Credit: Star Sport
Credit Star Sport

A EuroLeague and NBA champion as a player, Radoslav 'Rasho' Nesterovic is now the Secretary General of the Slovenian Basketball Federation. During his playing years, Slovenia was better known for failing to deliver in major tournaments. Now, they are the reigning champions and the favorites of EuroBasket 2022.

Radoslav Nesterovic

Radoslav  Nesterovic
Position: C
Age: 46
Height: 213 cm
Weight: 113 kg
Birth place: Ljubljana, Slovenia

The national team is now in the country's capital of Ljubljana where it's getting ready to face Serbia in a friendly match later this evening. Ahead of the clash, Nesterovic decided to sit down with Serbian sports news outlet MozzartSport to talk about the upcoming EuroBasket and the 2023 FIBA World Cup Qualifiers.

Slovenian basketball legend decided to start the interview with the latter.

"Everyone saw what Belgium did against Serbia in Nis," Rasho remembered Serbia's last match in the Qualifiers. "This is a team that has been together for years, the same players play every game and that was clearly seen against Serbia, which probably does not have three players who played every qualifying duel. This is a huge problem for us and for coach Pesic. I am convinced that Serbia exchanged 30 players."

"A similar thing happened to us in the last qualification cycle when we did not qualify for the World Cup in China. We simply have to use players in the qualifiers who would not be able to reach the national team under normal circumstances," Nesterovic explained. "It's the same for us, but also for other teams that have EuroLeague players and NBA players. Simply, continuity must be found, to create the core of the team that will always carry that burden, but it is not easy to do that."

Notably, Slovenia lost two of the Qualifiers matches against Finland in February, an occurrence that would rarely happen if the full team had been there.

Radoslav Nesterovic in Olympic Games Qualifers last year
Radoslav Nesterovic in Olympic Games Qualifers last year
Credit BNS

However, it is worth noting that although the national team did not have their brightest stars in Luka Doncic and Goran Dragic, 8 players remained the same from that matchup compared to the Qualifiers window in July. The two others were Aleksej Nikolic and Jakob Cebasek.

"The national team that has already lost its visa for World Cup is Croatia, even though it had players such as Bojan Bogdanovic and Mario Hezonja. It happens to everyone. Some enjoy it, but there is no need for it," Nesterovic told. "This is sport, all kinds of results happen, especially when the teams are just not well-coordinated."

"Our sport is not like football where you know who is in charge, who is the head, and who controls everything. In basketball, you have five leagues, each one has its own story, and then there is the NBA league, which is a parallel universe and something completely different and still elusive for Europe," Slovenian basketball legend shared.

With Spain adding Lorenzo Brown to its roster, the talk about using foreign players as a means of addressing the needs of a national team has become a widespread topic in European basketball recently.

"Serbia already had a foreigner. Well, there was Danielle Page on the women's national team and the girl helped a lot," Nesterovic remembered. "What? That doesn't count? Of course, I am aware that every Federation has its own opinion and it should be respected whatever it is."

Page was recruited in 2015 to help the Serbian women's team perform in Women's EuroBasket 2015. It was an astounding success as Serbia became the champions of Europe that year, while at the same time qualifying for the Olympic Games for the first time in the national team's history. Serbia won the bronze in Rio de Janeiro.

"We also have the example of Croats who didn't want to call an American for a long time, now they have him on the team," Rasho mentioned Jaleen Smith, who is expected to obtain Croatian nationality. "Everyone tries to find a way to win on the floor and that's it. Slovenia always had a problem with tall players, we found Anthony [Randolph], and now we have [Mike] Tobey who fits perfectly with Luka and Goran."

Slovenia was ranked as the top team in FIBA's EuroBasket 2022 rankings. However, Nesterovic is not so sure about it.

"What the hell? It's not realistic," he commented. "We are strong, don't get me wrong. I believe in our quality, but people are not aware of what kind of team they have. For me, Greece is number one. Then Serbia. Spain is always there with quality players."

"We have the unpleasant Italians. If their machine gets going, they can beat anyone. Well, I also forgot the Germans. Great team, playing on their home field. It will be an amazing championship, it will be very difficult to do something," Rasho explained.

Slovenia is placed in Group B of EuroBasket 2022 together with Lithuania, Germany, France, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Hungary.

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