Igor Rakocevic, Crvena Zvezda Diva Belgrade

Oct 31, 2012 by Igor Petrinovic, Eurocupbasketball.com Print
Igor Rakocevic, Crvena Zvezda Diva Belgrade
Igor Rakocevic - Crvena ZvezdaNear the end of the last century, Igor Rakocevic left his boyhood club, Crvena Zvezda Diva Belgrade, to set sail on what became to a storied international career highlighted by his two Euroleague Final Four appearances and three Alphonso Ford Top Scorer trophies. That journey brought him back to Zvezda once in the interim, but this season, the 34-year-old guard has returned home to stay. Indeed, by returning, Rakocevic has kept a promise he made to rejoin Crvena Zvezda before the end of his career. Age hasn't robbed Rakocevic of his scoring instincts, but now he is also a team leader, captain and a role model for younger teammates. Their collective aim: getting Zvezda back to great heights. "Young players do not have much sense how to behave, and they have to see, learn and hear some things from older players. That was case with me when I was a kid," says Rakocevic. "I watched older players, copied them, asked them questions, and now that becomes my role. I have watched and learned a lot from Dejan Bodiroga, Dejan Tomasevic as well as Antoine Rigaudeau, when he was in Valencia for few months. You always need to observe and learn from the older ones."

Hello Igor. First, let’s talk about your decision to come back to Crvena Zvezda. What brought you back again?

"Honestly, long time ago I made a plan to come back to my home country and to my boyhood club. After many years of playing around Europe, I planned to come back home and end my career with Crvena Zvezda. I stuck to that wish and to that plan. Of course, I was already a bit tired living abroad. Another big factor in the decision was that I missed my country, the customs over here, and I wanted my family to be together and my kids to grow up in these surroundings in Serbia."

What do you want to accomplish with Crvena Zvezda this time?

"I have an agreement with people in the club to get of a management position after I finish my career. That was also one of the big factors to come back because I want to continue working with Crvena Zvezda. I identify myself with Crvena Zvezda and I believe I am one of the very important people for the club. I kept my promise and my wish to come back to the club, and I want to help Crvena Zvezda get up on its feet and improve its results and its organization."

Obviously, your came back to the club to do more than score points. What role do you expect to have with Crvena Zvezda?

"My role is definitely to help all the players in all the aspects of the game, on the floor and off of it. It is my pleasure to use a great amount of energy to help young players, who do not have too much experience, improve as players and as human beings. Young players do not have much sense how to behave, and they have to see, learn and hear some things from older players. That was case with me when I was a kid. I watched older players, copied them, asked them questions, and now that becomes my role. I have watched and learned a lot from Dejan Bodiroga, Dejan Tomasevic as well as Antoine Rigaudeau when he was in Valencia for few months. You always need to observe and learn from the older ones."

With a mix of proven internationals and promising young players, how do you expect Crvena Zvezda to develop this season?

"The team is completely new. There are only two players left from last year's team and only one who had significant playing time. We also changed our coach, so this is a team that can't immediately show what it can do. But you can already see what our game and our system is, and we will only get better as time passes. The younger players need to relax a little bit, as well. It is not easy to play for Crvena Zvezda; it is a heavy burden and a lot of pressure. So, I really expect us to play better and better. Anyway, the most important months of the season are February and June, when the trophies are won."

The team has already gone through a coaching change, bringing in Vlada Vukoicic, who previously had success with Eurocup teams, to the bench. What is your first take on working with him?

"First impressions are good. Even though he is young, Vukoicic already has a lot of experience and he will surely do his job like he is supposed to. It is up to us, the players, to be professional and do what he asks the best we can."

The last time you played in Eurocup was in 2004-05, with Pamesa Valencia. What do you expect from the level of the competition?

Igor Rakocevic - Crvena Zvezda"I am not sure, but I know it is pretty well organized. Probably not at the Euroleague level, but there are some real quality clubs, very serious teams and I expect even more parity in Eurocup than there is in the Turkish Airlines Euroleague. It is hard to say at the beginning of the season who are the favorites, but I might be able to say more after five or six games. I expect arenas to be filled, and our gym to be full for home games because this is an international competition. I also believe it will be a great experience especially for our younger players to be a part of Eurocup games."

What do you know about Orleans Loiret Basket, your Eurocup opening-night visitor, and the other two Group H opponents, Dinamo Sassari and Cajasol Seville?

"We don't know much about Orleans. We do know they won their last game in the French League and they have players who are good athletes. We are going to start preparing for them in a few days. Our Group H is very dangerous, very balanced. Cajasol Seville has the most experience playing in the competition, and Dinamo Sassari is a very difficult opponent with a tough home floor and tough arena to play in. It will be very interesting."

You had an outstanding Euroleague career. What is your best memory from it?

"I had wonderful moments, many team and individual successes. The nicest of the feelings is to play at the Final Four, though. The entire team is satisfied, and playing there means a club has made a fantastic accomplishment, because it is very difficult to make it to the Final Four. So, those are the nicest moments and of course that is what people remember a lot more than individual success."

Crvena Zvezda has been absent from the Eurocup past two seasons. What is club's goal this season?

"In general, our goal is to play in the Turkish Airlines Euroleague next season. We still don't know what is our goal for Eurocup, however we will have a clearer picture after couple of games. We still don't know our opponents too well, and it would not be appropriate to say we want to take the title. But, the club's goal this season is to fight for a place in the Euroleague."