If there was a Hall of Fame for the Nike International Junior Tournament, Dejan Musli of Partizan NIS Belgrade would have a guaranteed spot as one of the most successful players ever at the NIJT level. His two European titles with FMP Zeleznik and a pair of accompanied tournament MVP trophies made him quite a familiar name for anyone who remotely follows Euroleague basketball at the junior level. However, with junior days long gone, Musli is now trying to make his name, and presence felt, in the paints of the Turkish Airlines Euroleague.
A former standout in youth competitions, Musli was both the NIJT champion and MVP in both 2008, and 2009. “It was a great experience for me,” Musli said looking back on those events. “We played good basketball for the junior team, and won it twice. Being the junior champion was the best thing out of all, it just happened I played two good finals games and was voted MVP.”
Musli did more than just play good final games. In winning the first title, he averaged 15.5 points, 12 rebounds and 3.8 blocks, including collecting 25 points, 14 rebounds and 4 blocks in the final game against FC Barcelona. A year later, he posted 21.8 points and 14.3 rebounds in the tourney, and amassed 31 points and 17 boards in the title game against Lietuvos Rytas. But now, he is trying to get the fans to know him through his performances in the Euroleague, where he is in his second full season. Musli is not living in the past, but rather trying to leave the junior level performances behind him.
“NIJT success was important, but this, now, is senior basketball, where you must play hard. Success in NIJT is not that important for Euroleague success,” Musli said.
The Partizan center might not have started as dominantly at the senior level, but was far from disappointing in his first full Euroleague season last year. He averaged 9.5 points and 4.9 rebounds while facing off against the likes of All-Euroleague centers Ante Tomic of Barcelona and Nenad Krstic of CSKA Moscow, in the process.
At the age of 22, he still has great potential. Musli is the latest in a long line of talents from FMP, a club with an unequalled reputation for talent development. Former Turkish Airlines Euroleague MVP Milos Teodosic, 2009 Eurocup Rising Star Milan Macvan, 2011 All-Euroleague Second Team selection Dusko Savanovic, Zoran Erceg and Miroslav Raduljica – just to name a few players – all came from the same talent pool as Musli. But after originating from one ‘factory’, Musli arrived last summer to another. This one was that of Partizan Belgrade, an institution and a perennial Serbian champion, led by head coach Dusko Vujosevic, who himself is famous for developing big men. There is a pretty long list of great former Partizan centers. The likes of the aforementioned Krstic, Nikola Pekovic as well as Aleks Maric, Dejan Milojevic and Kosta Perovic, are all big men that turned into either All-Euroleague centers, or Euroleague and Eurocup champions in the past decade.
In Partizan, and Serbia, they hope Musli is the next in line. And the youngster is trying to seize the opportunity of being coached by a master like Vujosevic. “I learned so many things, and you learn every day from him. He is the best coach for young players. I keep trying to do everything he tells me, and practice hard. It just makes me happy that I got a chance to work with Vujosevic.”
Being part of Partizan Belgrade’s strong tradition of big men and his continued development under Vujosevic make Musli one to keep an eye on.