(Ratko Varda top picture Ognjen Kuzmic bottom picture)
Ratko Varda Euroleague level starting center and former NBA talent, has left Bosnia and Hercigovina's basketball National Team as it tries to qualify for Eurobasket 2011. Not that his decision was particularly surprising considering his lack of opportunities with the team this year. It seems Sabit Hadzic has had a change of mind and has decided to give some other "younger" players a look. All this sounds fine except that Sabit Hadzic and KSBiH officials have time and time again passed up giving younger, more talented players opportunities and instead have leaned on retread European level centers like Ratko Varda and Aleksandar Radojovic (former NBA lottery pick).
Nedzad Sinanovic was discovered in Bosnia by the Portland Trailblazers even though Bosnian domestic officials showed no interest in developing a 7'3" center with good athleticism. Same was true of 7'3 Mirza Begic who moved onto Slovenia before blossoming into a Euroleague caliber center and one of the best shot blockers in Europe. Do you know what is harder to find than a 7'0 center who can play basketball? A 7'0 center with basketball skills and athleticism. Which Bosnia has had in abundance, yet ignores every chance they get to keep and develop one. Nedzad Sinanovic was moderately recruited by Bosnian officials after a few years of development overseas. Nedzad wanted to know what he role would be on the team and an idea of how many minutes he would get. They refused to answer either question and he seems to have decided like Mirza Begic that Bosnia didn't really show any true interest in him or his development. Why, now that he has blossomed into one of the best centers in Europe should he do them any favors? A genuine question that begs an answer considering Bosnia's weakness at the center position.
It is not an uncommon request for a player to want to know about how many minutes they will play or what role they will play on the team. They are professionals who don't want to hurt their marketing in finding their next contract. Suad and Sead Sehovic wanted to know the same thing from Bosnia who again refused to answer them and they moved onto the better organized, coached and funded Montenegro National team.
Bosnia had a similar opportunity with Ognjen Kuzmic 7'1 center who really blossomed this year for Celik Zenica. Kuzmic could be compared to a European version of Tyson Chandler, were Ratko Varda is more similar to a European Spencer Hawes. Kuzmic would have been a great addition to the Bosnian National team. Kuzmic has been recruited heavily in major European leagues as teams see how hard it is to find players with size and athleticism and see Bosnia has a great pipeline of athletes with size. KSBiH and coach Hadzic again refused Kuzmic's request and he turned down their offer. It seems absurd that just a couple of months later they are going with younger players when they don't encourage genuine youngsters of talent to join the Bosnian senior team.
Bosnia, despite it's massive basketball talent seems to refuse to develop and support young talent. The officials seems to not understand were Bosnia is in comparison to European powers in the basketball realm and act like they are doing the players a favor. Much like what happened with Zlatan Ibrahimovic when he said he wanted to play for his motherland of Bosnia instead of any other nation and they responded that they want millions from him to make it happen! These officials seem to think they are TEAM USA or the old YUGOSLAVIA basketball powerhouse that all players should be begging for entrance. They show little care or concern in results, players, games, player development and the sporting spirit that made basketball so popular in Bosnia and throughout the former Yugoslavia.
This national team should have invited players like Ognjen Kuzmic, Sandro Gacic, Nedim Dedovic, Adi Zahiragic, Nedim Buza, Igor Hadziomerovic, Gavrilo Markovic,Adnan Vrabac, Nedzad Sinanovic plus the usual players of Kenan Bajramovic, Mirza Teletovic, Nihad Dedovic, Nemanja Gordic, Aleksej Nesovic, Goran Ikonic, Miralem Halilovic and Elemedin Kikanovic. Also missing was Damir Krupalija who's combination of size, strength and skill would have proven useful on this team. It seems coach Hadzic will give Elemedin Kikanovic a shot at the job. He doesn't seem like a good choice for the center position on such a high level competition. Kikanovic missed the last year because of a doping violation and has a slight frame and isn't a good rebounder or defender. If Kikanovic has to go up against serious center talents like Jochim Noah and others in Eurobasket he will get killed. It seems curious that coach Hadzic turned his back on Kuzmic, a legit center prospect in favor of Varda to again change his mind and downgrade to the undersized Kikanovic. Bosnia needs some serious vision and leadership to get all the talent out of the Bosnian National team.