Slovenia is a small country but one of the best crop for basketball talents in Europe. The generation born across 70's and 80's gave almost a dozen of players (Nesterovic, Brezec, Dragic, Vujacic..) to the NBA while international talents (Smodiz, Lakovic..) made the difference at Euroleague level in the last decade.
BasketballTelegraph.com new columnist Dr FingerRoll asked some questions to coach Rado Trifunovic of slovenian powerhouse Helios Domzale, team who won the National title in 2006/2007 and plays Adriatic League.
Coach, we all know the NBA slovenian players and the stars playing international basketball. But let's talk about the future. What can you tell us about the basketball movement in Slovenia nowadays?
I do think that our movement is growing. Maybe it's growing slowly but it's certainly growing and we do have lots of young talent, most of them really young so we need some time and to be patient to wait for the new stars. I'm very optimistic though.
During the recent World Championship in Turkey, Slovenia although playing good basketball seemed to lack talent, I mean at least young and fresh talent.
Well, I'd say that the National team has some veteran players who still play very good basketball but they don't have many miles left in their engines. I guess that soon the youngsters, who are pushing to get there, will take their place.
Rado, what's the situation compared to 10 years ago.
Ten years ago there was a crop of extremely talented players like Matias Smodis, Bostjan Nachbar and Jaka Lakovic just to mention a few: undoubtedly it was a great generation. But now we can be confident: another group is coming, and I'm talking about kids who are 18-20 years old that will definitely do very well. And I can tell you one thing, these kids have mentality, and work ethic that some of their predecessors didn't have. Too many times Slovenia failed in great competitions despite big-time talents but I'm pretty sure that this will no longer happen in the next future.
Okay coach, sounds interesting. Can you tell us who are supposed to become the next superstars?
Well, Marko Vranjkovic and Klemen Prepelic are two intriguing talents playing with Domzale. Vranjkovic plays in the U20 National team and in first division as well, Prepelic just turned 17 but he has great personality and energy and already can play at this level. Another one is Alen Omic of Lasko, a 7 footer born in 1991. Luka Rupnik of Slovan is a very talented pointguard born in 1993 and I like Marko Pajic and I can predict a bright future for him either. I can't forget to mention Matej Rojc from Koper, who is an interesting combo guard right now.
Do you see NBA material among these kids? Can Slovenia dream that the next Dragic or Vujacic are coming?
Oh, all of them have the potential to make the NBA and, as I said, they have strong personalities, good attitude and work ethic to aspire to play at any level. Now it's up to them and their teams to give them the right choice and exposure to show off their skills.
And the teams and coaches have to let them play, right?
Absolutely. Only with playing-time you can grow up and show what you are able to do. This is the key to success. But it's in our own culture to give these kids the chances to play and make mistakes. It's kinda our mission to push these kids. We are building the future.