Nemanja Popović is #3 ranked player in 2001 generation. 6’9 forward from KK Crvena Zvezda has 13.9ppg, 5.9rpg and 3.9apg in RODA U19 Serbian league at the moment and is one of the leaders of his team. Popović was a member of Serbian NT that won bronze medal on U16 European championship in 2017, and part of national team that played on U17 World cup in past summer. Alongside his NT teammate Aleksej Pokuševski, Popović will participate on NBA Global Camp in Charlotte during NBA All Star weekend. We had an exclusive opportunity to talk with Nemanja about his busy schedule in coming months, some past experiences, goals for coming years etc.
For the beginning, tell us something about ongoing season, are you pleased with your performances so far?
Everything is going on great, so far, I am trying to be better each game I play. I had a small injury few days ago which kept me sidelined but I will get back on the court better and stronger.
ANGT Belgrade is coming soon, second in your career, what are your expectations before this one?
Obviously we are going for the title, to keep the winning streak, that lasts for last 8 years, going. It will be really bad if we don’t win first place in Belgrade. Of course if we advance to the Final8 tournament, title on that one will also be an ambition for us.
Before ANGT tournament in Belgrade, you are going to the USA for NBA Global camp. How it feels like to be selected for that event along with some of the most talented players from other countries?
It is an incredible feeling, this camp was one of my dreams growing up and all the hardwork paid off.
Speaking about international camps, you were a member of Basketball Without Borders camp in Belgrade in summer 2018, what are your experiences from the camp?
It was overall a great experience for me, specially knowing that coaches from all over the world are there, players, as well, who were giving advice and instructions to us who participated in the camp. I have tried to collect all the information and tips I have got from them and I think that I showed up in the best possible way.
In April, you and your team will be playing U19 ABA league Final4. Do you think you can win the gold medal this year after losing in the final game last season?
Yes, the gold medal is our goal and we will give everything to win it.
When it comes to last season, you have won gold medals in both U17 and U19 Serbian leagues. Do you feel difference between last year and this one and do you think you have chance to win back to back titles?
Of course, we have our chances to win it back to back. There are a lot of differences between last season and this one. I can say that I am one of the team leaders this year, I have more playing time and freedom on the court, which helps me to play better.
Most likely, you will be playing for U18 NT this summer, do you feel pressure knowing that this team has been winning titles in this category in past two summers?
In my opinion, we should go there without any pressure, we will play from game to game and we will see what will happen on EC. Gold medal is one of the goals, for sure.
Tell us a little bit about yourself, what do you think are your biggest strengths and weaknesses on the court?
When it comes to weaknesses, I need to work on body as much as possible, beside that I am working to improve my shot whenever I can and I think I need to ‘fix’ my head, sometimes I get nervous too fast. I would like other people to talk about my strengths, but high level of energy and competitiveness I provide on the court are my major strengths, ability to be an all around kind of player thanks to size I have is one of my strengths, too.
You have played your first senior games this year in 2nd division, do you feel that experience has helped you?
Yes, of course, playing with older guys in senior league is good experience and in my opinion it was good school for me and it has helped my improvement. I feel a lot stronger playing with guys who are my age after coming from senior games. Still playing for two teams is very hard, you get really tired after playing and practising with both teams.
Do you have any role models or players you look up to?
I look up to LeBron James, he is my role model both on and off the court. He is great person. Hopefully, I will have a chance to see him and take a photo with him on the All Star Weekend.
To finish it up, what are your goals and plans for future? What is next step in your career?
First of all, if I stay healthy, my goal is to play for FMP next year in ABA League and then after that for Crvena Zvezda. My final goal is the NBA.
Thank you for the interview and good luck in coming events!
Thank you for the invitation!