By Zoran Milosavljevic
BELGRADE (Reuters) – Europe’s rising basketball talent Luka Doncic is still uncertain whether he will move to the NBA during the summer break, the 19-year-old Slovenian said on Thursday.
Doncic was a key player in Slovenia’s impressive run to the European Championship gold medal last September and this weekend he will be in the spotlight as Real Madrid aim to win a record 10th title in the Euroleague, the continent’s top club competition.
“I don’t know if these are my last two games in Europe. I am still weighing my options and I will make that decision at the end of the season,” Doncic told a news conference at Belgrade’s medieval Kalemegdan fortress.
Real lock horns with CSKA Moscow in the second semi-final on Friday in the Belgrade Arena, following the opening clash between holders Fenerbahce Istanbul and Lithuanian’s Zalgiris Kaunas.
Doncic, a pillar for Real this season despite his relative lack of experience, is widely expected to be one of the top picks at the NBA draft on June 21 in New York.
He acknowledged Real face a tall order against the Euroleague’s regular season winners CSKA, who beat city rivals Khimki in the playoffs to reach the showpiece event in the Serbian capital.
“CSKA are a great team with so many good players and we will need to produce a perfect game to beat them,” said Doncic, who has Serbian roots and was hoping for a warm welcome despite putting Serbia to the sword in the European Championship final.
“I expect Belgrade fans to support me at the Final Four.
“I am a big fan of Red Star Belgrade. I love this city and it’s very special feeling to be here, I have visited it many times when I was younger.
“We have had an amazing season, we are ready and we are here to win it.”
Fenerbahce’s serial trophy-winning Serbian coach Zeljko Obradovic, who is himself aiming for a record 10th title with a fifth different club, was also banking on home crowd support.
The holders also have two Serbian players in their ranks.
“It will be a great atmosphere. Many Fenerbahce fans will make the trip from Turkey and I also hope the local Belgrade fans will support those close to their hearts,” he said.
“We’ve been under pressure to retain the title since we won it last season on home court in Istanbul so it’s going to be a familiar feeling once the tournament starts.”
Obradovic will lock horns in the semis with Lithuanian counterpart Sarunas Jasikevicius whom he coached at Greek heavyweights Panathinaikos, where he won five Euroleague titles from 1999 to 2012.
The other two coaches at the tournament, CSKA’s Greek boss Dimitris Itoudis and Real Madrid’s Pablo Laso, are also former Obradovic proteges.
(Writing by Zoran Milosavljevic; Editing by Toby Davis)