If there are two things that Nikola Jovic values, they are winning and being a leader. And the Serbian talent showed he has those traits in guiding U18 Mega SoccerBet Belgrade to first place at the Euroleague Basketball Adidas Next Generation Tournament Belgrade.
Jovic collected 29.3 points, 10.3 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.8 blocks for the tournament, including 32 points, 12 rebounds and 7 assists in Mega's 80-82 win over U18 Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade in the first-place game to take home the Most Valuable Player award. Mega needed every one of Jovic's points as it rallied back from 19 points behind early in the second half to take first place at the ANGT Belgrade for the second time, the other having come in 2019.
"We were losing by almost 20 points but I believed in my teammates and that's all that mattered," he said
Jovic is the Mega captain and he loves leading the team.
"It feels amazing being the leader of the team. I can help the other guys on and off the court," he said.
When asked to comment on Jovic after the game, Mega head coach Dragoljub Avramovic offered up: "What to say? He does everything on the floor. Everything."
Jovic said winning the tournament in Belgrade was the biggest achievement of his still-young career. It's a career that began with Mega in 2018, when he joined the club from the lower level side Sava Belgrade.
"I was playing for a small club in Serbia and Mega gave me the chance," he said.
Jovic was born in Leicester, England and came to Serbia when he was 9 years old. He didn't take up the game of basketball until he was 11. He was a quick study, though. He was expected to be on the Serbian national team for the FIBA U16 European Championship 2019. A wrist injury cost him a chance to play in Italy, where Serbia lost to eventual champions Spain in a heart-breaker in overtime in the quarterfinal.
"My biggest disappointment was not being able to play for Serbia because I was injured," said Jovic, who had to watch from afar as Serbia ended up finishing seventh and failing to qualify for the FIBA U17 Basketball World Cup 2020.
Nonetheless the 2.08-meter forward remains on the radar of talent scouts throughout the world for his outstanding performances. This was actually Jovic's second time playing for Mega at the ANGT Belgrade. He collected 11.8 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.3 steals and 0.8 blocks last season. Mega was coming into the tournament looking to repeat its first-placed showing from 2019, but the team lost to U18 Cedevita Olimpija Ljubljana by three points in the penultimate game in the group phase. That meant Mega needed to beat U18 CFBB Paris by at least eight points to reach the first-place game again. Jovic and co. could only manage a 69-68 win and ended up taking third place.
"Last year, I learned that every team comes to the tournament to win, so every game is important," he said.
Jovic had watched the 2018-19 Mega team and its impressive run to the top spot at the ANGT Belgrade and then reaching the ANGT Championship Game, where the club lost to U18 Real Madrid at the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Final Four in Vitoria-Gasteiz.
"It was a great experience to watch those guys win," said Jovic, who was only 16 at the time.
That was the second time Mega came up just short of winning Europe's number one youth club competition. The club reached the ANGT Championship Game in 2017, as well, but could not hoist the trophy as it was U18 FCBB Paris that did the honors in Istanbul.
Jovic knows that Mega invests a lot of time and energy in youth development. And he would love to finally give the club an ANGT trophy.
"It would mean everything. And I think we can accomplish it if we all work hard," he said.
Jovic has already exhibited that he has a winning gene and can lead a team. Soon, at the ANGT Finals, he will get a chance to show Europe again.