By Nikos Varlas/ firstname.lastname@example.org
Since his teen years at Rabotnicki Skopje, Pero Antic was considered a big talent. That’s why he started his professional career at Greek club AEK when he was just 19 years old.
At 2005 he left and until 2011 he played in Serbia, Bulgaria, Russia as a member of modest teams, not part of the European elite and far away from Euroleague. In the summer of 2011 everything changed. He signed with Olympiacos, won two Euroleague titles – having personally a great Final Four in London – and last summer he made the most unexpected move. He signed with Atlanta Hawks.
His rookie season in the States proved to be a fairy tale, followed by million fans around the globe and that’s why Eurohoops had to speak with him, after his milestone personal year.
As Pero clarified, he will stay next season in Atlanta and he is already preparing in order to be better. He will not play again in the national team of his country, FYROM, and he admits that in the past he made his share of mistakes. However, now he is back on the top level and he will not waste a second.
- If someone was telling you during the summer of 2011 before the Eurobasket that you will play in Eurolegue with Olympiacos, you will earn two titles in a row and after that you will play in the NBA and have a great rookie season, what your reaction would be?
“Are you crazy or something??? First of all I am very happy that during that Eurobasket I decide to connect with the best in his profession, agent Misko Raznjatovic. With his advice, support and the hard work I put in, anything can become a reality”.
-When you signed to the NBA many people didn’t believe that you will get minutes and have a role in Atlanta’s rotation. But you proved them wrong. What were your ambitions, before you land to the States in order to start a new life and a new career there?
“ You know me, I don’t care about what other people are talking about… I knew that I will be a role player. I was a role player in Olympiacos the last two years, but I always give 100% on the floor.. When my chance comes, I use it to the maximum. When I came to Atlanta, I was getting ready mentally to prove that I can play on the highest level. Only that.. And I succeed on that”.
- The last three years you established yourself step by step to the highest level of basketball! Why all the previous seasons you played in a lower level, not even in Euroleague? It was your mistake or just a matter of luck and bad timing? How do you explain the late explosion in your career?
“It was my fault and a mistake of the agents I had hired.. Nobody has taken time to talk with me and tell me what is the best way for me to succeed. We always went for the bigger money in the smaller teams… Plus there’s my explosive character. I think this character made coaches afraid of taking me to their teams.. All that changed when I had my first talk with Misko and then with coach Duda Ivkovic”.
- Your story looks like a fairytale! Only Sabonis went to the NBA at that age and played such an important role to his team! How that happened? Honestly, when you signed with the Hawks, you believed that you will achieve such a great season and be selected to play in the rookies All Star Game?
“I didn’t have that in mind. I just wanted to improve everyday and use every chance I got. Coach Budenholzer and the team believed a lot in me. That made my adjustment much easier. I had just to work and use every second on the floor”.
-The main differences between the NBA and European game style?
“The speed of the game and the physicality of the players”!
-What’s next for you? Staying with the Hawks?
“Yes! I’m staying in Atlanta because I have one more year in my contract. I feel good in the team. City is great , people are great and I enjoy my time there”.
- During last season you faced all the NBA super stars. Lebron, Durant, Carmelo and every one else. Which player do you admire the most? Which one impressed you?
“Kevin Durant, Lebron and Howard!! Durant is an extra talented scorer who is very tall and can play even the point guard position.. Lebron is a fantastic all around player! What else I can say about him? Dwight Howard is the strongest person I have ever played against! I think he sleeps in the weight room!! (Laughs).
-Who is the best teammate you ever had and which one is the worst one?
“It’s tough to answer that question because they are all my friends… The worst in the last years that I remember – none.. Only one, but he is not a player”.
- Did you follow the Euroleague? Give me your comment for the competition this season.
“I followed the season until my two teams were out. Red Star and Olympiacos.. After that I didn’t have the same motivation.. Overall it was a good season for these two teams. Still, I was sure that Olympiacos would go to the Final Four and I would be at Milan to support them”.
-Tell me your plans and decisions about the NT of your country.
“No more national team for me.. I need rest after the last season I had. Plus, I will work during the summer, following a special program the strength coach of Atlanta Hawks made for me.. It is time for the new generation to step up and lead the national team to new challenges and successes”.