New arrival Stankovic ready to help make Igokea proud
BURSA (Turkey) - Ognjen Stankovic arrived late to the Youth Basketball Champions League, but he made up for lost time in helping Igokea m:tel grab a fourth win in three games. And now he hopes to make his new club proud and win the first YBCL trophy.
Stankovic and Ognjen Radosic both missed the first two games of the tournament on Day 1 because they had played with Igokea's pro team on Monday, April 10. They made it to Bursa in time to watch the second game on the bench.
"It was definitely not a good feeling but I am happy that we won and now I can finally be with them and play," said Stankovic, who was very visible and vocal in his support of the team against UCAM Murcia COC Oftalmologia.
"I try to help my teammates all the time. They welcomed me well this year and I feel that we have a pretty good chemistry. It's something good teammates should do for their team."
When he finally got to the court on Day 2, Stankovic showed why he is considered one of the leading guards in Serbia's 2005-born generation. He collected 18 points, 3 rebounds and 6 assists in a win over Basketball Academy Nymburk.
"I feel like I have a good connection with the team. We have some very talented guys but our chemistry is key to winning games," said Stankovic, who had only played two games with his teammates this season prior to the YBCL. "I didn't have much time to adapt and adjust to the team but I helped the team well in the third game."
Stankovic has actually only been with Igokea since late January 2023 when he decided to leave his native Serbia and join the Bosnia and Herzegovina club on a long-term contract.
"I just wanted to find a place where I could develop and get more minutes at the professional level," said the Belgrade native who had grown up in the Partizan Belgrade youth system. "Igokea at the moment was the best option and fit for me and I think I made the right decision."
Stankovic has been playing this season almost exclusively with Igokea's pro team and is averaging 4.3 points, 1.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists in 14 minutes. He only turned 18 on March 19, and the jump to professional basketball has been a challenge.
"It is a huge transition from junior basketball to the senior level. I have to adjust and play smarter and simpler. I am okay with how I have played so far but there is more room for me to improve," he said.
The Igokea coaching staff and management also know that Stankovic came to the YBCL with big event experience.
He averaged 11.7 points, 4.7 rebounds, a tournament-high 5.4 assists and 2.4 steals while playing for Serbia at the FIBA U17 Basketball World Cup 2022.
"It was a tournament that our generation was looking forward to. It was a great experience playing against international teams and seeing different players and their games. We didn't finish the tournament the way we wanted. We got unlucky with the draw in the Quarter-Finals and some sicknesses, but we managed to finish the tournament strong," Stankovic said referring to the team finishing fifth overall.
Serbia lost to the eventual winners United States in the Quarter-Finals and Stankovic collected 12 points, 6 assists and 4 steals against the Americans.
"It was maybe the toughest game we played against a non-professional senior team. I started the game very good. I was happy with the way that I played, but I still see that I need to improve my game a lot to get to the next level."
The next step to the next level is right here in Bursa as Stankovic hopes he can guide Igokea to the first-ever YBCL trophy.
"It would mean a lot for our club and the people that support us. I was really looking forward to this tournament and I would be happy to make my club proud by bringing the championship home."
Especially after he was a late arrival.