LITHUANIA- “One shot. That’s all that separated Slovenia from a historical medal two years ago in EuroBasket 2009.
Thousands of fans got in their cars and drove to Katowice, Poland, to see their national team show a whole lot of pride for their small country.
But an overtime loss to Serbia in the semi-finals and a one-point loss to Greece in the bronze medal game put an end to the dreams despite a huge campaign.
Now, at EuroBasket 2011, two years before welcoming all of Europe to their country as the hosts of the 2013 edition of the tournament, Slovenia is back for another shot at a medal.
Veteran forward Matjaz Smodis is one of the bigger names in this championship, one that every European basketball fan knows very well and associates with one of the more decorated and winning careers Europe has seen in the 21st century.
Smodis started playing for Krka Novo Mesto and since the age of 21 has played for nothing but powerhouses. After a great start with the legendary Kinder Bologna, he moved on to archrivals Fortitudo Bologna and then spent six seasons with CSKA Moscow.
He won titles with each club and gathered national championships, national cups and the Euroleague crown in his fascinating career.
The only thing he’s missing is a European title with the national team, and after coming so close two years ago he’s coming back for another chance, though this time should be different.
In 2009, a back injury hampered him, limiting both his playing time and role on the floor.
Smodis played only 13 minutes in two Preliminary Round games in Poland, but followed, cheered and pushed his team from the bench in the following days.
Now he’s back to contribute on the floor as well.
“We had a great run in Poland, and it’s a great memory for all of us,” he said.
“We were so close to get a medal but we’re going to try to do it again here.
“Last time we learned that we need a deeper bench if we want to make something happen, because EuroBasket is a very demanding tournament.
“We suffered some injuries again coming here but I hope what we have is still enough to be successful.”
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