Alba’s coach Sasa Obradovic who after beating Montepaschi Siena 92-82 and Elan Chalon-Sur-Saone 74-71 is enjoying a dream start to their Euroleague campaign explains to Future Stars what stops young players from making an instant impact on the international scene and reveals long term plans in Berlin.
Sasa enjoyed an illustrious playing career with the Yugoslavian national team in their Golden Era winning the World Championship in 1998 and 3 European titles in ’95,’97 and ’01.He also won Olympic silver in Atlanta ’96. After retirement he immediately switched to coaching and became a Head Coach at Rhein Energie Koln. His carrier also includes successful spells at Kiev and Donetsk and he is now charged with the task of establishing Alba as a permanent feature in Euroleague.
FS: Lets start from your situation in Alba Berlin, this is your first season there, but you have had a massive win against Montepaschi, which although are in a transition are an absolute power house of European Basketball and also against Chalon. How do you see your chances after this start in a group which seems to be relatively easy?
SO: There is no easy groups or points to play, they are all serious teams in the group. On paper maybe the others may seem like more deadly groups, but with our newcomers we are like a completely new team with players who have never played in Euroleague. This will be a completely new experience for them. How good are our chances? We will try to win as much as possible, it will be hard alongside the German league as we will have to play one day after the other, with very little time to recover or for preparations between competitions. Our budget is also not on the level of other Euroleague competitors which is a big issue. However everybody has their chance for the next round. The group is hard to control, we are in a group with Maccabi, which has an incomparable budget. But other teams should not underrate us, what we have and promise is heart and that we will fight from the first to the last moment and with this attitude you always have a chance no matter who you play.
FS: You have a stable situation at Berlin, Alba has a lot of supporters, playing in the big O2 arena in Berlin and almost selling out. How do you see German basketball and Alba in particular existing in Europe? Is there a niche for you to be a permanent feature there?
SO: This is also not just a question for me but the people running the club, it depends on investments, not just money but bringing basketball to the centre of Berlin. Everybody’s dream here is to stay in this competition. Let’s see what this season brings, after qualifying last season the goal this year would be to reach the semi-final stage.
FS: The situation has changed in terms of young players and it is much more difficult for younger players to establish themselves at an international level. Why is it so difficult for players to reach this level at a young age?
SO: The answer is simple, a lack of investment from both players themselves and organisations at younger age categories. No matter which part of basketball you are in it is beneficial to invest in young players and give young talent the opportunity to learn. Young players also lack the dedication that was previously there and don’t practice as much as they used to. Young players need to practice twice a day to improve their technique, but this is often no longer possible both through the lack of dedication of young players and conflicts with schooling. If you ask players like Kukoc and Danilovic, how much did they invest? How often they practiced? You will see the difference that makes them champions and others now never crossing the line. It is a matter of how much people want to dedicate towards this. Young players need individual workouts at a young age to skill themselves and put themselves in a position to play. It is also up to organisations to make youth league categories much better, so that the skilled players can play, gain experience and develop.
Photographs courtesy of Alba Berlin