Turkish Airlines EuroLeague
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EUROLEAGUE FANTASY CHALLENGE
Tel Aviv 2004
TOMAS VAN DEN SPIEGEL
A hopeful homecoming
Sep 12, 2008
by DAVOR KUS - ZAGREB, CROATIA
I am more than happy that Euroleague.net has asked me to blog about the preseason, but first I have to say that my experience this summer at the Olympics has a lot to do with my high hopes for Cibona as we head into our first friendly games this weekend.
Getting back to the Olympics for sure was a big thing for basketball in Croatia. There has always been great interest in basketball here, but unfortunately not so much happiness with our national team. So getting to the Olympics was a big thing for us after so many years. We made good progress each summer, starting three years ago to qualify for the European championships, then qualifying to the pre-Olympic tournament, and there reaching the Olympic Games, where we played well for as long as we could. Most of all, it was a big accomplishment that now everyone in Croatia is talking about basketball again. Our togetherness was important, because we came up at a time when everyone was comparing us to the generation of Drazen Petrovic, which was hard. It's difficult if you are compared with Drazen Petrovic, Toni Kukoc and Dino Radja all the time, because people come to expect only the best results. We stopped comparing ourselves and started playing together, step-by-step and slowly came out from under the pressure. We learned a lot.
The other good thing about being together this summer on the Croatian team is that some of us decided to become club teammates again at Cibona, too! Last year was a very difficult one for Cibona. In a place the size of Zagreb, with Cibona as one of the city's important brands, the team should be on top always. The club talked with all of us about what our plans were, and if we had the will to come home and play together. First, we talk between each other, all of the players, and agreed that it would be really nice to go home and help make Cibona a better team in Europe than lately. And we went through with that agreement: me, Niksa Prkacin, Damir Markota. Now we are all domestic players on Cibona except on foreigner, Earl Calloway. Our fans perhaps will be able to relate to the team better now than when four foreigners were on the floor. Of course, the goal is for more fans to come watch us, because we'll need them to become as big as we want to become.
We have a new coach, Velimir Perasovic. We are practicing really hard. We know we have to be at the top of our game for the beginning of the Euroleague season, but we have to start winning by working hard now. We have had our first phase of work, and now this weekend we have our first tournament, in Germany. From there, we have more preseason games in Croatia, Russia and Belgium. We will try to come together as soon as possible, because togetherness will have to be the identity of this team. It's all connected with Croatian pride and the very important step we took at the Olympics. We had as our biggest strength a really good connection between the players, and now we have to do same thing in Cibona. The atmosphere is good, the fans are more interested than ever. It's a good base to start from, but of course we have to prove it on court. We are all hungry now to accomplish something big with Cibona.