By Cesare Milanti / email@example.com
Slask Wroclaw center Dusan Miletic has crossed paths with many basketball greats so far during his career and he has taken away something from all of them to grow into a dominant force.
He began his senior career with KK Sloga Kraljevo, where he played from 2017 to 2019. That is the same club where FIBA and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame center Vlade Divac played for three years before moving to Partizan Belgrade and later to the NBA.
And just like his legendary countryman did back in 1986, Miletic continued his career with Partizan in Belgrade, playing there from 2019 to 2022, including time on loan at Borac Cacak.
Learning from facing Mathias Lessort
Miletic began the 2020-21 ABA League season for the red-and-white club with a bang, by beating Partizan on the road. “It was actually our first game in the league. It was a very big win for us, and later on, we did it again at our home”, he said in an interview with Eurohoops.
The following season he returned to Partizan and the EuroCup under Coach Zeljko Obradovic. There the Serbian talent shared the locker room with Kevin Punter, Zach Leday, and Mathias Lessort.
Dusan Miletic said that playing against the current Panathinaikos center in practice every day with Partizan made him a better player. “Mathias [Lessort] is a very hard player to face, aggressive on defense, with a nice energy. Facing him was very good, especially in practice when I got to learn a lot from him, taking contact and fighting under the basket”, he said.
Partizan went on to reach the EuroCup Eightfinals before falling to Frutti Extra Bursaspor. The then-25-year-old finished the season with good numbers in the ABA League but spent just 3:18 minutes on European courts. Against Slask Wroclaw.
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Getting the right lessons from Girona’s experts
In the summer of 2022, Dusan Miletic started a new and different chapter with Girona in Spain, under Coach Aito Garcia Reneses and playing alongside club president Marc Gasol, who returned to Europe after finishing his career in the NBA.
“He understands basketball in a different way”, Miletic said of Gasol. “From the very first practice, I noticed how much he knows, and the way he plays is amazing. He can do everything on the floor: playing inside and outside, passing the ball like a point guard, organizing the offense the way he wants”. He tried to maximize his time in Girona by soaking up as much knowledge as possible from Gasol.
“To be in a position to learn from somebody like Marc [Gasol] was great. The most important lesson he gave me is that you need to believe that you are a good player. From then on, things start to change: the way the team looks at you, the way the opponents look at you. If you don’t believe in yourself, even practicing is useless”, he added.
After learning from a master like Zeljko Obradovic in Belgrade, Dusan Miletic found another great head coach in Girona. “He wants to help players to improve through the season, to help them develop and read the game. He will give you advice and let you figure out where you feel the best on the court. Aito [Garcia Reneses] gives you freedom, but not fully. He wants you to understand how to improve”, he commented before underlining how much he grew last season.
Coming off the bench to replace Marc Gasol, he improved vastly on the court. “I started to read the game more because we didn’t have too many sets, too many complicated rules. Marc [Gasol] was guiding me a lot of times, and for me, it was the best of situations”, Dusan Miletic concluded.
Nah, de loquísimos. Apaga y vámonos. Miletic, ¿qué has merendado?
— Liga Endesa (@ACBCOM) February 11, 2023
Shining in snowy Poland
Moving to Poland a few months ago, Miletic delivered straight away but couldn’t contribute to any of his team’s victories so far as Slask Wroclaw is currently winless (0-8) in Group B.
Having already faced the reigning EuroCup champion, he mentioned them and some other teams as favorites to go all the way this year. “Gran Canaria is a very good team. I believe there are a lot of good teams now, especially in Group A: Besiktas and the London Lions, for example. When it comes to the final phase, it’s going to be very fun to watch”, he said.
Among the teams Slask Wroclaw has lost to, the Serbian center put his focus on two opponents. “Lietkabelis is a very team-oriented squad, they’re very smart and play collectively. Also, Gran Canaria has an amazing roster, but they don’t have one particular superstar: their strength is how they play together”, he said.
Through eight rounds, he’s ranked sixth in the competition in average PIR (20.5), fifth in two-point shooting (76.7%), seventh in rebounds (7.4), and second in blocks (2.1) per game.
Moreover, he’s also averaging 13.5 points, 2.4 assists, and 1.6 steals per game, playing the best basketball of his career to date. “My goal for this season was to play consistently, and I think I’ve been playing the best and most mature basketball of my whole life”, he concluded.
Despite Poland’s weather, the sun is shining for Dusan Miletic.
— BKT EuroCup (@EuroCup) November 8, 2023
PHOTO CREDIT: BKT EuroCup