The surprise team of the Adriatic league this season, Igokea Aleksandrovac from Bosnia (Republika Srpska) lost its first game last night in Zagreb against Cedevita 76-78. Nopw, there are no more undefeated teams in the Adriatic league.
The team from Aleksandrovac, a suburb of Banja Luka (capital of the Serb part of Bosnia) had surprised everyone early on with a 6-0 start in the Adriatic League this season.
Igokea had never before been a frontrunner in the Adriatic League. However, it’s a steady contender which, similarly to KK Siroki (from the Croatian part of Bosnia) is capable of chipping off points from more favored teams. Backed by the powerful Dodik family, Igokea enjoys stable financing and is capable of hiring proven professionals. The team’s home ground accommodating 4,000 spectators is one of the few purpose-built basketball arenas in the league.
In this debt-laden season with many teams in the Adriatic League facing financial difficulties, Igokea management played it smart in the offseason. They brought in two veteran players, Sinisa Stemberger and Branko Jorovic, strengthening their backcourt options.
Jorovic, has had a career worthy of a documentary. He played some of his best basketball from 2003 to 2006, earning a trip to world championships with the National team of Serbia & Montenegro as it was called back then. Another important signing was Clifford Hammonds (191 cm, Clemson’08) who was brought to the club by regional superstar agent Pavao Kukic (Court Side). Many teams respect his opinion about players and the players he puts in the Adriatic league are usually very successful (Antwain Barbour last season with Cibona and Mickael Gelabale this season with Cedevita, who had the highest efficiency in last night’s game). With his compatriot Corsley Edwards at center, Hammonds leads the ABA MVP list.
New players Milan Dozet and Nebojsa Joksimovic have been welcomed by the club. Familiar faces across the Adriatic, these three have tasted success before with Partizan, Red Star (Dozet) and Hemofarm (Joksimovic), respectively.
Igokea plays disciplined, well-organised basketball in which player experience comes to the fore. Since Bajic has versatile players under his command, he is allowed to change defensive and offensive sets when necessary. As opposing teams have discovered, a threat may come from any direction. Both Joksimovic and Stemberger can play the point, creating more space for Hammonds to score. Jorovic is capable of covering positions from 2 to 4. They all prefer pick-and-roll game, make few turnovers and are solid defenders. Finally, Igokea loves employing a match-up zone defense; the tactic won them games against Radnicki, Red Star Belgrade and Union Olimpija.
Marko Brkic, Nenad Sulovic, Milos Komatina and Corsley Edwards, all front court players, complete the roster. What these four lack in height (Igokea does not field a player taller than 206 cm) they compensate for in agility and hustle. This was evident against Red Star away, when Komatina made 12 points and grabbed six rebounds against higher rated players; and vs Olimpija at home, when Sulovic managed nine points, five rebounds, two steals and two assists.
Yesterday night Igokea faced their biggest test so far, as they were welcomed by Croatian team Cedevita Zagreb, which is one of the hottest favorite to win the Adriatic League this season. It proved to be a bridge too far for Igokea as they lost 76-78 to the Croatian home team.