By Eurohoops team / email@example.com
Predrag Stojakovic took a dive into the past and 19 years ago when the Yugoslavian national team won the gold medal in the 2001 EuroBasket held in Antalya, Turkey.
Stojakovic, who won tournament MVP after averaging 23.0 points, described the overall display of his national team in the EuroBasket as “dominant and superior.” Fitting, since Yugoslavia beat all teams by double figures, except finalist Turkey. The latter lost 78 – 69 in the championship game.
Here’s what Stojakovic said to FIBA:
On the tournament:
“It’s been almost 20 years already! But when I think about 2001, I think about how dominant and superior we were, thirsty and hungry to get one back after the debacle of the 2000 Summer Olympics.”
“Our team was really strong, really deep. I’m not sure I can even call our bench unit a true bench unit, because we are talking about guys who were the main protagonists in their clubs, played on really high levels of professional basketball, so we had a nice balance to our squad with coach Svetislav Pesic as the conductor to our orchestra.”
On his teammates:
“That’s what I said about the role players not really being role players, but being high-level players in their club careers. Šćepo used his opportunity perfectly in the title game, Dejan Bodiroga accepted the role of the sixth man, Sasa Obradovic was the veteran point guard who gave us a lot of calmness when we needed it… We were just supposed to get the team through a transition from the golden generations into something new, but with so much support from older guys, and so much motivation from everybody, we turned out to be a well-balanced squad.”
On the Turkish team:
“2001 was also the birth of that great Turkish generation of players. Hedo (Turkoglu) was coming off his first NBA season, (Mehmet) Okur was there, our guy Mirsad (Turkcan), (Ibrahim) Kutluay… An interesting team, no doubt. They had the crowd behind them, and used it perfectly, all the excitement, the drive that the fans were giving them, they looked charged up. I remember their path to the Final was crazy, that game against Germany in the Semis… or against Croatia in the Quarter-Finals, it’s amazing that they survived all of that and reached the Final.”
On Serbia failing to win a gold medal ever since:
“There are so many factors that influence you in tournaments like these. We had the talents with Teodosic, Bogdanovic, Bjelica, but sometimes it seemed like we just needed a bit of luck on our side, too. In those Finals that they’ve played in the World Cup, the Olympics and the EuroBasket, it seemed that they got there while missing key players.”
“I don’t know if we should be worried about losing the Finals all the time, but when you look at the situation right now from a neutral stance – Serbian teams are always talented. Now it’s just a matter of drawing motivation, getting everybody on the same page, enjoying what Nikola Jokic and Bogdan Bogdanovic can do over the next five to seven years together, and we need to take advantage of it, to finally pick up gold somewhere. FIBA EuroBasket seems like a good opportunity to do it. But it’s a process. Tournament formats are always tricky, just one absence can change everything.”