|16 September 2013|
|Bogdan Bogdanovic is one of the main components of the Serbian youth brigade in Slovenia |
Serbia not only are the youngest team at EuroBasket 2013 but they also have nine players who have never played at a senior level international competition.
Normally that would be cause for concern. But Serbia's "kids" are only young in age - not in experience as their advancement to the quarter-finals shows.
With seven players 22 years or younger, Serbia's average age is 24.2 years, nearly a full year younger than the next youngest teams at EuroBasket 2013: Ukraine - 25.0 and Georgia - 25.1.
But that doesn't mean a thing - for Serbia.
"Age has no meaning in Serbia. If you are 16 or 17 or 18 years you have the tradition to play these kids," said Belgium coach Eddy Casteels.
"They find talent constantly, generation after generation. This is tradition."
Casteels said Dusan Ivkovic is the perfect coach for Serbia's youngsters.
"Their leader is on the bench. And he shows them the way and he knows what it's all about and what these young talents need. They don't play like young kids. They don't play like top talents, they play top level basketball."
Of the nine players making their EuroBasket debut, Nemanja Nedovic, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Djordje Gagic and Danilo Andjusic all played Euroleague last season; Rasko Katic and Vladimir Stimac both played in the EuroCup; and Nemanja Krstic, Vasilje Micic and Nikola Kalinic all played big minutes in the Serbian A-League.
That group also owns three U19 World Championship silver medals and two U18 European Championship silver medals.
Ivkovic understands that ups and downs are part of dealing with young players.
"There were so many players on my team that played without any reaction, which means they need experience, they need more games, and to never underestimate anybody. They have to understand: never underestimate anybody," said Ivkovic after his team lost to Ukraine in the Second Round.
"Everybody says we are young and not ready for a big result at this European championship. But we are a team and playing good on defence. We have a captain playing so good in (Nenad) Krstic and other players are trying to be part of that game," said the 19-year-old Micic, who claimed silver at the U19 World Championship earlier this summer.
"We have nine first timers. It's not so good for this team. We don't have so much experience but we try to follow our best players like (Nemanja) Bjelica and Krstic."
Bogdanovic also said he is taking a huge cue from Nenad Krstic and his experience in the NBA, Euroleague Final Fours, multiple EuroBaskets, World Championship and Olympic Games.
"He helps us with so much experience. He has played in the NBA and for so many great teams in Europe and has played with the national team for so many years," said the 21-year-old Bogdanovic.
Nenad Krstic for his part says being young isn't always a bad thing.
"We are still a young team. We struggle a little bit. The good thing about young players is they don't care. They don't respect anybody on the court. And that's how we play. We play with a lot of energy," said Krstic, who at 30 years is the second oldest player on the Serbian team behind 32-year-old Rasko Katic.
Serbia are showing in Slovenia that lack of age doesn't mean a lack of experience.