Nikola Jokic excited to play for Serbia

By Johnny Askounis/ [email protected]

Back for the Serbia national team, Nikola Jokic sets his sights on winning the EuroBasket.

Jokic, 27, talking to gathered journalists before practice made it clear enough that the 2023 FIBA World Cup Qualifiers preceding the EuroBasket feature important games for Serbia. Helping his country pick up wins at the start of the second and final qualifying round is the first target for the Joker.

“I feel great, similar to every time I reunite with these guys. I just met some of them,” he commented on returning to the national team of his country and connecting with the newest Serbian internationals. “We are preparing, we just started and we will see how far we can go. Up first are the FIBA World Cup Qualifiers and the goal of helping Serbia qualify to the World Cup.”

The team coached by experienced tactician Svetislav Pesic is set to start Group I of the FIBA World Cup Qualifiers at 1-3. Making up lost ground and looking to claim one of the three spots leading to the final stage of the World Cup, Serbia will host Greece and visit Turkey on 25 and 28 August, respectively. Potentially setting up more international action for Jokic, the 2023 World Cup will be held next summer, one year before the 2024 Olympic Games.

“It is not an easy task. I mean, the World Cup Qualifiers are important. Then, we can talk about the EuroBasket,” he added, “We will be aiming to win the tournament but we must take it one day at a time, practice, and not rush things. We must be careful.”

The Denver Nuggets superstar last played for Serbia in the 2019 FIBA World Cup. Back in 2016, he helped his country punch in a late ticket to the Olympic Games via the FIBA Qualifying Tournament and from there rank second behind the USA in the final tournament in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

“It means a lot, I talked with my family, it’s a totally different feeling when you play for the national team, I felt different when I came here than when I go to Denver,” he expanded on playing for Serbia this summer.

Traditionally dealing with high expectations of the fans in Serbia, his team will play in Prague between 2 and 8 September. From Group D of the preliminary round, four spots lead to the next round and Berlin. With the single-elimination format taking over, the 16 surviving national teams will steadily shrink to the last two forming the gold medal game on 18 September.

“We don’t settle for playing basketball but want wins and medals,” Jokic confirmed the players also aiming for an extended and successful run in EuroBasket.

Photo Credit: FIBA.BASKETBALL

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