One of the three players who returned to Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade this summer, along with Luka Mitrovic and Nikola Kalinic, is point guard Nate Wolters, back for a second stint with the Serbian powerhouse. Wolters played for Zvezda In the 2016-17 season, averaging 7.1 points and 2.2 assists in 27 games. It was his first EuroLeague campaign and Wolters mainly came off the bench. He helped Zvezda win three domestic titles – the Serbian League, Serbian Cup and Adriatic League. After three seasons away from the club, Wolters and Zvezda are crossing paths again.
"It was my second year overseas when I came here," Wolters recalls. "I just remember the fans being unbelievable, and something I'll never forget is just the atmosphere. And hopefully this year we can have full crowds again just to experience that again. And the coach was great, and a lot of the same teammates, even from five years ago, are here. I'm comfortable here. So it'll be a fun year and I'm really glad I'm back."
Wolters had to choose between two very popular sports growing up, as he was a dedicated tennis player, too. He lettered all four years in tennis at Technical Senior High School in St. Cloud, Minnesota, while earning all-conference honorable mentions twice in the sport.
While he played both sports for a long as he could, however, Wolters never doubted that basketball was his number one choice.
"Basketball is always my favorite sport, and I kind of did tennis just to do something different. I think it's good to play other sports other than your main sport, just to kind of change things up," Wolters admitted. "And kind of mentally, too, tennis is a sport that's more individual, so you've got to be mentally tough. I was not great, but it was a good thing to do other than basketball."
By playing both tennis and basketball, Wolters also learned some skills and intangibles that he has been able to use in his professional basketball career. "I think footwork, that kind of thing, just like quickness, like a little first step mentally," he said. "It is kind of a mental sport and I kind of use that for basketball."
When you think Zvezda and tennis, however, another name comes to mind. Novak Djokovic is arguably one of the best tennis players of all-time. He has won an all-time joint-record 20 Grand Slam men's singles titles, the same as Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer. Overall, he has won 85 ATP singles titles, including a record nine Australian Open crowns. He is the only tennis player to win all four Grand Slam titles – Roland Garros, Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and the Australian Open – at least twice. Born in Belgrade, Djokovic is a notorious Zvezda fan and attends its basketball games either at Stark Arena or Aleksandar Nikolic Hall whenever possible.
"I know he comes to some games. I know he follows the team, which is pretty cool. He's probably the greatest tennis player of all time," Wolters admits. "Hopefully, he can come to some games this year and obviously, I'm a big fan of his and I watch tennis quite a bit, especially the majors. He's a fun guy to watch."
Being a Zvezda fan, Djokovic might be open to playing against one of his favorite team's basketball players if both have time in their busy agendas.
Wolters, however, rules out the possibility. "I'm really not that good at all. I haven't played tennis for a while either. So yeah, I don't want to face him at all," he laughed.
Meeting Djokovic in person, however, would be another story.
"That'd be great," Wolters said. "He's a great athlete and a guy that everyone should look up to, and he takes care of his body, and works extremely hard, and is obviously super talented. So yeah, he would be a fun guy to meet."
Though not against Djokovic, expect Wolters to be back to the tennis courts once his basketball career has finished.
"I was always a lot better at basketball than tennis, so it was kind of just something to do on the side, and something you can do the rest of your life", he said. "So I don't play a lot of tennis now just because I'm focused on basketball, but I think when I'm retired from basketball, I will play a lot of tennis."