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Ivkovic names preliminary squad ahead of Turkey

Darko Milicic has a chance to once again play for Serbia following the announcement by coach Dusan Ivkovic that the seven-footer is in preliminary squad for the FIBA World Championship in Turkey.

The 22-strong list includes all 12 players from last year’s team in Poland, while Milicic, Partizan Belgrade guard Aleksandar Rasic, Cajasol Sevilla’s Dusko Savanovic and Panionios big man Zoran Erceg are all included.

Erceg had been in the 2008 squad but missed the final cut for last year’s EuroBasket.

Marko Keselj of Red Star Belgrade, FMP’s Mladen Jeremic – a gold-medal winner with Serbia at the U19 World Championship title in 2007 – and 21-year-old Dragan Milosavljevic of Radnicki Kragujevac are included.

Radnicki are currently in a surprising third place in the country’s championship.

Others named in the preliminary squad are DKV Joventut’s Luka Bogdanovic, who missed EuroBasket 2009 due to illness like Keselj, and Hemofarm’s giant center, the 2.20m Boban Marjanovic.

There had been comments in the Serbian media that Australian Aleks Maric of Partizan might play for Serbia because his parents hail from the country, but Maric has represented Australia at youth level and is a big part of the Boomers’ plans this summer.

Maric was not named in the preliminary list.

Ivkovic held a press conference after naming his group of players.

“We are continuing with the tradition of adding youngsters to the national team as much as it is possible,” he said.

“All the candidates will get an equal chance, but it is very, very important for all of them to come ready for our first training as we’ll cut the list to just 16 names only a week later.”

The first practice will be in Belgrade on June 28 and after the group is cut to 16, Serbia will travel to Folgaria, Italy, on July 5 for a training camp.

Serbia will then participate in an Istanbul tournament from July 6-9 with hosts Turkey and Iran, and then Ivkovic’s men will compete in the Maribor tournament against Russia, New Zealand and hosts Slovenia from August 13-15.

After Maribor, Serbia will play at the Acropolis Cup in Athens from August 17-19 with Greece, Slovenia and Canada.

Before their trip to Turkey, Ivkovic’s squad will have one open and one behind-closed-doors game with China, the team that is now coached by American Bob Donewald.

Serbian basketball was on a high last summer and continued to be this season with the likes of Milos Teodosic winning the MVP of the Euroleague and Dusan Kecman leading Partizan Belgrade to the Adriatic League title and into the Euroleague Final Four.

There was no place in the squad for the 32-year-old Kecman, which may have surprised some but does fall in line with Ivkovic’s aim to bring in young players.

Ivkovic knows it is important for Serbia and their fans to keep their feet on the ground, despite last year’s incredible run to the title game in Poland where they lost to Spain.

“We can improve our game a lot, but I can’t say at this moment that it will be enough for a great result like the one we’ve achieved in 2009,” Ivkovic said.

“We’ll do our best from game to game, and we must be on top form for our first game at the World Championship.

“We had a very bad experience from Japan 2006 when we lost against Nigeria so we are taking our first match with Angola very seriously,” Ivkovic said.

Serbia will be in Group A at the FIBA World Championship with the African champions Angola, wild card team Germany, FIBA Asia Championship bronze-medalists Jordan, Oceania giants Australia and Argentina – the number one side in the FIBA World Rankings.

“Our first goal is to reach the second phase in Turkey,” Ivkovic said.

“Our second one is to achieve that by avoiding an early clash with USA in knock-out phase, so we’ll do our best not to be fourth in our group.”

The Serbian coach said at his press conference that most of the squad will consist of players that took silver at EuroBasket 2009.

As for the longer-term goal, it remains to qualify for the London 2012 Olympics.

“The World Championship in Turkey, whatever can be achieved there, isn’t directly connected with the Olympic Games,” Ivkovic said, “so there won’t be any pressure on our players to achieve a great result.

“Of course, we’ll do our best to improve ourselves there, but the main target is London and we’ll use this year’s improvements for good performances at next year’s EuroBasket in Lithuania, as there we’ll fight for a spot at the Olympic Games.”

Preliminary list of Serbian players for 2010 FIBA World Championship 2010: Milos Teodosic, Stefan Markovic, Bojan Popovic, Milenko Tepic, Aleksandar Rasic, Uros Tripkovic, Dragan Milosavljevic, Ivan Paunic, Marko Keselj, Nemanja Bjelica, Mladen Jeremic, Milan Macvan, Dusko Savanovic, Novica Velickovic, Zoran Erceg, Ivan Radenovic, Luka Bogdanovic, Nenad Krstic, Kosta Perovic, Darko Milicic, Miroslav Raduljica, Boban Marjanovic.

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