By Semih Tuna/ Stuna@eurohoops.net
The last time Goran Dragic played in Sinan Erdem Sports Arena in Istanbul, he won the 2017 Eurobasket. In his return, he was the hero of the night for Slovenia, overshadowing youngsters Luka Doncic who rested during the fourth period and overtime, and also Furkan Korkmaz who scored 33 points and sent the game to overtime.
And it was like the clock was turned back to 2017 with him scoring 28 points and the winning three in overtime.
“I feel great”, he said to Eurohoops about his unexpected return to the national team, since he had announced that he retired after 2017. But now things are different, as he explained: “Returning to the national team after five years is an incredible feeling. Of course, I’m older now, I’m 36 years old. I was fresher back then, but I still enjoy playing basketball. That’s why I’m happy to be back”.
As Dragic admitted, the personal relationship he has with former NBA champion and current SecretaryGeneral of the Basketball Federation of Slovenia Rasho Nesterovic was one of the keys to his return: “There are many reasons why I came back to the national team. First up, there’s Rasho Nesterovic. He’s practically family. Rasho is my daughter’s godfather. Of course, my brother Zoran and Luka (Doncic) were also instrumental in my decision. Specially Zoran was always talking to me about this”.
Speaking about the game, which despite being just an exhibition can be already considered an instant classic, defending champion Dragic predicted that the upcoming Eurobasket will be also one to remember: “The match was great. There were ups and downs, both teams played hard. I also want to congratulate Turkey, I think they are a great team. They will do very well in the EuroBasket. It will probably be one of the toughest Eurobaskets ever. There are many players coming to the tournament, there are many good teams. As you know, we love competition. So this is a good thing.”
And playing in front of the passionate Turkish crowd, things got even more interesting: “I have always heard of Turkey’s reputation on this issue. The fans are among the best in the world. That’s why it’s always fun to play here. Of course, it makes it a bit more difficult because, after all, they are on the opposing side”.