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From Ascoli to Olimpia: Nemanja Nedovic’s long way “home”

01/07/2018
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The genes were the right ones: His father Sladjan was a great handball player – and that’s why Nemanja Nedovic lived in Austria and Italy, as a kid – like his Uncle Predrag. But the problem was finding the right sport in which to test them. The first attempt was obviously with the handball, a discipline of great tradition in Serbia, but Nemanja changed positions often and one day he chose to be a goalkeeper. “My mother was in the stands, a ball hit me in the head: at the end of the game she told me that my experience with handball would have ended that same day”. He lived in Ascoli at that time because his father was the playing professionally for San Benedetto del Tronto. He tried with soccer, because it was the most popular sport in Ascoli and he followed the Italian Serie A, Alex Del Piero was his favorite player, then with tennis, but his future seemed to be in the pool. “They offered me to swim for the Italian Federation,” he told EuroLeagueTv. But he declined the proposal. When he touched the basketball for the first time, he knew he had found his way. “It became my life right from the start. No pressure from my parents, they let me do what I wanted. I think that I made the right choice “.

Nedovic now returns to Italy where he had scored the first baskets of his life, right after the best season of his career in EuroLeague. Last season he was among the first 10 for three-pointers made, points scored, fouls drawn, he was among the first 15 players in field goals and free throws made and for assists. He scored 16.8 points on average to go along 4.8 assists per game. It’s definitely been his breakout year, in his third season in Spain, his second in Malaga where one year earlier he had won the Eurocup trophy by defeating Valencia in the finals. Valencia was his first team in Spain, a place where things had not gone too well. He comes to Milan after a season in which he probably played the best game of his life, in Istanbul against Fenerbahce, 31 points, 36 of index rating for an historic Unicaja win against the then defending champions. It was not an impressive performance only because of the points that he scored but perhaps even more for how he assisted his teammates, the bigs inside the paint or the perimeter guys for uncontested threes (in that game he had 8 assists and 8 fouls drawn).

Nedovic began to get serious as a basketball player after his return to Serbia when he was playing for the Red Star youth teams. He also made his debut with the senior team and then in the Serbian National junior teams, soon becoming a prospect with NBA potential. At the Eurocamp of Treviso they measured at 103 centimeters his jumping ability. His athleticism is impressive for a European player. In 2012 he left Belgrade to go to Vilnius where he made his EuroLeague debut, scoring 9.8 points per game. And at the end of the season he was chosen by the Golden State Warriors (via Phoenix Suns) in the NBA draft. During the ESPN commentary, he was nicknamed as the “European Derrick Rose” for his speed and aggressiveness in attacking the rim.

The Warriors were about to become the greatest team in the world. They would have won the first title of this dynasty in 2015. Nedovic arrived in the right place but at the wrong time. Steph Curry and Klay Thompson were about to explode. He was a rookie who had everything to prove. He managed to play only 24 games. He played more games with the Santa Cruz Warriors of the current G-League. He scored 31 points in is very first game. But his whole season was affected by this sort of back and forth between the NBA and its developmental league. The following year he was released before the season began and he returned to Europe, to Valencia. At the end he moved to Malaga playing a year with Mindaugas Kuzminskas. The next season against Valencia he won the Eurocup along Jeff Brooks (he was game 2’s MVP).

In addition to all this, he played two European championships with Serbia National Team (2013 and 2015) and won the Olympic silver medal in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. And finally his breakout season in the EuroLeague with which he is introducing himself in Milan, with his ability to play two positions, he can be a scoring point-man or a shooting guard with the skills necessary to make his teammates better. That’s Nedovic.