Serbia’s hopes took a big hit when Vasilije Micic pulled out of the World Cup. They took an almost unsurvivable hit when Nikola Jokic did the same after an exhausting year. Yet lowered expectations may be exactly what the Serbians need this summer.
Considering Serbia has had arguably the best player on the planet in their pocket, the results on the international stage have been disappointing. Serbia finished fifth in the most recent World Cup and failed to even make the quarterfinals at EuroBasket 2022. Yet they remain ranked sixth in the world.
No Jokic doesn’t mean no top-level talent on the roster. Atlanta Hawks sharpshooter Bogdan Bogdanovic and young Miami Heat prospect Nikola Jovic are on the roster. So is Filip Petrusev, who dominated a few years back at Gonzaga and is now fighting to make his NBA debut as a member of the Philadelphia 76ers.
Oklahoma City Thunder forward Aleksej Pokusevski suffered an upper arm injury during the offseason, which will preclude him from playing in the World Cup. There’s another young player to watch, however, one who hasn’t made it to the NBA.
Nikola Topic has been named to the roster, despite only recently taking the U18 squad to a gold medal in the European Championship, where he was crowned MVP. He’ll turn 18 years old before the start of the World Cup, a tall point guard at 6-foot-5 who can slash and pass with the best of them. He’s already generating buzz for the 2024 or 2025 NBA Draft.
Some fans of Team USA will likely dismiss Serbia upon realizing that Jokic won’t be taking the court for the country. An underdog mentality may be just the antidote Serbia needs for its recent international woes.