Today, I am going to talk about the youngest European participant in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The Croatian national team featured nine players born in 1982 or younger, something that no other team could offer. Let’s check how the next tournaments could look like for Jasmin Repesa’s guys.
If you take a closer look at the roster, you will see that two of the older players, Sandro Nicevic and Nikola Prkacin, are inside guys. As the youngsters at these positions already important roles in the rotation, it is possible that the two veterans will end their international careers soon. On the other hand, a guy like Davor Kus has his importance and will probably not be replaced that soon.
The guard rotation of Ukic, Popovic and Planinic still has many years to come. With Planinic taking over the most looked at spot in the Euroleague, the succession of Theo Papaloukas in Moscow and Roko Ukic teaming up with Jose Calderon in Toronto, it is highly likely that both players will improve to become one of the best backcourts in Europe. With the additional firepower of Marko Popovic, the future at guard looks very good for Croatia.
At the forward position, the scoring comes essentially from Marko Tomas and the surprising Marko Banic. Both players still have some possibility of progressing further and should make an even bigger impact in coming tournaments. At center, with Stanko Barac and Kresimir Loncar, the future looks interesting, too.
The question now remains: “Can Croatia become a serious medal contestant in the next few international tournaments or will they remain a fifth- to eighth-place team? The problem is that, for the moment, no exceptional talent is on the way to enter the senior team in the short-term future. Of course, the current U18 generation based on Tomislav Zubcic and Mario Delas is doing great. However, none of these players has big-time importance within their clubs at the senior level thus far. The only one to consider here for the moment is maybe 1991-born guard Toni Prostran, who is already seeing minutes with KK Zadar in the ULEB Cup. But it’s way too early to talk about him as a potential player for the senior team in the next few years. 2012 may be the horizon for Prostran to enter the roster, as he will be 21 then.
Looking at the rosters of the different teams, the name of Ante Tomic naturally comes up. The highly talented big guy should get an bigger role in the national team soon. Being born in 1987 alone makes him a candidate to enter the rotation if Nicevic or Prkacin should no longer be part of the team in 2009. Other youngsters of the 1986 or 1987 generation must step up now and move ahead in professional career. A player that could also step up in the next few years is Jure Lalic; born in 1986, the seven-footer will take a big step this season in starting his career abroad with Belgian champions Charleroi.
Damir Markota is yet another player that could be with the team. Markota played in Eurobasket 2007 but was more like jacking up threes than playing an important part in the rotation, though his offensive talent and size are still factors that could be considered in the future.
Now we still haven’t found the player that could lift the level of the Croatian national team to a medal in the near future. But with the growing experience of the current core and the necessary luck, the team remains a decent semifinals candidate in the upcoming Eurobasket tournament. Qualification for London 2012 is only played in 2011, though, and much can happen before that…
Here is my possible roster for the next Olympic campaign.
Guards: Ukic, Popovic, Planinic, Prostran;
Forwards: Tomas, Banic, Rudez, Markota, Zubcic;
Centers: Loncar, Barac, Tomic.