Everyone, include Vucevic himself, knows that he has yet to show his best at a FIBA EuroBasket. He’s ready for that to change later this year, when Montenegro face the Pau Gasol-led Spain, Hungary, Romania, Croatia and the Czech Republic in Group C. “I’m excited about it,” he said to FIBA.com. “I want to help the national team have a great campaign. On a personal level, I have great expectations, too. In 2011, I was so young and I was there mostly to gain experience at senior level.
“This summer I want to compete at my best level and I am going to have a great opportunity to have nice match-ups against guys like the Gasol brothers, the big men from Croatia and Jan Vesely (Czech Republic) for example. That is going to be fun and very competitive, I am looking forward to it.” Montenegro, much like Vucevic, have not shown their best level at the two EuroBaskets they have played in. Vucevic believes that can change this year.
Nikola Vucevic had one of his finer all-around performances of the competition with 17 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and two blocks to lead Montenegro (3-0) to a thrilling 76-74 victory over Georgia (2-1) on Wednesday in Tbilisi. The two countries meet again in Bar, Montenegro on Sept. 17. While he wasn’t as efficient from the field (7-of-22) as he was in the first two games, Vucevic was ultra-aggressive, clutch and versatile. A sign he has been spending time this summer extending his range, Vucevic buried a pair of 3-pointers including a go-ahead trey with 1:31 remaining. Vucevic also came up with two offensive rebounds on Montenegro’s final possession that led to a game-winning putback from Nemanja Djurisic with three seconds left.
One of the most interesting games of the 3rd round of the Eurobasket 2017 qualifiers takes place in Tbilisi, between hosting team Georgia and Montenegro. Among other things, it includes a highly anticipated “battle of the giants” matchup with a taste from the NBA, between Georgia’s captain Zaza Pachulia and Montenegro star Nikola Vucevic. “It’s different when playing on the national team from our games in the NBA because players have different roles, you play alongside different players, in different systems, European basketball is different in general,” said Pachulia in an interview for FIBA. “Playing against Nikola is going to be fun, two quality big men going against each other, but at the same time this is a team sport, it’s all about the team. He is a great player, he’s proven it through these years but here we’re both going to try help our team win this game.”
All it took was 15 minutes for Nikola Vucevic to overwhelm Albania in EuroBasket qualifying action. In that time on the floor, Vucevic showed off his offensive arsenal. He shot 8-of-13 and finished with 19 points, four rebounds and four assists in Montenegro’s 113-73 victory on Saturday in Tirana. The win sets up the first of two highly-anticipated and significant matchups with Georgia, who like Montenegro is 2-0 and feature its own NBA big man, Zaza Pachulia. The two teams will meet up in Tbilisi, Georgia on Sept. 7 and then again on Sept. 17 in Bar, Montenegro.
Do you think Nikola Mirotic, Nikola Pekovic and yourself will ever play together for Montenegro? NV: I hope so, I don’t know what the future holds. I can’t answer that question for everybody… Nikola Pekovic has played for our team before, so I’m sure he wants to play although he had some issues with injuries. With Mirotic, the thing that happens is he played for Spain in the junior teams… So we will see. But I hope we can put things together and be a very good team.
How’s your relationship with the Montenegrin Basketball Federation right now? Are you in good terms? Nikola Vucevic: Yeah, we’re in good terms. I’ve never had an issue with the federation. It was a thing with the coach. I decided not to play with the National Team as long as he was the coach, but everything is good with the federation.