During the Basketball without Borders camp in Treviso, young players from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Slovenia and Yugoslavia participated in clinics and competition. The young participants were clearly excited about working out with the NBA professionals who were similarly enthusiatic and appreciative for this unique opportunity to bring together young people from their native lands.
What are your initial thoughts on being here at the camp?
I'm very proud and at the same time, I'm happy to be a part of this camp. It's great to see kids from all over former Yugoslavia, and it's nice to see the NBA responding in this way. There are a lot of Yugoslavian players who came to the United States to play in the league and now the NBA is trying to do something special for us.
It's a great thing that you can share some of your basketball knowledge with these young kids.
I really like it, because I like kids and I really love to work with them. I like the idea to bring together the kids from ex-Yugoslavia to help them forget what's been going on the last 10 years.
It's a great feeling, and first of all it's a great idea. We are all so happy to be here and have a chance for the first time to see all these kids together. It's a great group because we all speak the same language and we all have the same goals here; to learn how to play basketball and to see what they can do in their life to be better people without any hatred for each other.
This is a great feeling. I'm really enjoying that they selected the best kids from the former Yugoslavian countries and it's the great thing not only for the sport of basketball, because we can encourage other sports to do the same thing.
Do you see any difference between players this age in the U.S. and the kids from your country?
They are very talented kids. In Yugoslavia there will always be, I guess, place for good basketball players. You can see that in these 13- to 14-year-old kids, how they think basketball, how they talk, the way they play. You can easily recognize the Yugoslavian school of basketball, how they pass the ball, how they shoot. It's nice to see.
I can't say right now because I have never had the opportunity to work with kids this age in the United States, but I can remember when I was a kid usually the European kids had an advantage on the kids from the U.S. because we start to play basketball competition at an early age. Then, when you are 18 or 19, that's the age when the young US players become better athletes and players compared to European kids.
I don't want to say one thing for all, here. You can see kids from Croatia, Bosnia, Macedonia and my point is that we all shoot twos here, we all shoot threes, but we don't shoot guns. That's the goal, it is the message we want to give these kids. If you pay attention, you are not going to see any difference.
It's the same kind of basketball we used to play when Yugoslavia was united and it's the same kind of basketball that we play now. I'm sure there are a lot of talented young Americans kids too, but I'm too happy to see these kids here and I can see a great future for them.
In what ways do you think these kind of events can help to promote peace and unity between people and countries?
You need to understand that for us sport is the most important thing. It doesn't matter all the rest. You can see kids all over the place just playing basketball, and that's life. Everything else is the most terrible thing.
I can only hope that these events can help next generation in this goal. My personal opinion is that these camps can not help the generation at this moment, people who live and deal with the war. But I hope that for these kids right here, they can have a feeling of how it was before in our country.
The important thing is that the kids come from all over the countries of the former Yugoslavia. They stay together, they hang out together, and see that they can be good friends no matter where they are from. They can learn from one another, and they can learn a lot by being together.
We have so many guys that are very wealthy here today but they still came here to spend some time with children that deal with trouble in their life. There's nothing but good coming out of this camp and we have the opportunity to show the children that we are real role models for them. We are all mixed, we all have different religions, but if we (the NBA players) can get along, we show them that they can also get along.
How do you see the future of basketball in the countries from the former Yugoslavia?
I see a great future for all of them because now, at this age, they can learn from NBA players how to play and what to do with their future. They are probably the happiest kids from former Yugoslavia right now.
They have a great future, all of these kids are talented. Some of them are going to succeed, some of them are not, but that's just life.