Nemanja Dangubic has a new comfort level on and off the basketball court and a big reason for that is the Partizan NIS Belgrade forward’s return home for the next part of his career. Dangubic posted on social media that he was very much looking forward to a "new chapter" upon his signing with Partizan. It came after the 27-year-old had spent the last two seasons outside of Serbia.
Dangubic has played a big role in Partizan’s 4-3 record in Group A of the 7DAYS EuroCup with averages of 5.6 points and 3.3 rebounds per game.
"I am just trying to use my minutes in the most productive way," said Dangubic, who is averaging about 22 minutes per game. "Team goals are always high when you play for Partizan: fighting for trophies and trying to go all the way in every competition."
"You need to be mentally prepared for challenges: like bad games and bad situations."
Dangubic is playing in the EuroCup for the first time after having played in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague for five straight seasons from 2014 to 2019. "It’s a very good competition. It’s a different system than EuroLeague. You have less room for bad games," he said.
Dangubic grew up in the Kris Kros Pancevo youth teams and played with Hemofarm Vrsac and Mega Belgrade before joining Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade in 2014. He helped Zvezda to three straight Serbian League and Adriatic League doubles from 2015 to 2017 and added Serbian Cups in 2015 and 2017. Dangubic also played four seasons in the EuroLeague from 2015 to 2018 with Zvezda, averaging 5.4 points on 38.2% three-pointers and 2.6 rebounds in 84 games.
In 2018, Zvezda was not qualified for the EuroLeague and Dangubic decided it was the perfect time to leave his homeland to play for a club abroad for the first time.
"I think it was an important step. It gives you a different perspective,” said Dangubic, who ended up at German powerhouse FC Bayern Munich. "I learned that you need to prepare yourself and try to make 'home' somewhere else. You need to be mentally prepared for challenges: like bad games and bad situations. So finding a good place to live and bringing your close friends and family is very important. It’s also good if you can learn the language where you play. It makes it easier for communication on and off the court."
Dangubic actually had quite of a feeling of home at Bayern, which was coached by Montenegrin Dejan Radonjic, who was the Zvezda coach from 2014 to 2017 when Dangubic was there. Also at Bayern was Stefan Jovic, with whom Dangubic won those titles at Zvezda as well. A third Serbian on the Bayern club was Vladimir Lucic.
"I had a really good time at Bayern - a great organization," Dangubic said. "It was very important for me that Coach Radonjic was there, also Lucic and Jovic as teammates. They helped me on and off the court. I am very grateful for their help."
After the 2018-19 season with Bayern, Dangubic left for Spain and signed with Estudiantes Madrid. The move meant a general step up in terms of domestic competition from Germany to Spain.
"I decided to go to Estudiantes because of the quality of the Spanish League. It was a very challenging league, but it was a great experience playing in the league. I learned how important it is to be mentally prepared for the season," said Dangubic, who averaged 5.8 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.1 assists in 23 games.
Heading to Spain also meant he wouldn’t be playing in a European club competition for the first time since 2014. "The Spanish League is really a high level of quality and it’s fun. But I didn’t like playing only one game per week," he admitted.
Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic broke out in March and Dangubic eventually headed back home to Serbia, where he had to quarantine himself.
"Because I came from Spain, which was hit hard by the virus, I needed to stay locked down for four weeks. It was challenging. I tried to stay in shape. The biggest challenge was that I couldn’t even go for a walk. I think we all learned how important family is; family and the basic things in life," he said.
And since the pandemic is still on-going, Dangubic was happy about signing with Partizan and staying close to home. "I am happy that I am playing in Serbia again - especially in these difficult and strange times. I am close to my family and I still play high-level basketball in Europe. I think I made the right decision to come back," he said.
About why he chose Partizan, Dangubic said: "Partizan is a big club and they contacted me this summer, explained my role and what they needed from me. I liked the role and the team. I knew a lot of guys on the team, so I knew it was a good group of guys. Of course, a big part was also that Partizan is playing in the EuroCup and Adriatic League," he said.
Being back in Serbia also meant facing Zvezda, which happened for the first time since he played for the club on November 23 in the Adriatic League. Zvezda won 86-85 at Partizan with Dangubic tallying 8 points and 3 rebounds before fouling out after 18 minutes.
"I think we all learned how important family is; family and the basic things in life."
"It’s a derby game so it’s already a different game than other games. My mindset for the game is going to be like playing a normal game. I have played a lot of derby games, so I know it is important to stay calm and not have too many emotions," he said ahead of the game.
Still, there is a lot of respect for the organization with which he had so much success. "I spent four years there and had a lot of success and made a lot of friends. I am always going to respect that club because it was a big part of my career."
Dangubic insists he is not looking to prove anything with his return to Serbia: "My mindset isn’t that I need to prove something to anybody. I just want to be focused on the game and go step by step, bringing my form to the highest level. Also, I want to have an important role on a good, winning team. And just be me, doing what I do best, try to help the team win," he said.
That at an entirely different comfort level than the past two years.