SRB - Maljkovic dampens expectations after revealing candidate list
BELGRADE (FIBA World Championship for Women) - Serbia head coach Marina Maljkovic has revealed her 19-strong candidate list for the FIBA World Championship for Women and at the same time taken an opportunity to outline expectations for what will be a historic first step on the world stage.
The play-caller helped Serbia achieve their best-ever finish at a major tournament last year with fourth place at EuroBasket Women and will now lead her country into what promises to be an exciting inaugural global outing.
"We need to be very realistic and aware of what rivals we will be playing in Turkey, with any victory being a success for us," claimed Maljkovic.
"China are eighth in the world rankings and there has been an incredible expansion in the amount of investment in women's basketball recently. They have a very strong league.
"They will also be led by their famous coach Tom Maher, who won medals at the World Championship and Olympic Games with Australia.
"Angola is by far the most interesting team to me. Many think that we will easily handle them, as was the case with the Great Britain team at EuroBasket Women 2013 - but they got a victory against us.
"Angola is the African champion, whose players mainly play in France and they are superior athletes.
"We also have to look ahead to EuroBasket Women next year, which provides a qualification route for the Olympic Games in Rio.
"In Turkey we will try to get the best results and give a chance to some young players."
However, two young guns who won't be on the plane to Istanbul are Dragana Stankovic and Aleksandra Crvendakic. Both are currently participating in the U20 European Championship in Udine, Italy and while many had expected them to fight for a place on the senior team, they won't be going.
"With Crvendakic, we have consciously sacrificed the interests of Serbian women's basketball. Under FIBA rules, players can participate in two competitions during the summer and we calculated that she could offer significant help to the U20 and U18 teams," explained Maljkovic.
"She has already demonstrated her quality and talent last year when she applied for a place on the EuroBasket Women team right up until the final moments.
"As for Stankovic, her club team is only allowing her to prepare for seven to 14 days, which was not fair to the other players, with all due respect to her talent."
The roster includes the core of the team that just missed out on a medal last year in France, with Ana Dabovic, Milica Dabovic and Tamara Radocaj likely to star in the backcourt, while WNBA-based forward Jelena Milovanovic is locked in a race to recover from injury.
"We received information that Milovanovic has suffered a violation of the lateral ligament of the knee," said Maljkovic.
"After a review, she did not need surgery but will have to rest for the next five to six weeks, which probably means she will now miss the start of preparations.
These are the players who will be playing and it is because of their attitude that they deserve to wear the vest," continued Maljkovic after naming her initial roster.
"In qualifying via EuroBasket Women, these players proved that we had the right selection.
"There may be individual quality players that are not on the list, but these girls are willing to show sacrifice and be part of a team."
Serbia squad for FIBA World Championship for Women: Tamara Radocaj, Sanja Mandic, Milica Dabovic, Ana Dabovic,Dajana Butulija, Sasa Cado, Nevena Jovanovic, Sanja Orozovic, Maja Skoric, Kristina Topuzovic, Marina Markovic, Jovana Rad, Jelena Milovanovic, Kristina Baltic, Bojana Vulic, Sara Krnjic, Tijana Ajdukovic, Milena Marjanovic,Ivana Brajkovic.