Serbia's nugget Jokic ready to shine at Rio

Sun Jul 10, 2016 5:07am EDT
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By Zoran Milosavljevic

BELGRADE (Reuters) - Nikola Jokic capped a dream year in his fledgling career when he helped Serbia qualify for the Olympic Games after a fine rookie season in the NBA with the Denver Nuggets.

Jokic, who averaged 10 points and seven rebounds in 21.7 minutes on the court for the Nuggets, was named the most valuable player of an Olympic qualifying tournament in Belgrade which hosts Serbia clinched emphatically.

The 21-year-old poured 23 points in Saturday's 108-77 rout of Puerto Rico which sealed Serbia's Rio berth, the week-long event being his first involvement with the national team.

"I am at a loss of words to describe how I feel," the delighted power forward told Reuters after the match.

"I am lucky to be on this team with these guys, who I met just three weeks ago. I have to thank them and the coaching staff for helping me blend in so seamlessly."

"This is a great bunch with a fantastic atmosphere in the dressing room. A few days' rest and then we are off to Mount Kopaonilk (in southern Serbia) for the Olympic build-up."

The versatile Jokic, who can also play as a center, took a road less traveled to the NBA.

Instead of honing his skills in a stronger European league, he went across the Atlantic last year straight from Serbia's nondescript side of Mega Leks, who are fast becoming a production belt of top talents.   Continued...

Mar 21, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) works against Cleveland Cavaliers forward Channing Frye (9) during the third quarter at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports