Wednesday, 27 November 2019

Croatia Basketball Learns Opponents for Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Split

November 27, 2019 -  The Croatia basketball team, led by coach Veljko Mrsic, will face Tunisia and Brazil in the Split qualifying tournament for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. The groups were decided in a draw held at the FIBA headquarters in Geneva on Wednesday. 

The second group, which is also played in Split, includes the national teams of Germany, Russia, and Mexico. Croatia will likely crossover with Germany or Russia. The first two teams from each group will go to the semifinals, with only the overall winner of the tournament going to the Olympics.

The qualifiers will be played in four different tournaments, each with six participants. The Olympic qualifying basketball tournaments will be played from June 23 to 28 next year, with host cities of Split, Belgrade, Kaunas, and Victoria in Canada.

Although he led the national team last summer on three continents (in Croatia, the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas and the Borislav Stankovic Tournament in China), coach Veljko Mrsic will sit on the bench for the first time for an official FIBA match next February in the new qualifying round for the European Championships in 2021. However, the biggest national team exam will be next June. Coach Veljko Mrsic shares his take on the draw. 

"First of all, we have to understand the tournament in Split as a great prize and a great opportunity to promote basketball in our country, and then as an opportunity to qualify for the Olympic Games," said coach Mrsic.

“The group is tough… after all, all groups are tough and there are great teams in each. The possibility of Germany is a bit aggravating, but there it is. It is difficult and too early to talk about the chances at this point because we do not know how the other teams will arrive, and we cannot be sure about our own team. What is important is that we are a team. A team that our fans can be proud of and that we can be proud of. That is the basic goal that we must work on, and all that will be one big reward."

What does Mrsic expect in Split and from Split?

“This is a solid tournament, the strongest played on Croatian ground since EuroBasket 1989 in Zagreb and I am sure that our audience will recognize this and that the Split stands will be full and that we will really have a lot of support and wind at our backs from our audience."

Eight national teams have already qualified for the Tokyo Olympics next year. They are Spain, Argentina, France, Australia, the USA, Iran, Nigeria, and the host Japan.

Source: HKS

To read more about sport in Croatia, follow TCN’s dedicated page

Friday, 15 November 2019

Croatia Basketball to Host Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Split

November 15, 2019 - Croatia Basketball will host one of the Olympic qualifying tournaments in Split from June 23 to 28, 2020. They will return to the Dalmatian capital for the first time in 21 years. 

The FIBA Executive Board decided on Friday at a meeting in Geneva that Croatia, or Split, will host one of the four qualifying tournaments for the Tokyo Olympics next summer, reports the Croatian Basketball Federation

The Olympic qualifying tournaments are one of the most important and prestigious FIBA competitions, and the winner of each of the four tournaments will secure a place at the Tokyo Olympics. As each of the 24 national teams that have qualified for the tournaments has already proven to be high quality, the tournaments will certainly be very attractive for spectators.

The Olympic qualifying tournament in Split will be held from June 23 to 28, 2020.

"This is a big deal for Croatian basketball, after Eurobasket 1989, it is the strongest and most important competition on Croatian territory and should be used to promote basketball in that region and throughout the country, and we will do our best to get our best result,” said coach Veljko Mrsic after learning the good news.

"In order to talk about the odds, however, we have to wait for the draw and see who will come and with what kind of squad. It will depend on the NBA as well, because the finalists will not be able to perform," said Mrsic. For Croatia, Mrsic would have to worry most about Ivica Zubac and the LA Clippers, as well as Croatia captain and current Utah Jazz Bojan Bogdanovic.

In addition to Croatia, the tournament organizers will be Canada (Victoria), Lithuania (Kaunas) and Serbia (Belgrade). Six teams will compete in each of the four qualifying tournaments, with only the top-ranked going to Tokyo.

The draw for qualifying Olympic tournaments will take place on November 27 in Geneva.

The following nations will play in the qualifying tournaments: Angola, Brazil, Czech Republic, Dominican Republic, Greece, Croatia, Italy, Canada, China, Korea, Lithuania, Mexico, New Zealand, Germany, Poland, Puerto Rico, Russia, Senegal, Slovenia, Serbia, Tunisia, Turkey, Uruguay and Venezuela.

