Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Exclusive interview with Serbian forward Milan Vucicevic, first european ever to play for The Philippines National team in the 2010 FIBA Asia Champions Cup!

Milan Vucicevic is a 25 years old power forward.
The 6-10 serbian native grew up in the famous basketball school of Kraljevo (the same youth program of Vlade Divac) and was teammate with the NBA center Nenad Krstic. Milan has collected dozens of caps for the Serbia Cadet and Junior National teams. Vucicevic has played in Poland (Unia Tarnow), Ukraine (BC Budivelnik Kiev) and Greece (Age Halkidas) in Europe, in Cyprus (AEK Larnaca) before being a legit pioneer in the Middle East and Asia: Lebanon, Iran (Bond Shiraz), Oman (Al Nizwa), Qatar (Al Sadd) some of the countries where Milan signed before the last stop in Syria with Al Karameh team.
In 2010 he also played first european ever with Smart Gilas, the National team of Philippines in the 21st FIBA Asia Champions Cup in Doha, Qatar.

Hey Milan, your story is pretty interesting. As a product of the serbian basketball school you decided early to play abroad. Tell us a little bit about you and your career so far. We are very curious about your experiences: maybe you are the only european ever who played for an asian National team (the Philippines).

As a young player I had a chance to go and play abroad. I love challenges so I took the opportunity and left Serbia very early. After Serbia I played in Poland, Greece, Ukraine... after few years in Europe I was offered to play in Asia. It was an intriguing chance for me to discover new basketball world and start to write the second chapter of my basketball story. From my first contact with Middle East and Asian I was fascinated with different lifestyle, culture, people and history so I never regretted that decision. I played on Arabic Club Championship in Beirut, Lebanon so that was my first and successful exposure in Middle East. Next year I went to Iran and played Iranian Superleague which is one of the strongest in Asia. After Iran I had many offers so I continued in Qatar. I got a call last spring from Rajko Toroman, the head coach of Smart Gilas, the development National team of Philippines to play the 21st Fiba Asia Champions Cup in May 2010 in Doha, Qatar. It was a great honor to be the first European ever to make the team and represent such an important Asian country in the strongest competition in Asia. Playing for Philippines and working with coach Rajko Toroman was an unbelievable experience for me. Currently I am in Syria and I'm really excited to play this league.

You have played in so many countries, from Eastern Europe to Asia. We can say you are like a pioneer. What are the main differences of the game from these different areas? And we all know the serbian fans are crazy for basketball, what about the Middle-East and asian fans in general?

Playing basketball in all those countries and experienced different basketball and cultures made me the person I am today. I really think I am a better person and a player. I feel very  blessed and thankful for my basketball experiences. Lot of people lately are telling me the same thing like you that I am pioneer but I really don’t think about that so much. I’m focused on working hard, make fans happy and enjoy basketball. I'm a basketball player who's trying to get better and better, this is my challenge and my job. About your question and the differences between basketball here in Asia and Europe, we can say that the game here is more of motion offense kind of play, not so organized in a system like the euopean game. People here love and watch NBA games more than Euroleague basketball so coaches and teams prefer to play uptempo basketball, the game is very fast, more attractive. Maybe it's a bit more of  individual talents play and individual skills and athleticism of the players. I really love it. Basketball is growing fast in Asia, media are covering the games, so popularity is huge and fans are great. Fans are different than Europe but they support their team with big passion and what it's very nice is that you can see whole families come to the gyms. In the Phillipines basketball is like a religion, fans are fantastic like nowhere else in the world.

We can imagine you had to be flexible adjusting your lifestyle to the local cultures. Do you have funny stories about that?

Having my career brought me in so many countries, experiencing cultures and different mentalities and stuff attracted me since always so I look at it as a privilege to learn more about the world we live in. Adjusting is not always easy of course and there is lot of funny situations happening every time. People in Middle East and Asia are not as tall as in Europe so it’s always funny walking along the streets every day and you can just meet people asking you to take a picture with you and talk: it's amazing. Basketball players get lot of attention here and people are friendly and nice. Sometimes it’s funny when they keep on talking to you in foreign language even if you can’t understand them. There is always to adjuste your habits with food so when I go somewhere for the first time I stick to chicken and rice until I get to know food of that country. Culture and lifestyle in Middle East are different so it’s always good to do little research before you go to some of Arabic countries. If all people start to look at you in a weird way in the street or yell loud it’s a sign you are making fool of yourself or doing something wrong: so it's better stop it because you might finish in prison! You have to respect and know each culture, no doubt. Driving in Middle East is always ‘fun’ but I leave it to professionals because for people who are not from here it’s more of an extreme sport.

Switching to off the court, have a favourite music artist, group? Who is Milan Vucicevic in the everyday life?

In everyday life beside basketball I have interest in many different subjects. As my friends sometimes say I am a technology addict, I mean... I like to know what is happening in the world so I follow politics, economy, even the stocks market. I like to read about history but I can say music is my big passion. I grew up on my fathers LP’s of Pink Floyd, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, The Who…so I got infected by guitar heors of the 70's hard rock. I can listen to different music but metal is my love and my favourite artists are Tool, In Flames, Slayer, Type O Negative just to name few. In the summer I travel alla around Europe for Music Festivals or see concerts of my favorite bands. Basketball is my life but off the court I think it’s good to have some hobbies and different interests... learn, read, meet people who are not involved in the basketball business. It helps me relax and keep focus and motivation for basketball court.

What's your next challenge as a player? Is Europe still an option?

I wanna win championship with my team in Syria, just push my team as far as we can go and lift our game to the next level. I’m oly 25 years old, I’m hungry for basketball and want to win every game. I wanna play as long as have fun and I like challenges. I’m pretty happy where I’m right now but Europe is always the option. I'm definitely open to come back, stronger than ever.

1 comment: