We met Vasilije Micic in Milan, ready to play against Olimpia Milano in a EuroLeague game. The serbian guard of Anadolu Efes Istanbul talked us about many things, basketball and not only.
From a role player with the Zalgiris Kaunas to be a star of this Euroleague with Anadolu Efes. What player is Vasilije Micic now?
“With Zalgiris Kaunas it was an important year, because I was returning to play in EuroLeague after the experience with Bayern Munich and after playing with Tofas Bursa. I went from playing a game a week (with Tofas) to play many more games with the Zalgiris. I felt I deserved a better role than I had with Zalgiris, but I accepted everything serenely, giving 100% on the court. Then came the opportunity with Anadolu Efes, a great opportunity to show what I really be. I know that many did not expect my growth to be so fast, but Efes allowed me to express my abilities and become a unique player of its kind. I am one of the youngest point guard with these responsibilities seeing the other top teams and now I feel able to express my offensive and defensive potential without fear of playing.”
Talking about your career, let’s start from the beginning. You started your professional career at Mega Vizura. Very young and already very important for the team with a certain Boban Marjanovic in the same team.
“When I started playing for the Mega, the club was starting thinking big for the first time in its history. Now the Mega Bemax (changed its name) is by far the best team for young people in Serbia. Last year it reached the final of Next Generation U18 and is very famous as a team because it produces NBA players with great continuity. From that team came out, Marjanovic, Jokic, Dangubic, me and many more … But when I arrived it was different. At 16 I had the opportunity to be the starting playmaker of the team, something never seen before in Serbia, where it “had to” wait at least 18 years for a player to play. If now, at 25, I have this background, it is above all merit of that period.”
Then Bayern Munich and Crvena Zvezda. Perhaps were you expecting something more in the period with the Germans? Were injuries a negative key?
“Bayern Munich was a special opportunity, because I had the chance to play with Pesic, one of the best Serbian coaches of all time. I was only 20 years old, with so many responsibilities for that role but maybe because several injuries, I didn’t have the opportunity to do what everyone expected. Then, I preferred the Crvena Zvezda to the NBA and I must say that it was one of the best choices for me. I played a lot and improve confidence in myself. Precisely for this reason, I chose the Tofas Bursa the following year.”
How important was the season at Tofas Bursa for you?
“You know, in Serbia people said that if you don’t “explode” before the age of 20, your career will never be a great career. Instead my experience at Tofas was a key to my career. I was 22, I still felt very young. I refused offers from big teams, because my priority was to play and to be important for the team that was Tofas at the time. I am convinced that I made the right choice at that point in my career.”
What is your relationship with Coach Ataman?
“When I had to sign with Efes, I talked with Coach Ataman on the phone. He told me that my role would be like the one I had in Zalgiris, a player able to make Larkin and Beaubois rest easily on the bench. But as soon as I arrived, I was very physically and mentally ready. I wanted to play my chances even though maybe no one expected I could become a starter. I changed from the Final Four with Zalgiris Kaunas to play for Anadolu Efes that was the last in the standings. A move that was criticized but I was convinced that I made the right decision, a choice that motivated me so much. The last season was amazing. Again at the Final Four, when no one believed us there, we won the championship in Turkey after 10 years beating Fenerbahçe. All this convinced me to stay here for further years, an absolutely fantastic team.”
Tell me about Shane Larkin. Many in EuroLeague consider you and Larkin, one of the best duo in this competition.
“Shane Larkin was about to leave the team in the middle of last year. He was not satisfied, he couldn’t express his potential and he wasn’t happy. We had a super impact with Rodrigue Beaubois, but Shane wasn’t the player we used to watch in EuroLeague. Then came the game with FC Barcelona, where it literally exploded with 37 points. From that moment we realized that we could do very well together. We talked a lot and found ourselves understanding that we had different characteristics that could unite and make us a great duo. Shane is a very strong player, he has great skills and he knows how to make shots very easily. I am very confident for this season.”
How do you look at Olimpia Milano? A sacred monster like Ettore Messina has returned to change the last negative seasons.
“I am sure that the biggest change always comes from the coach. Milan and Efes have had many things in common in the recent past, big names, very strong roster, perhaps even more than the current ones, but team chemistry is not something you get with the big names. Players must know their role, be comfortable and have their responsibilities. Milan has done a great job, is a very good team in which everyone feels good, both old and new players. All this has not often happened in the recent past for Milan. I am sure that everything started with the new coach. Ettore Messina gave the team a new identity, new ideas thanks to its enormous experience in EuroLeague and NBA, where he learned to manage players thanks to a legend like Coach Popovich. They had a super start, I congratulate them on how they played in this part of the season, but for me it’s not absolutely a surprise.”
Would you like to play in Italy one day, who knows maybe in Milan?
“Italy is one of my favorite countries. You never know where your career will take you. I have family members who live in Pesaro, if one day it will happen, I will certainly be happy with this!”
About Ettore Messina. At the last Final Four, he said he saw you perfect for a system like the San Antonio Spurs. Do you think again at the NBA? You were chosen by the Sixers in 2014 when you were the star of the Adidas Euro Camp. You and a very young Jaylen Brown, now star of the Boston Celtics.
“We had two completely different life stories me and Jaylen. I still have the desire to play in the NBA, it’s a dream we all have since we were kids. At the same time, this desire does not drive me crazy, because I feel good with European basketball, which has reached a very high level. If it happens, I’d be just happy! “
What was the secret of your professional growth? If you had to choose a factor that made your career “turn”, which would you choose?
“My serious injury at 17 years old. There were also other moments, but that and my move to Tofas were key moments. When I chose Tofas it was a time when everyone forgot about me. I had gone from being a promising star to a player who chose to play a game a week in Turkey.”
About Serbia. You were deservedly included in Serbia’s roster at the last World Cup. In China it did not go well both on a sporting level and on a personal level. How hard was that moment for you?
“Speaking about basketball, it didn’t go well of course. I finished a great season with Efes, I felt very confident and I knew that I could do well also with Serbia, even though I had a minor role in front of all the stars in the national team. I accepted my role without any problems, I just wanted to help the team and do good with Serbia. Sasha Djordjevic had different visions, completely acceptable because he is the Coach. But all this, combined with the loss of my mother were it very difficult for me. All this has allowed me to learn a lot on a personal level, in a moment so hard for me.”
Your situation, then Ricky Rubio in the post-victory of Spain. The World Cup has revealed a very human and emotional part of the professional player, often seen as a super human.
“Yes, absolutely. It was a mix of emotions. I chose to stay in China even if losing my mother is one of the most difficult moments of my life. You must decide to give up or react. No one can imagine what it feels like until it happen. I was very very sad, I admit it, but I wanted to play because I know my mother would have liked it that way. I followed my feelings.”
You are now 25 years old. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
“I honestly don’t think about the future. When I was younger I often thought about it, now I live the moment and enjoy my career day by day.”
Where will this Analodu Efes end this season? Will he be able to repeat the amazing last season and get to the Final Four for the second time?
“They asked me the same question at the beginning of the season (laughs). There are many strong teams with higher budgets than ours, but I feel that we have the potential to repeat last season. We are a team, players who want to play exclusively week by week, giving 100% in every game. If we think like that, we can beat anyone, but only if we think like that. If we start thinking about the future, all this can create problems for us. We absolutely have to think game by game and stay focused on this.”
Intervista in italiano.
Vasilije Micic, stats in EuroLeague.