Credit: FIBA
Credit FIBA

The Slovenian national basketball team hasn’t been on the big international stage since 2017, when it was crowned Eurobasket champions. Now, with Luka Doncic onboard, they are zooming in on uncharted territories.

Luka Doncic

Luka  Doncic
Team: Dallas Mavericks
Position: SG
Age: 22
Height: 201 cm
Weight: 99 kg
Birth place: Slovenia

As the qualifying tournament in Kaunas starts tomorrow, Slovenia will be aiming for its first Olympic appearance. Only the winner of qualifiers will proceed to Tokyo and Slovenia’s captain Edo Muric sees the hosts, Lithuania, as the team to beat.

“In my opinion, Lithuania is the favorite here,” Muric said in a special press conference on the eve of the beginning of the qualifiers. “The gym will be crowded, they are the favorites, but we will do everything in our power to beat them, to beat other teams, and to qualify to the Olympic games.”

Slovenia and Lithuania will play in two different groups and can meet each other only in the semi-finals or the title game. The two best teams (out of 3) in each group will advance to the next round.

Slovenia missed World Cup in 2019 and did not have Doncic on the team since 2017, but four years later, he is the main attraction in Kaunas.

After three solid seasons in the NBA, Doncic has established himself as one of the best players in the World, and he alone makes Slovenia the main threat to the hosts. 

“Luka is not just the biggest star of this tournament, but for me, he is top 3 player in the world,” Muric said. “He makes other players play with more confidence, we know he will find us, we just need to be prepared. Luka has a special energy. When he is on the floor, it’s fun to play. We will try to follow him, he is our leader, and we have to help him as much as necessary to win the games. But it is a pleasure to play with him. All of us know that not everybody can play with him, so that’s a big honor for us.”

Slovenia’s long-time face of basketball, Goran Dragic, announced his retirement from the National team in 2017, but BasketNews sources say he was heavily recruited to rejoin the team this year for the chase of the Olympic dream.

Head coach Aleksander Sekulic confirmed it, but he also said Dragic was firm on his decision.

“For sure, there were thoughts from our side to bring him back in the team. There were some informal talks,” said Sekulic. “But we need to respect Goran’s thoughts, we need to respect that he announced four years ago that he retires. He has his reasons, and we have to respect that. I think he trusts the team that we can do something special.”

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