Earlier this season, Buducnost VOLI Podgorica guard Nikola Ivanovic said in a EuroCupBasketball.com interview that he was so used to coming off the bench, that "it might even be strange for me to go to a team where I would be a starter. I actually enjoy my official title of backup point guard." Of the 11 previous starts in the 7DAYS EuroCup that he had made, he explained: "I only started because our starting guard was injured; it must have been some situation like that for me to be a starter."
That was exactly the situation on Wednesday when Ivanovic made his first start of the season in place of the injured Justin Cobbs. This time, he played like he was the regular starter. Ivanovic dominated from the start with 10 points in 3 minutes in the first quarter as Buducnost took the lead for good en route to a 73-68 victory over ratiopharm Ulm. After he knocked down a three-pointer with 11 seconds remaining to put the game to bed, Ivanovic had 21 points. It was the third time in four games this season that he topped the 20-point mark.
The 26-year-old guard is shattering all of his previous career averages this season with 19.8 points per game on 40.9% three-point shooting plus 3.5 assists for a performance index rating of 21.8. Those numbers place him among the competition leaders; he is second in scoring behind only Jamar Smith of UNICS Kazan (21.0 ppg.) and sixth in PIR.
To his credit, the modest Ivanovic did not pound his chest after the game. Instead, he spoke about what was wrong with the team with Cobbs sidelined: "I think it was very hard for us. We played without Justin. We didn't want to search for an alibi, but he is the engine of the team, the main creator and you see how many good options on offense we lacked in this game. I think everyone, each and every one of us, put in extra effort to win this game, which is a huge step forward for our team."
Among those who stood out for their extra efforts was Willie Reed, whose 10 points and 10 rebounds made him the only player besides the aforementioned Cobbs to record a double-double for Buducnost this season. Suad Sehovic stepped up with 13 points, which marked the most he has had in a EuroCup game since February 2018. And teenager Fedor Zugic dished his first 2 assists in the competition.
Up and down the roster, Buducnost got that "extra effort." All of that just begs the question: How good will Buducnost be when Cobbs is back and everyone is making the extra effort? Some teams in Round B hope they never find out.