The team from Aleksandrovac suburban area of Banja Luka has surprised everyone early on with a perfect 6-0 start to its 2012-13 Adriatic League season. With a veteran roster under his command, coach Dragan Bajic can only smile at his opponents’ disbelief. BallinEurope contributing writer Marko Savkovic tells us how they’ve done it…

Igokea has never been a frontrunner in the Adriatic. However, it’s a steady contender which, similarly to KK Siroki, is capable of chipping off points from more favored teams. What makes Igokea different and somewhat inferior to the Herzegovinan side is that it relies less on its youth program. Backed by the powerful Dodik family, Igokea enjoys stable financing and is capable of hiring proven professionals. The team’s home ground accommodating 4,000 spectators is one of the few purpose-built basketball arenas in the league.

In this debt-laden season with many teams facing financial difficulties, Igokea management played it smart in the offseason. They brought in two veteran players, Sinisa Stemberger and Branko Jorovic, strengthening their backcourt options. Best remembered by some for the below-shown incident, Stemberger is a refined shooter with solid defensive skills and should add composure when things get tight. So far in 2012-13, only Clifford Hammonds has played more minutes for Igokea.

Jorovic, on the other hand, has had a career worthy of a documentary. He played some of his best basketball from 2003 to 2006, earning a trip to world championships with SCG, but a string of injuries almost brought his career to an end. Another important signing was Hammonds, who at 27 years of age has accumulated experience from five different leagues. With his compatriot Corsley Edwards at center, Hammonds leads the ABA MVP list.

New players Milan Dozet and Nebojsa Joksimovic have been welcomed by the club. Familiar faces across the Adriatic, these three have tasted success before with Partizan, Red Star (Dozet) and Hemofarm (Joksimovic), respectively.

Igokea plays disciplined, well-organised basketball in which player experience comes to the fore. Since Bajic has versatile players under his command, he is allowed to change defensive and offensive sets when necessary. As opposing teams have discovered, a threat may come from any direction. Both Joksimovic and Stemberger can play the point, creating more space for Hammonds to score. Jorovic is capable of covering positions from 2 to 4. They all prefer pick-and-roll game, make few turnovers and are solid defenders. Finally, Igokea loves employing a highly mobile zone; the tactic won them games against Radnicki, Red Star Belgrade and Union Olimpija.

Marko Brkic, Nenad Sulovic, Milos Komatina and Corsley Edwards, all front court players, complete the roster. What these four lack in height (Igokea does not field a player taller than 6’9”/2.057m) they compensate for in agility and hustle. This was evident against Red Star away, when Komatina made 12 points and grabbed six rebounds against higher rated players; and versus Olimpija at home, when Sulovic managed nine points, five rebounds, two steals and two assists.

They will face their biggest test so far tonight, as they are welcomed by Cedevita, the team we claimed is the hottest favorite to win it all. A game to watch. The BallinEurope Official Fearless Prediction™? Igokea might just keep surprising their opponents, going all the way to a final four finish.

Marko Savkovic fell in love with basketball because: a) his older brother used to play, so it must have been a cool thing to do; and b) he witnessed Vlade Divac, Dino Radja and Toni Kukoc play an exhibition match back in 1988. After learning the fundamentals with Partizan Belgrade, Marko spent four years in FMP Zeleznik’s youth system and another three playing lower-division ball. Years later, as a political science graduate, he found a different career for himself, yet remained devoted to hoops. For BallinEurope, he will be closely following developments in the Adriatic league. You may write him at markosavkovic@gmail.com.

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