By Nikola Miloradovic / firstname.lastname@example.org
Crvena Zvezda formed a formidable squad during the summer and is ready to start the new season. One of the key pieces of the new Dusko Ivanovic’s squad will definitely be the former NBA and Olimpia Milano player Shabazz Napier.
During the Belgrade team’s EuroLeague media day, he expressed his excitement for the new challenge and revealed that he consulted former Crvena Zvezda player and his former teammate in Italy Billy Baron when the offer from Serbia came to his address.
“I’m excited about our team. I think we can do special things. It was the best decision to come here at this moment. I talked to Billy, and he told me a lot about it. Obviously, he wanted me to go back to Milan. I’m not saying he pushed me to come here, but we found out that wasn’t going to happen. He told me a lot about the culture, the organization,” Napier said to Mozzart Sport.
Last season, he worked with a legendary Italian coach, Ettore Messina, in Milan, and in Belgrade, he’ll have a chance to work with yet another proven and decorated European coach, Dusko Ivanovic.
“I don’t want to say I learned much from him. Coach Messina was a great coach, obviously, going into it. Defensively, he’s one of the best coaches that I’ve ever played with. I think his ability to find ways to help his team win games on defense is amazing. Obviously, he has a rich history of winning. But I haven’t done much with Dusko yet. I’ve only been here for two and a half weeks. I’m excited to see what it’s like to be coached by him. Obviously, coming from Messina, it’s not to say one is better than the other. But you can kind of compare what you do with one person to the next. So, I’m excited to see that”.
Napier is embracing the role of the leader in his new squad and is excited about the opportunity to play alongside one of the EuroLeague greats, Milos Teodosic.
“At the end of the day, I pride myself on trying to be one of the best players on the court, no matter what. So, for me, if a leader is involved, that’s something I’ve always been able to do throughout my entire career. We have a lot of great leaders here. Milos is one of our best guys right now. A lot of guys look to him as a leader. I’m excited to play alongside him. I think we can do some special things”.
𝓑𝓪𝓬𝓴 in Serbia 🙏
— Turkish Airlines EuroLeague (@EuroLeague) September 26, 2023
Crvena Zvezda hired another point guard during the summer in Yago dos Santos, who had a great season in Ratiopharm Ulm, winning the German BBL, and also led the Brazilian national team at the 2023 FIBA World Cup. However, he’s about to play his first EuroLeague season, and Napier and Teodosic could be ideal mentors for the 24-year-old Brazilian.
“He’s definitely going to learn from watching us play, but he’s going to learn from also playing. His ability to do different things that we can’t do, being able to be 94 feet, being able to get up on the guards. I think for me when I was a young man, I wanted to experience how it was to play, so I think for me my best learning experience was playing. I mean, obviously, you can see guys that are playing, but it’s better to play, so for him, I think he’s gonna find ways to get on the court because he can do a lot of things that we can’t do”.
Former No. 24 pick from the 2014 NBA draft and a Uconn Huskies standout is excited about the prospect of playing the Belgrade derby against Partizan, who yet again has high ambitions, led by Zeljko Obradovic.
“They got a great group of guys. Obviously, most of them were there last year, and they lost the big fella, but they put together a great team, and it’s exciting. Anybody who steps on the court, who’s competitive, you want to play against a lot of great players, so I’m excited to play against them, you know, those guys, I’m excited to play against one of the best coaches, as I’ve heard, as well“.
Crvena Zvezda’s president, Nebojsa Covic, recently said that the goal of the club is to make it to the EuroLeague Final Four, which fits well with Napier’s ambitions.
“Just wanna win, man. We want to win. I think everybody here wants to win. I don’t think there’s one person that doesn’t want to win. If you can win as many games as you possibly can, you put yourself in a good position to win everything”, Shabazz Napier concluded.