A gifted shooter who can also drive to the hoop, 26-year-old guard Nevena Jovanovic is a pure product of Serbian basketball. She decided a few weeks ago to join Basket Landes, following a disastrous spate of injuries at the club…She kindly took the time to talk to us about her decision to come to France as well as her Olympic experience this summer.
LET’S START WITH BASKET LANDES…
Parlons-Basket Féminin : Why did you decide to leave Turkey and join Basket Landes?
Nevena Jovanović : I had an option in my contract to leave Turkey in November if I wanted to, so I just took the decision to leave for many reasons and it’s obvious I made the right decision because I like it here so far. I heard a lot of positive things about Basket Landes from the people I trust so I said let’s give it a try.
PBF : And so time passes quickly – you join Basket Landes and after 2 days in France it’s already game day. You put in an excellent performance – how did you prepare for this game?
NJ : That period was hard for me: Serbia (with the national team) then back to Turkey, then France, a lot of travelling, but this is always the routine of a professional player . I just try to do my best in every game. I felt nice from day one here and when any player feels good she or he performs. I want to give everything I have every night for my team and this is what I did my first game.
PBF : How are you fitting in with the rest of the team?
NJ : I believe we have a great group of girls and a great coach so I really feel comfortable playing here. The people from the club and the girls helped me to feel at home from day one and that was important for me.
PB : You’ve arrived at a difficult time for the team, with so many players injured. Have you managed to find your place within the squad?
NJ : Yes, I heard about the injuries before I got here. Unfortunately injuries are part of sport – you need to be mentally strong and get through them fast and move forward . I think my role was clear from the day I came so I know what I must do in every game to help the team and this is important for me.
PBF : What are your first impressions of your teammates? Be careful – one or two of them might be reading this?!
NJ : From the first day I arrived here I realize that this is kind of a ‘crazy’ team. No seriously now, the girls are super nice, they accepted me really well, so I don’t even feel I’ve only been here just 2 weeks now, I feel like I am part of this team since the beginning of the season.
PBF : How are you finding the level of basketball in the French League ?
NJ : It is well known worldwide that this is one of the strongest leagues in Europe. Every player wants to compete to the highest level every night and nobody likes « easy games ». Every player who respects him or herself wants to compete and in this league you can reach your limits . You can see from the standings already many teams are fighting for the top places and even the teams in the middle or bottom of the league are competitive. You cannot underestimate anyone – you need to fight every night to take the win. Teams grow like this, players grow and this is what it is all about.
PBF : What can we expect from Basket Landes for the second-half of the season?
NJ : I cannot predict what is going to happen but this team can go far, I mean they already showed that before I came, and now together we are second in the league, so I believe in this team, coaches, staff, everyone. Together we can have a nice journey this season and we can improve as individuals and as a team !
PBF : And how are you finding life in France, away from the basketball court?
NJ : I really like it, the only problem I have is I am eating a lot of French bread :-) No seriously everything is nice so far, people are friendy, so I am enjoying my time here !
AND TURNING TO THE SERBIAN NATIONAL TEAM…
PBF : This summer you won a bronze medal at the Olympics with the Serbian national team, beating France out of the medals. 4 months later what’s the first thing you think of when someone mentions the Games?
NJ : For sure it was a lifetime experience. I remember I was dreaming about the Olympics when I was younger, and now I participated and we even won a medal. It is like a fairytale. Every day in the Olympic village was a unique experience. You don’t have the chance very often to eat in the same place with Pau Gasol, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Usain Bolt and many other superstars, sharing your time with them on a daily basis.
PBF : And what will be your lasting memory of the Olympic experience?
NJ : The opening ceremony was something I will never forget, and then of course there’s the day we won the bronze medal. I cannot describe my feelings; even now I still believe I am dreaming, but we played like European champions and I believe we got what we deserved !
All the period I spent there is definitely a time I will never forget, it’s something that will stay with me for all my life.
PBF : Coming to play in France after beating the national team twice in consecutive major tournaments must seem a bit funny – no?
NJ : I never thought about it like this to be honest, I have huge respect for the French team even though we beat them in the last two competitions. They are a great team and they have left their mark on European basketball for many years.
PBF : If there’s a repeat of the France/Serbia final at next year’s EuroBasket in France, what do you think you’ll say to Céline Dumerc before the game?!
NJ : I will tell her her favourite Serbian word – Mrs!! And then I will try to find a way to make her mad before the game 😂
PBF : You’re the reigning champions. Have you already got a target for next year’s tournament?
NJ : We already proved to all the world that Serbia is back in the elite of women’s basketball and we are really proud of that . Of course it’s always harder to defend your title but as a team we always give everything to win and although it’s a fact that everyone wants to win the championship, which will make it harder this time, I still believe in my team and that we can do it again!
A FEW QUICK QUESTIONS…
PBF : And have you got any ambitions away from basketball?
NJ : I would like to open my own business after I retire, I have many things in my mind right now but I haven’t decided yet what I will do . For sure it will be something I love to do so I will be always excited doing it and I will dedicate myself to it.
PBF : Have you got any particular basketball idols?
NJ : Yes, I always liked Sasa Djordjevic, our men’s national team coach who was a legendary player in the past.
PBF : Your happiest basketball memory?
NJ : I’ve been lucky enough to have great moments in my career so far, but if I had to choose I would say two: the gold medal at EuroBasket 2015 and the bronze medal in Rio.
PBF : Can you tell us a little bit about your tattoo with the Olympic symbol?
NJ : I decided to have it because I wanted to remember this beautiful experience. There are three specific symbols on it – the statue of Christ the Redeemer (the symbol of Rio), the 5 Olympic rings and the date when we won the bronze medal.
Many, many thanks to Nevena for taking time out from her busy schedule to talk to us. And we’d like to wish her the very best of luck for the rest of the LFB season.