Luka Cerovina did not play in the Euroleague Basketball ADIDAS NEXT GENERATION TOURNAMENT Championship Game last season, but the multi-faceted forward hopes to take the lessons of watching from the sidelines and guide U18 Mega Bemax Belgrade to an impressive double title at the junior level this year.
Cerovina is a major reason that Mega has chances of hoisting the trophy in Belgrade, especially after he averaged 18.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 2.5 steals and 1.5 blocks in helping Mega to a third-place finish at the ANGT Belgrade tournament. Cerovina’s performance earned him a spot on the All-Tournament Team. It also gave him confidence heading into the ANGT Finals, which Mega received a wild card to and will play against U18 Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius, U18 CFBB Paris and U18 Real Madrid in Group A.
“The ultimate goal is clear, and it is up to us to play at a high quality with strong defense and with concentration in the attack,” said Cerovina.
The 2.01-meter forward also believes the team will get more confidence with the home fans in the stands.
“Playing at home in front of your audience is a special experience and everyone in the club is eagerly awaiting the start of the tournament. For all of us, this represents the highest point in our junior career and we will strive to give our maximum,” he added.
Cerovina will have extra motivation to play a leading role for Mega in Belgrade after receiving a DNP in all four of the club’s games at the 2017 ANGT Finals in Istanbul, including the title game loss against U18 CFBB Paris. That came after he had averaged 1.3 points and 3.7 rebounds at ANGT Belgrade last year.
“I did not get into the [Championship Game], but the experience I got following and cheering for my teammates was very important. We were very close to the goal, but unfortunately we lost to a very high-quality opponent,” he said.
Mega will get another chance against CFBB in Belgrade since they are in the same group.
“We will be motivated from our side to get the win,” Cerovina said of the repeat of the 2017 ANGT Championship Game. He hopes that a victory over CFBB can boost Mega to the 2018 title. It would be a major step in an already superb junior career.
Cerovina was born in Kragujevac and lived with his parents in Zvecan, a small town in Metohija in southwestern Kosovo. He started playing basketball at age 7 after previous playing tennis and football.
“My uncle talked me into it, and since then, this passion for basketball will never stop,” said Cerovina, who played two years of basketball at KK Polet Kraljevo before moving to Mega in 2016.
That same uncle was a professional handball player, playing abroad in Finland, Portugal and Israel. But when it came to role models, Cerovina looked to some of the past Yugoslav basketball greats like Dejan Bodiroga, Toni Kukoc, Predrag Danilovic and Aleksander Djordjevic as well as NBA legends Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan. Cerovina’s said his current role model though is Alexey Shved from Khimki Moscow Region.
“I am delighted with his game and I think he is maybe the best player in the EuroLeague,” he said. “Next to him, there is, of course, the NBA trio of Milos Teodosic, Bogdan Bogdanovic and Nikola Jokic.”
The decision to move to Mega was an easy one for Cerovina. “Mega Bemax is a club very well-known not only in our country, but also in the whole world because of its great work with young talents. And a large number of players who have proven themselves in Europe and the NBA have emerged,” Cerovina said.
He praised especially the conditions at the club. “The club organization and top coaching staff contribute to the development of young players and is something I think no other club can provide at this level. So the decision to go to Mega was very fast and easy.”
It has also led to success for Cerovina. While he and the club were unable to win the ANGT last year, the team did win the recent Junior ABA League title, knocking off city rivals Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade in the final in Laktasi in the first edition of the competition.
“I had a noticeable role on the team and I am very proud of that success,” Cerovina said. And he would love to make it a junior double in Belgrade at the ANGT Finals.
“Winning the ANGT title would mean a lot, especially since we recently won the junior ABA league tournament. A double crown would be an incredible feeling and we will do everything we can to achieve this success.”
And those lessons from last season’s ANGT Championship Game will certainly help as well.