency: Dynamics Global Management) had a great game in the last round for Lovcen, receiving a Court Side Player of the Week award for round 19. The 23-year old player was the main contributor (35 points, five rebounds and four assists) to his team's victory, helping them to outclass Jedinstvo (#7, 7-10) with 34-point margin 98-64. Lovcen maintains the 4th position in Montenegrin Erste Liga. They would have been even better if they hadn't lost a few games earlier this season. Lovcen will need more victories to improve their 10-7 record. In the team's last game Latkovic had a remarkable 72.7% from 2-point range and got four three-pointers out of 6 attempts. He just recently signed at Lovcen, being already a very valuable addition to the team. Milos Latkovic has solid league stats. He is league's best scorer averaging so far 22.3ppg. Latkovic is in league's top in assists (4th best: 5.0apg) and averages impressive 2.3spg,55.0% FGP and 41.7% from behind 3-point line.
The second best player in last round's games was another Lovcen's star - young Vasilije Knezevic (202-C-96). Knezevic had a very good evening with 27 points, 9 rebounds and 4 assists. Of course together with Latkovic he helped Lovcen with another comfortable win outscoring the lower-ranked Jedinstvo (#7, 7-10) 98-64. Lovcen's 4th position in the standings has not changed. His team's 10-7 record is not bad at all. Knezevic is one of the most experienced players at Lovcen and similarly like Milos Latkovic has a reputation of one of team's most reliable players.
Third on the list of top players last round was center Boris Jeknic (203-C-89) of Ulcinj (#5). Jeknic showcased his all-around game by recording 23 points, six rebounds and seven assists in the last round. He was a key player of Ulcinj, leading his team to a 92-83 win against slightly lower-ranked S.Centar (#6, 7-10). Ulcinj needs these victories very badly if they think about getting closer to top teams. Their record at this point is 9 victories and 8 lost games. Jeknic has a very solid season. In 17 games in Montenegro he scored 13.1ppg. He also has 5.7rpg and FGP: 64.2%.
Other top performing players last week: 4. Djoko Salic (213-C-95) of Sutjeska - 18 points, 11 rebounds and 4 assists 5. Milan Latkovic (184-G-86) of Ulcinj - 24 points, 4 rebounds and 9 assists 6. Marko Koljevic (191-G-90) of S.Centar - 32 points and 3 rebounds 7. Nikola Rondovic (207-PF-91) of Ibar Rozaje - 20 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists 8. Marko Ljujic (207-C-90) of Ibar Rozaje - 14 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists 9. Dejan Bjelic (209-C-90) of Jedinstvo - 18 points and 7 rebounds 10. Dragoje Djokovic (190-G-93) of Ulcinj - 15 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists
The Player of the week is chosen based on efficiency calculation, but also including game result, importance of the game, if played recorded double-double/triple-double, etc. The efficiency formula is a combination of various formulas used by different basketball organizations/leagues. We got involved many basketball scouts and journalists to assure it's accuracy. The formula: 1.5*PTS + 3* (REB+AST+ST+BL-TO) - 2*BSAG - 4*PF + 3*PFRV + 4* (2FGPM+3FGPM) + 1.5*FTM - 3* (2FGPA-2FGPM) - 3* (3FGPA-3FGPM) - (FTA-FTM)
The Player of the Week awards are presented by Court Side. Court Side is the global leader in basketball management, and is widely regarded as the most dynamic and innovative company of its kind. It was the first Basketball Agency to launch its own website, and the first to have its own database. Court Side has more agents and manpower within its organization, than any other competitor, and its international network of basketball contacts is still unparalleled.
Buducnost is the new-old winner of Montenegrin Cup. Even though nothing has really changed this time Buducnost could be considered lucky because one shot decided their destiny and this time this shot was in the hands of Antabia Waller (191-G-88, college: Auburn), Mornar's sharp shooter who missed a wide open shot from a central position to secure a big win for his team. But Buducnost won at the end (72-68). Buducnost started the game much better and opened it with a 20-11 lead in the firs... [read more]
Buducnost is the new-old winner of Montenegrin Cup. Even though nothing has really changed this time Buducnost could be considered lucky because one shot decided their destiny and this time this shot was in the hands of Antabia Waller (191-G-88, college: Auburn), Mornar's sharp shooter who missed a wide open shot from a central position to secure a big win for his team. But Buducnost won at the end (72-68). Buducnost started the game much better and opened it with a 20-11 lead in the first quarter which was defended by the halftime. However, in the third quarter Mornar played much better, Octavius Ellis (208-C-93, college: Cincinnati) protected the basket and Buducnost's big men got in foul trouble. The last quarter was a very exciting experience for everybody in the gym because Mornar got the lead back and Buducnost's rotation did not bring any results. But in the last few minutes thanks to outstanding performances by Nemanja Gordic (193-PG-88) and Suad Sehovic (197-G/F-87) Buducnost won the game and celebrated another Cup title. Sehovic and Gordic scored 15 points each for the winners and most of these points came in the crucial moments. On the other side former Buducnost's talent Boris Bakic (193-G-86, agency: BeoBasket) scored 17 points.
KK Ibar Rozaje (Erste Liga) signed 25-year old Slovenian guard Stefan Vukovic (196-98kg-92, college: Blue Mountain) after he was tested there shortly. He played recently at KK Splosna plovba Portoroz in Slovenian Liga Nova KBM, but left. In 9 games he had 10.4ppg, 5.0rpg, 2.4apg and 1.2spg this season. The last season Vukovic played at Studentski Centar Podgorica where in 6 Erste Liga games he recorded 3.5ppg and 2.0rpg. He was named to SSAC All-Academic Team in 2015. Vukovic graduated fr... [read more]
KK Ibar Rozaje (Erste Liga) signed 25-year old Slovenian guard Stefan Vukovic (196-98kg-92, college: Blue Mountain) after he was tested there shortly. He played recently at KK Splosna plovba Portoroz in Slovenian Liga Nova KBM, but left. In 9 games he had 10.4ppg, 5.0rpg, 2.4apg and 1.2spg this season. The last season Vukovic played at Studentski Centar Podgorica where in 6 Erste Liga games he recorded 3.5ppg and 2.0rpg. He was named to SSAC All-Academic Team in 2015. Vukovic graduated from Blue Mountain College in 2015 and it is his second season as a professional player.
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