By Johnny Askounis/ email@example.com
Playing at the international level in the summer recovered the confidence in Nikola Jovic following an injury-plagued rookie campaign in the NBA.
Jovic, 20, averaged 10.1 points, 3.0 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 0.4 steals, and 0.1 blocks per game for Serbia in the 2023 FIBA World Cup. He made 56.6% from the field, including 19/27 from two-point range. His efforts were immediately rewarded with a silver medal. Carrying over additional perks in the NBA can be a future prize.
“I feel like when we went to the Finals this year with the Heat, I maybe questioned myself. Can I make it to that level? Can I play the hardest competition in the world? Playing in the World Cup and being in the final showed me I can actually play in the big games like that, big tournaments like that. I just got more confidence,” he told the Miami Herald.
Last season, the Miami Heat won the Eastern Conference, before falling to NBA Finals MVP Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets in five games. However, Jovic was limited to two brief appearances in the Finals and seven throughout the Playoffs.
“You always have doubts and people are going to doubt you,” added Jovic on regaining confidence, “Everybody questions themselves sometimes and I always questioned whether I’m good enough to play in this type of an atmosphere and you have this many people looking at you. I feel like I’m ready to do something now after this summer.”
Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra serving as an assistant for Team USA in the World Cup was an interesting twist for the Serbian forward.
“When I turned around and saw him, I was just happy,” he referred to the games with Spoelstra present, “After almost every game, he would send me a message of what he thinks and just telling me to keep going. I felt that connection even though maybe I didn’t see him every day.”
Serbia settled for the second place in the final rankings after losing to Germany in the gold medal game. Meanwhile, the United States ranked fourth after losing to Canada in the bronze medal game.
World Cup and graduation
Revealing he has yet to finish school made an early splash last summer, before the start of his rookie NBA campaign. However, this summer featured graduation, beyond impressive showings in the Philippines.
“We had a big ceremony to celebrate the World Cup. The day after that, I went to school to finish,” he described returning to Serbia to finally graduate from secondary school.
Photo Credit: FIBA.BASKETBALL