In the men's competition, the Olympic Games have already been secured by Japan as the host and seven teams from the World Cup, including two from Europe (Spain, France), two from the Americas (USA, Argentina) and one each from Oceania (Australia), Africa (Nigeria) and Asia (Iran).

To read more about sport in Croatia, follow TCN’s dedicated page

Sunday, 22 September 2019

American Basketball Player Shane Larkin Open to Playing for Croatia

September 22, 2019 - Shane Larkin, who you might know better as the best basketball player in the Turkish Euroleague, is open to joining the Croatia national team.

Gol.hr reports that Shane Larkin is a member of Turkish club Anadolu Efes and is considered the best Euroleague basketball player. This diminutive (standing at only 180 centimeters) but lightning-fast and dangerous point guard has four NBA seasons behind him, but has become a much bigger star in Europe.

Larkin is currently with Efes at the Zadar Basketball Tournament, where he revealed that he would not mind playing for Croatia. Larkin is a teammate of Croatia's Krunoslav Simon, which is where the idea seems to have originated.

“I just spoke about it with the Kruno yesterday. I can say that I'm definitely open to the idea,” Larkin told Basketball.hr.

''It would definitely be nice to perform at the Olympics. It's every athlete's dream. Of course, I would prefer playing for the USA, but given the situation, I am definitely open to the idea of playing for Croatia. This is something I should think about very well this season. There are a lot of factors that need to coincide and I need to hear from the responsible people about what would be expected of me. But the idea is certainly interesting," he added.

Croatia is the thinnest in the playmaker position, where Larkin has proven his class. Last season, Efes made it to the Euroleague final; CSKA were better, but Larkin was the best scorer of the match with 29 points, while he scored 30 in the semi-final against Fenerbahce.

Croatia can still qualify for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. Recall, the national team awaits a qualifying tournament next June. We will see then if coach Veljko Mrsic will rely solely on Croatian forces or boost his squad with an NBA pedigree.

To read more about sport in Croatia, follow TCN’s dedicated page

Thursday, 19 September 2019

Croatia Basketball Team Invited to Compete in Olympic Qualifying Tournament

September 19, 2019 - The Croatia basketball team has been invited to play in the Olympic qualifying tournament next year thanks to their high FIBA ranking among the non-participating European teams at the World Cup in China.

Gol.hr reports that the Croatian men's basketball team received an official invitation from FIBA on Thursday to participate in the qualifying tournament for the Tokyo Olympics next year.

At the conclusion of the World Cup in China, where Spain triumphed, eight of the 12 participants in the Tokyo Olympics are known, while 24 national teams will compete for the final four places - that is, 16 of the top-ranked teams from the World Cup and the two best-ranked FIBA teams from each of the four regions.

Croatia won the right to play thanks to their high FIBA ranking among the non-participating European teams at the World Cup in China. Croatia is ranked 14th overall and 10th in Europe. In addition to Croatia, the current European champions Slovenia, who is ranked 16th, will also play in the Olympic qualifiers.

The national teams already confirmed for the Olympic Games include Spain and France from Europe, Argentina and the USA from the Americas, Australia and Iran from Asia and Oceania, Nigeria from Africa and Japan as the host.

The World Cup teams who will fight in the qualifications include Serbia, Czech Republic, Poland, Lithuania, Italy, Greece, Russia, Germany and Turkey from Europe, Brazil, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, and Canada from the Americas, New Zealand from Oceania and Tunisia from Africa, and in addition to Croatia and Slovenia, Mexico and Uruguay from the Americas, Angola and Senegal from Africa and China and South Korea from Asia were also invited.

These 24 teams will be divided into four groups of six teams, and the group winners will qualify for the 2020 Olympics. 

The qualifying tournament is scheduled for June 23-30 next year.

The Tokyo Olympics will be held from July 24 to August 9 next year.

To read more about sport in Croatia, follow TCN’s dedicated page

Thursday, 8 August 2019

On this Day: Croatia and USA Basketball 'Dream Team' Meet at '92 Olympics

August 8, 2019 - On this day in 1992, Croatia met the USA 'Dream Team' in the gold medal game of the Olympic in Barcelona. 

There are a handful of games that, some justified, some farfetched, have been declared historic in Croatian sport for more than a quarter of a century. One game which has no debate was the one for the gold medal at the 1992 Olympics when Croatia and the United States met in the final round. It happened on this day, August 8, in the hall of the Palau Municipal d'Esports de Badalona, reports Gol.hr on August 8, 2018.

