Turkish Airlines EuroLeague
Adidas Next Generation Tournament
Tadija Dragicevic, Alba Berlin
Jan 31, 2011
by Frank Lawlor, Eurocupbasketball.com
Tadija Dragicevic turned 25 years old last week, but has already amassed 50 games in the Eurocup, making him one of the youngest veterans in European basketball. This season is the first in which he is playing the Eurocup outside his home country and it has been a fantastic success thus far. Alba Berlin is tied for the best record in the Eurocup all season and Dragicevic leads the team in performance index rating, three-point shooting and rebounding and is second in scoring. But as he explains in this Eurocupbasketball.com interview, Dragicevic is all about the team and most focused on their upcoming game on the road Tuesday at Group L leader Cajasol Sevilla. Dragicevic also talks about life in Berlin, the team’s coaching change, playing against his twin brother and what it takes to succeed in the Eurocup in the interview. "It's a unique competition, because every game is like a qualification game for the next round... Every team, it doesn't matter where, is capable of winning its home games, and you have to win them to survive, so it's never easy," Dragicevic told Eurocupbasketball.com. "It's a little early to look that far ahead. We prefer to go step by step, and first that means trying to win Tuesday in Sevilla and get closer to qualifying for the quarterfinals. We can't say much more than that yet. There's a lot of work to be done first."
First of all, how are you enjoying life in Berlin with Alba?
"It has been great, really. Berlin is a very nice city. It's huge, has everything and it's great for me. I feel comfortable here, like at home. Then, our team is good and the guys on it are great. Some have a few years playing together here, but most of us are new to the team, and considering that, we are playing good. It can be better, for sure, but for now the team has been good."
In fact, Alba is tied for the Eurocup's best overall record and you have been a big contributor. Is this what you hoped for when you signed with the club?
"Alba is a very good club historically and one of the most organized clubs in Europe. It's nice for any player here, because you only have to think about playing basketball. As for my performance, actually I've been doing OK. I think that I help the team a lot. I try to do everything that the coaches want me to do. I get good minutes. We really do play like a team, not with one or two scorers over everyone. Anyone can score and we have 12 good guys, and all of them can be starters. It's a good situation and I hope to keep giving my best to the team."
At the same time, the team changed coaches just a week ago. What adjustments are being made by new coach Muli Katzurin?
"I would say that our first coach, Luka Pavicevic, liked more of a control game, a static game. Now, we are pressuring more, playing more matchup zones, running and trying to score as quickly as possible. Basically, we run transition more and to do that, you need to play defense full-court. That's the biggest difference so far."
Of course, the team is in the middle of a tough Last 16, with a trip to Seville on Tuesday to play Cajasol. How do you see that opponent?
"I don't know so much about their players except for Bojan Popovic, who is from my country. I know their team is playing very good in the Eurocup, winning games against big teams like Hapoel and Benetton. It will be difficult for us with them playing at home. They get good defensive position, press all the time, similar to us. It's going to be difficult, too, because we played Sunday, travel Monday and play them on Tuesday, so there's no rest, really. But anyway we must try our best to win. If we can do that, we will be in good position and pretty much going to the next round."
Alba lost by 4 at Benetton and won by 3 at home to Panellinios. Do you think this group will be decided on points?
"It's possible, yes, because all four teams are almost of the same quality. The good teams know what they have to do: win all the home games and try to take something on the road. If you can do that, great. If not, you want to win at home by more points than you lose on the road. For now, we have a loss to Benetton in which we played good, but made some small mistakes. We must give our best now to win the second or third road game. It's quite possible that points will matter in the end, but victories will be most important."
What players did you watch and follow growing up in Cacak, Serbia, your hometown and the birthplace of a lot of basketball stars?
"I don't have someone that I think of like an idol, but I have many players whom I respect. Dragan Kicanovic is famous in our city, of course. Another is Zeljko Obradovic, both as a player and a coach, although in his case maybe more as a coach. There are a lot of players there. It's a basketball city. Many good shooters come from that area, too."
In all your years at Red Star, what did you learn about trying to make it through the Eurocup?
"It's a unique competition, because every game is like a qualification game for the next round. Even when you are playing in your domestic games, you must focus and concentrate on each Eurocup game 100%. Every team, it doesn't matter where, is capable of winning its home games, and you have to win them to survive, so it's never easy. I know because when I was in Red Star, even when we had good teams, we couldn't make it to the quarterfinals."
What was it like when you and your twin brother, Strahinja, played for archrivals Red Star and Partizan at the same time?
"It was interesting, the first time that happened with brothers. But the truth is we didn't play a lot then. We were both on the bench. I remember the one time we played each other, he went in the game and I didn't, so we missed that chance. It happened a couple years later when he was on another team in Serbia. We finally got to play each other, and I challenged him to try to get to the basket on me. It's funny because growing up, he was much better than me. All I did was set screens and block shots. He scored 40 points in some games. But in Serbia, you must be in the right place at the right time for a good opportunity. I have been lucky like that, and I am sure he'll be lucky soon. Right now he is injured, but he should be back playing for Red Star soon."
What's it like now playing in o2 World with the famous Alba fans always so positive?
"It's really amazing. For every game, the gym is always full, whether it's a Eurocup game, Euroleague qualifying or the last team in the German League. It doesn't matter. And it's a great pleasure to play in one of the best arenas in Europe, if not the best. The only thing is that despite all that, it's not like a real homecourt advantage, because even for the visiting teams, it's so nice to come there and play. It's not like Pionir in Belgrade, because other teams like coming to o2 World. That's why we have to always be 100% ready to defend it."
Alba reached the Eurocup title game last year. Is that the same goal for this season?
"Of course, that's what we want, but you never know and it's a little early to look that far ahead. We prefer to go step by step, and first that means trying to win Tuesday in Sevilla and get closer to qualifying for the quarterfinals. We can't say much more than that yet. There's a lot of work to be done first."