Countrymen and teammates at the Miami Heat, Goran Dragic and Beno Udrih have one more thing in common: they are aware of Luka Doncic’s incredible potential and want to play side by side with him in the national team. And sooner rather than later, if possible.
The young phenom is definitely no unknown for the Miami Heat’s point guard duo. Goran Dragic met Doncic when he played with his father Sasha for KK Union Olimpija back in the 2007/08 season. “Luka would come to our games and shoot before them and at half-time. I was 17 and he was like 6, 7 years old. He was already mad about basketball. Every time I saw him he had a basketball in his hands”, Dragic tells this website.
For his part, Beno Udrih met Doncic last summer when both were working out in Santa Barbara, California. “He is a very talented player. And smart. Probably his father told him basketball tricks and stuff. Sky’s the limit for him. Hopefully he stays healthy. I’m looking forward to see what comes out of all this”, Udrih said to EJDN.
Doncic is drawing comparisons to all-time greats due to his unbelievable precocity and skills. At age 16 he carries himself like a veteran on the court, being able to take over games, come out of slumps and react the right way when his coach lectures him in front of all Europe.
“He is only 16 and he’s making history. He’s got quality and a really decent size for his age. I’m looking forward to play with him. He has a lot of passion for this game and that’s all he needs. Everything else will come”, Dragic said.
Udrih’s piece of advice for Doncic? “He just has to keep listening to older players, keep learning, keep working hard. Hard work pays off, he knows that. And not get happy with success, keep going. There’s always room for improving”.
Last Friday, Secretary General of the Slovenian Federation Rasho Nesterovic and Sports Director Matjaz Smodis were in attendance when Real Madrid faced Laboral Kutxa Baskonia in the sixth round of the Euroleague Top 16. They want Doncic in their national team asap.
Doncic was born in Ljubljana, Slovenia, to a Slovenian mother and a Serbian-Slovenian father. He’s been living in Spain since 2012 and his contract with Real Madrid extends to 2022.
Serbian National Team coach Sasha Djordjevic admitted last summer that the had already tried to convince Doncic to play for his country.
It’s been speculated that the Spanish Federation has tried for years to lure him to play for them too, like they did in the past with Nikola Mirotic. Nothing official, though. In addition, the Spanish Federation (FEB) is amidst an institutional crisis right now. President José Luis Sáez took a medical leave of absence two months ago and is being investigated for fraud and corruption.
In an interview I did for Gigantes magazine three years ago, former Slovenian Federation Secretary General Iztok Rems told me Doncic and his parents had committed to play with the Slovenian youth national teams until he is 18. Then he will take his own decision. But given Luka’s outstanding level of play at age 16, he may be forced to choose earlier than that.
Next summer Slovenia will have to compete in the Eurobasket 2017 qualifiers. New NT coach Igor Kokoskov would probably be more than happy to count with Luka for those games. Not the only one.
“That’s his decision. Where does he want to play. I heard Spain wants him and another team, but if he decides to play for our country, for his country, Slovenia, for sure I would already put him in this year because he’s such a great talent. And try to develop him because he is our future”, Dragic said.
“He is already a good player. He’s very smart, can play a couple positions for us. He’s gonna be more than welcome in the national team. It’s gonna be a joy watching him play and grow”, Udrih added.