On the one hand, the American ‘Dream Team’, without any dilemma, presented the best basketball team of all time, led by Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, David Robinson, John Stockton, Scottie Pippen, Chris Mullin, Karl Malone, Clyde Drexler and Christian Laettner. 

And on the other, Croatia featured Dražen Petrović, Toni Kukoć, Dino Rađa, Velimir Perasović, Danko Cvjetičanin, Vladan Alanović, Žan Tabak, Stojko Vranković, Alan Gregov, Petar Muslim, Arijan Komazec and Aramis Naglić, led by coach Petar Skansi. 

At a time when the Croatian Homeland War was in progress and much of the country was under occupation, Croatian athletes were its best ambassadors. Recall, Goran Ivanišević had just won the first Croatian Olympic medal at the '92 Games (bronze in the singles competition and bronze in the doubles with Goran Prpić), which helped to put Croatia on the map. Thus, Croatia’s final match against the USA would be watched by the whole world.

Jordan, Magic & Co. were ruthless throughout the entire tournament, not allowing any national team to lead against them at any point. The pattern was always the same - the USA would rip through you like a hurricane from the beginning, creating an unreachable difference. Then, in the second half, the best would sit on the bench so that the minutes would be distributed to the other players. 

However, a fearless Croatia achieved what otherwise seemed unimaginable - and in the middle of the first half, Croatia took the lead! Kukoč gave the ball to Franjo Arapović, who scored for the 25:24 Croatia lead. 

Croatia lost the gold medal game 85:117, though it was a moment that will forever remain recorded in the almanacs of Croatian basketball. If for nothing else, then as a reminder of the level Croatian basketball used to be.

To read more about sport in Croatia, follow TCN’s dedicated page

Thursday, 11 July 2019

NBA Summer League: Croatia Plays Best Yet, Fails to Win Against Dallas Mavericks

The Croatia basketball team suffered their fourth defeat of the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, where the Dallas Mavericks were better with a score of 79-71 (19-17, 22-8, 20-21, 18-25).

After Croatia nearly won against the Oklahoma Magic (84:76), where they led after three quarters but failed to keep momentum in the last, they were unlucky once again in their fourth game of the NBA Summer League against the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday to lose 79-71, reports Sportske Novosti on July 11, 2019.

Roko Rogić scored 15 points and six assists to lead Croatia, while Pavel Marčinkovic, Antonio Vranković, and Mateo Drežnjak scored 12 points. Shayne Whittington with 19 points and Josh Reaves with 15 were the most efficient for Dallas, who achieved three victories in Las Vegas with one defeat.

Veljko Mršić's squad has just one game left, though the name of their opponent for the consolation games of the tournament will be revealed after the group games are completed. 

After convincing defeats to Detroit Pistons (96-80) and Brooklyn Nets (74-58), in Croatia’s last two appearances, they stoutly resisted Oklahoma City Thunder (84-76) and Dallas (79-71).

In the second half, Croatia only allowed the Mavericks to score 8 points and entered into the halftime with a 16-point advantage (41-25). 

With several positive bouts in the second half, the Croatia national team surprised the NBA side, and after Željko Šakić’s three-pointer and Roko Rogić’s free throw, Dallas's advantage was reduced to only four points in the last 60 seconds of the game. Still, the Mavericks managed to finish with a series of 4-0 to avoid total uncertainty in the end. 

“Well done, boys. We played a super second half, and we also showed character. We played to the end, gave an excellent opponent a hard time, and of the teams we played against, maybe all three will finish among the top eight in the Summer League. What we said when we came here is that the goal is to find players for qualifications, and we got much more than our predictions. This is a group of players that we can only commend. Against Dallas, we played our best match," said coach Veljko Mršić after the game.

To read more about sport in Croatia, follow TCN’s dedicated page

Saturday, 6 July 2019

Detroit Pistons Top Croatia in First Game of NBA Summer League

The Croatia basketball team kicked off the first day of the NBA Summer League against the Detroit Pistons. While Croatia held their own for a mostly equal match and even managed to lead by 8 points, it was Detroit to win in the end, reports HKS on July 6, 2019.

Three minutes until the end of the third quarter, coach Veljko Mršić's squad still held their own at 55:55, but the Detroit club slowly pushed their way ahead in the last quarter as Croatia grew weaker to achieve a final score of 96:80.

