Connect with us
Advertisement

Basketball

Slovenia Displays Cohesive Teamwork and Talent at Basketball World Cup

Luka Doncic, Klemen Prepelic and Mike Tobey, the three leading scorers for Slovenia at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, continue to be key catalysts for the team.

OKINAWA CITY ― Even though Luka Doncic generates the majority of the team's headlines and highlight reel plays, Slovenia is not a one-man team.

That was evident at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, where the European squad earned a fourth-place finish in the men's basketball tournament.

It's also been true at the ongoing FIBA Basketball World Cup, where Doncic, Klemen Prepelic and Mike Tobey have reprised their roles as Slovenia's "Big 3."

Slovenia defeated Venezuela 100-85 in its Group F tournament opener at Okinawa Arena on August 26. Two days later, Slovenia recorded an 88-67 victory over Georgia.

Doncic is a leading MVP candidate in the 32-nation tournament, which concludes on September 10 in Manila. Entering Slovenia's final Group F game against Cape Verde on Wednesday, August 30, the NBA superstar was averaging a World Cup-best 35.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 6.0 assists.

Slovenia
Slovenia center Mike Tobey in action against Venezuela on August 26. (FIBA.BASKETBALL)

American-born center Tobey and veteran shooting guard Prepelic averaged 16.5 and 14.5 points, respectively, in the aforementioned back-to-back victories that secured a spot for Slovenia in the second round. 

At the Olympics, Doncic was Slovenia's top scorer (23.8 points), with Prepelic finishing second on the team (15.5) and Tobey third (13.7) in six games.

Slovenia Chasing a Title at the Basketball World Cup

Slovenia headed into its match against Cape Verde knowing that if it defeated the African squad, it would finish atop Group F and that its next opponent would be Australia (3-0) on Friday, September 1.

That's exactly what happened on the final day of first-round play. Slovenia, which led 45-38 at halftime, defeated Cape Verde 92-77.

As a result, it set up a mouth-watering rematch of the Australia-Slovenia clash in the Tokyo 2020 tournament, a game in which the Aussies prevailed 107-93.

Australia playmaker Josh Giddey, who had a team-high 26 points in a win over Japan on Tuesday, looks forward to facing Doncic at Okinawa Arena.

"Obviously a lot of people are here to see him," Giddey said of Doncic after Tuesday's game. "He carries a heavy load for Slovenia, so a lot of our game plan is gonna revolve around him."

Tournament debutant Georgia (2-1) also advanced to the second round by beating Venezuela 70-59 in its final group phase contest on Wednesday. 

Slovenia
Slovenia's Luka Doncic runs the offense as Cape Verde's Ivan Almeida defends on August 30 at Okinawa Arena. (Issei Kato/REUTERS)

Key Statistics for Slovenia vs Cape Verde

Slovenia coach Aleksander Sekulic's club held a 45-38 lead over Cape Verde at halftime.

Prepelic and Doncic shared the team lead in points (10), with Tobey chipping in with five.

Slovenia extended its lead to 69-55 by the end of the third quarter and didn't let up until the final buzzer sounded.

Doncic finished with a game-high 19 points and added seven rebounds, nine assists and four steals. He struggled to make shots (5 of 17) but impacted the game in a number of ways.

Slovenia's Klemen Prepelic and Cape Verde's Patrick Lima compete. (Issei Kato/REUTERS)

Prepelic contributed 18 points on 6-for-11 shooting with seven assists and two steals off the bench. Tobey finished with nine points and six rebounds.

Power forward Bine Prepelic, Klemen's younger cousin, and Aleksej Nikolic had 11 points apiece.

Cape Verde (1-2) will face Finland (0-3) in the classification round (17th-32nd place) on Thursday. Tipoff is 4:30 PM JST. 

Take a Food Journey Around the World!
It's just a shoe!

Doncic Sets the Tone for Slovenia

In his role as team captain, a position he was elevated to before the Basketball World Cup, Doncic's leadership has been significant.

When you watch Slovenia during warmup drills and games ― and even in timeouts ― it's clear that teammates respect Doncic and follow his lead.

Tobey, who played college ball at the University of Virginia (2012-16), described Doncic's tone-setting role for the world's seventh-ranked team.

"He's really stepping up in taking [the lead], Tobey said, according to basketnews.com. "You can see him during the timeouts trying to bring the guys together, giving words of encouragement. He's doing a great job being our leader."

Tobey, who was born in Monroe, New York, became a naturalized Slovenian citizen in 2021 before the Tokyo Olympics in order to compete in the tournament.

When you're playing with one of the world's top players, the opponent's defensive focus on the superstar often increases.

But Tobey welcomes the challenge of stepping up with the spotlight on Doncic. Against Venezuela, he dropped 21 points on 6-for-6 shooting. His dynamic effort included 3-for-3 on 3-point attempts and five rebounds.

Slovenia
Mike Tobey in a file photo. (FIBA.BASKETBALL)

After the game, the 213-cm Tobey was more than happy to talk about his summer experience playing alongside Doncic, who was the No 3 pick (selected by the Atlanta Hawks and traded to the Dallas Mavericks) in the 2018 NBA Draft.

"I didn't miss a single shot, so I'm pretty happy with that," Tobey was quoted as saying by basketnews.com.

Tobey went on, "I don't think it's realistic to continue like that the whole time. Hopefully, going forward, I will just continue being aggressive, I know Luka will find me in certain positions."

In the same game, Prepelic poured in 18 points and Doncic showcased the talents that have propelled him to four straight NBA All-Star Game appearances (37 points, seven rebounds, six assists, two steals).

Insights After the Slovenia-Cape Verde Clash

Cape Verde coach Emanuel Trovoada was pleased with his team's overall defensive effort.

"Being able to let Luka Doncic only score 19 points and also being able to play for every quarter in a balanced way [was important," Trovoada commented. "This will give us experience for the next games."

Cape Verde center Edy Tavares said with a smile, "Nineteen points for Luka is for us (other players) like five points, so we did the best we can."

Sekulic, who has guided Slovenia since 2020, said his team didn't play at its best in the opening half and he blamed himself.

"My goal was to talk to the players in terms of getting into the game with the right mindset," Sekulic revealed. "This is the part I didn't completely succeed at. I think the focus was not on the level of the game, [not] on the level of the world championship. 

"But in the second half I think we changed the mindset and played a much, much better game," he added in a postgame news conference.

RELATED:


Author: Ed Odeven

Find Ed on JAPAN Forward's dedicated website, SportsLook. Follow his [Japan Sports Notebook] on Sundays, [Odds and Evens] during the week, and X (formerly Twitter) @ed_odeven.

Sign-up!

Receive regular sports updates and news directly in your inbox

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.

Click to comment

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply

Advertisement MTB Free Shipping $99+

Sign-Up to Our Newsletter

Sign-up!

Receive regular sports updates and news directly in your inbox

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.

Advertisement Take a Food Journey Around the World!

More in Basketball