By Antonis Stroggylakis / email@example.com
One of the first thoughts that come to mind that when putting together “EuroLeague,” “Final Four” and “Belgrade” is Luka Doncic claiming Final Four MVP in 2018 with Real Madrid in the Serbian capital.
On May 2, 2018 and just a few months after he turned 19 years old, Doncic led Real Madrid to the legendary “Decima” – the 10th EuroLeague championship for the club. It was the crowning achievement in a spectacular year for the Slovenian star , shortly before he embarked on a path that now finds him as the face of an NBA franchise.
While Doncic is fighting to push the Dallas Mavericks to the next level in the playoffs after triumphing over the Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference semifinals, Real Madrid is back in Belgrade to compete for the “Undecima.” And Blancos coach Pablo Laso broke down what makes his former wunderkind so special.
“Luka has been a great player since he arrived at Real Madrid when he was 13 years old,” Laso said in the opening presser for the EuroLeague Final Four. “But he’s also been a great person since that day. That made him so big. When people talked about the NBA and how he’s going to play there, I didn’t have any doubts. No doubts that he’s going to play good. Because probably the best thing he has a person, and for sure as a player, is that he’s able to adjust in any situation. And that’s something that you have to have as a person. And Luka has it.”
Doncic was recognized early in his teens as a very special talent who was steps ahead of his fellow youngsters. Still, Laso put an enormous, daring, unprecedented and pretty much prophetic trust on that Slovenian kid by bringing him at the senior team at 15 years of age and making him a staple of Real Madrid’s EuroLeague rotation at 16.
While still underage, Doncic established himself as a core player of a team that aspires to win every title there is. When Real Madrid superstar and reigning EuroLeague MVP Sergio Llull suffered a grave injury before the 2017-18 season, Doncic emerged as the undisputed leader of the squad, the go-to-guy, the man who will bear the responsibility of carrying this club on his back and take them to the promised land.
Doncic hit a homerun of individual and team titles by the end of the season and then Laso had to deal with the reality of his top player moving to the NBA.
“I’m very happy for him. I wish him luck,” Laso said.
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