Milan Gurovic, Crvena Zvezda

Mar 06, 2006 by Aca Ostojic, Belgrade Print
Milan Gurovic, Crvena Zvezda
Milan Gurovic - Crvena Zvezda On any given night, he can be among the most dangerous players of a whole basketball generation. Milan Gurovic of Crvena Zvezda showed that to be true once again in the opening game of the ULEB Cup quarterfinals, as he rained 7 three-pointers among his 35 points in a Crvena Zvezda's one-point home loss to Dynamo Moscow. A few months before his 30th birthday, Gurovic is Crvena Zvezda's oldest player, top scorer and top rebounder - in other words, the undisputed leader of a proud club looking to recapture its glory days. And when Gurovic says in this interview that Crvena Zvezda is fearless while heading to Moscow with the season on the line, he not only speaking for himself, but also speaking to his younger teammates. "I know well that my role is to motivate them," Gurovic told "I tell them to respect every opponent but to fear none. Each opponent is made out of blood and flesh, just like we are."

First, Milan, congratulations on your great game against Dynamo. Although your 35 points weren't enough to win, the elimination Crvena Zvezda is only one point away from Dynamo going into the second game. How do you like your team's chances?

"The fact is that we lost first game but we are not surrending. I still believe that we can advance, first of all because Dynamo has shown itself to be weaker playing home games. Their fans are not as loud as ours are. They are so the so-called 'police team' as CSKA is the 'military team'. They are at least ten times more expensive a team than we are and their goal is to win the ULEB Cup and reach the Euroleague. But in the rematch, they will be under pressure, because they must win and that is the reason I see our chances alive."

That first game was arguably one of the best in the ULEB Cup this season. How did it feel to be in a soldout Pionir Arena, pouring in all those shots in such an important game?

"Our fans are the best of all. They are phenomenal, incredible. The Dynamo players felt that atmosphere when they were at the foul line and missed so many free throws. I am disappointed that we missed the win. A victory would have been the best present for our fans. Honestly, until the end of the game, I was never aware of how many points I booked. My personal career high is 36 points when I played with Vojvodina against Partizan. The truth is that I was in incredible shape the other night against Dynamo. When I used to be the third-best scorer in the Greek League, I had couple of nights like that. I also remember a game with our national team against Latvia at the European Championships in Istanbul, where I made six of eight triples. This time, during the game with Dynamo, our fans were my inspiration."

With a 21-point home loss in their second game, Dynamo was defeated by another Serbian team, Hemofarm, in the elimination rounds last season. Is that fact worth thinking about as you head to Moscow?

"Last season Dynamos was a different team with a different coach. This season, Coach Dusan Ivkovic has made a high-quality team and they have improved their game. But remember: a one-point advantage means nothing. We are going to Moscow to fight. All cards are still on the table."

After some seasons playing here and there, you seem to have found stability in Crvena Zvezda. How important is for you to play for Dragan Sakota, one of Europe's best coaches?

"We worked together once in the Greek team Peristeri. It is the truth that Dragan Sakota is my basketball father. He taught me almost everything and I think 99 percent of my basketball career I owe to him. Working again with him means a real rennaissance for me."

Crvena Zvezda has a nice combination of veteran and young players. With a leader's role this season, how do you keep everyone motivated?

"Well, it's true that we have born in 1986 or 1987, much younger than me. I know well that my role is to motivate them. I tell them to respect every opponent but to fear none. Each opponent is made out of blood and flesh, just like we are. And when the game begins, the younger players look at how I start the game. I am aware of that, and in those opening minutes I often try to take the ball so I can jump right into the action. And they follow me."

You will turn 30 this season and are playing great basketball lately. Do you feel that you are in the prime of your career right now?

"I do think so. My motto is: 'Players are like fine wine - the older, the better.' I feel that I have matured. And I can prove that because I work with a coach who understands me and helps me a lot."

You have played everywhere from Europe's top leagues to the European and World Championships. What do you think about your first ULEB Cup experience?

"The ULEB Cup is weaker than the Euroleague - but not by much. The difference is in nuances. For example, in our elimination group, there were French Cup winner Le Mans, Dynamo Moscow, Lottomatica and Hapoel Jerusalem. Those are high-quality teams, and I am sure they are better than six or seven Euroleague teams. And Crvena Zvezda is among them. Our team improved a lot this season. That means that the ULEB Cup is more and more competitive with the Euroleague."

Few players put more passion and feeling in his game than Milan Gurovic. What does basketball mean to you?

"Basketball means everything to me. Basketball gave me everything in my life. I saw so many countries and learned three languages. I am extremely satisfied playing basketball. Maybe I missed to going to the NBA at one time, but maybe I shall do that if I am born again. Ha-ha, yeah, I hope we could do better things in our next lives. But for now, I am sure that I will remain playing with Crvena Zvezda if the team makes the Euroleague next season."