In any case, Croatia showed their potential and played a solid game with a strong defense. Croatia’s next game is already on July 7 at 22:00 Croatia time against the Brooklyn Nets.

The best Croatia player was Željko Šakić with 17 points and 5 rebounds. Luka Babić scored 10 points with 4 assists, Roko Badžim 9 (with 2 rebounds and 2 assists), and Marjan Čakarun and Domagoj Vuković each secured 8 points.

The most famous Detroit player and former Cedevita player Will Cherry received 13 minutes on the court,  though he did not score a single point and only managed one steal.

"It was really great, given that this was our first game here and that this league is really good. I personally thought it would be worse, but I think the first half was great. In the second half, we fell a bit, but that's the glamour and charm of all this,” Željko Šakić said immediately after the end of the game.

Coach Veljko Mršić was also pleased: "The first game after 15 days of training is behind us. In the first half, we seemed strong. Two minutes until the end of the fourth quarter, it was still equal, but after that, it was hard to maintain their better physical abilities and athleticism. However, since this was the first match and I noticed a few things during this game, I think the score is satisfactory. This is a school tour where we will see which players can respond to this game and hope that everyone will profit and in the future be better players."

Recall the NBA Summer League features all 30 NBA teams along with the national teams of Croatia and China. The preliminary round runs from July 5-11, after which the top eight teams play in a single-elimination tournament from July 13-15. The remaining 24 teams will play a consolation game on July 12 or 13. All games are held in Las Vegas, Nevada.

To read more about sport in Croatia, follow TCN’s dedicated page.

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Croatian Basketball Legend Marko Popović Retires at 36

Former Croatia basketball player and captain of the Spanish first-league club Fuenlabrada, 36-year-old Marko Popović, announced that he would finish his career at the end of the season in the Spanish ACB league, which has two more rounds left, reports Gol.hr on May 13, 2019. 

The Zadar native led the Madrid club to a suburb Sunday victory over the Deltecom (70-69), a direct competitor in their struggle against relegation. Fuenlabrada is now in the 13th place among the 18 clubs in the top Spanish league and has secured its status for next season. 

"Goal achieved. And now to enjoy the last two games and retire from this beautiful sport," Popović said on Twitter. 

In the last two rounds, Fuenlabrada will play against Baxi Manresa and Iberostar Tenerife. The Fuenlabrada fans will help say goodbye to their captain who has worn the jersey with number ‘2’ for the last four seasons. Shouts from the stands could often be heard screaming “Po-po-vić, Po-po-vić!"

Dozens of messages swarmed the official Twitter of Fuenlabrada after the news of Popović’s retirement hit. "You will be missed on the basketball court,” said one. "The legend of this club is leaving. Thank you, Marko, for your loyalty, thank you, captain,” said the second. 

Popović will turn 37 years old next month, and just a few months ago said his biggest concern was Fuenlabrada staying in the first league, because if relegated, club members such as office staff and cleaners could be fired. The club invited the audience to celebrate their status in the “best league in Europe” and thanked the players and Popović for their contribution.

Popović came to Fuenlabrada in 2015 when Žan Tabak was the coach. He previously played for Zadar, Cibona, Valencia, Efes Pilsen, Žalgiris, Unics Kazan and Khimki. He won the Eurocup two times - with Unics in 2011 when he was declared the most valuable player of the competition and with Khimki in 2015. 

For Croatia, he played over 150 matches from 2002 to 2013, including the Eurobasket in 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2017, the 2010 World Cup and the 2008 Olympics.

For many years he was one of the best shooters in Europe, though speculation about the end of his career began after he injured his ACL in early April.

To read more about sport in Croatia, follow TCN’s dedicated page

Saturday, 4 May 2019

Croatia Basketball in Crisis, New Coach Veljko Mršić Presents Revival Plan

Veljko Mršić was presented as the 13th Croatia men’s basketball team coach on Friday and expressed that his primary task will be to compete at the European Championship in 2021.

Tuesday, 16 April 2019

Dario Šarić Opens Up About Fears in NBA, Failures of Croatia National Team

April 16, 2019 - In an exclusive interview for Dnevnik Nova TV on Monday, Croatian basketballer Dario Šarić spoke about the NBA season behind him and the collapse of the Croatia national team. 

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