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SRB - Maljkovic confident seniors can inspire success for Serbia
BELGRADE (FIBA U19 World Championship for Women) - It's boom time for women's basketball in Serbia after the stunning run of the senior team at EuroBasket Women, something which head coach Marina Maljkovic believes can put an extra spring in the step of every Serbian player at the FIBA U19 Championship for Women.
The play-caller delivered a historical result for her nation in France last month by taking the team to the Semi-Finals, an accomplishment which also punched a first-ever ticket for the FIBA World Championship for Women which will take place in Turkey next year.
However, it isn't only the senior players who can revel in this potential breakthrough for the women's game in Serbia.
The young players now have a more appealing pathway, after the senior team proved it is possible for Serbia to compete at the very highest level.
One of the players who just missed out on a place on the final roster for EuroBasket Women 2013 was Aleksandra Crvendakic.
The rising frontcourt star was only edged out at the last moment, despite having only just turned 17 years old.
Now the forward will be tasked with helping Serbia compete in Lithuania, with Maljkovic adamant the 1996-born player will form a big part in helping to continue the current momentum.
She said: "It was important that I tried young and exciting players like Aleksandra with the senior team and she was actually the last player to go from the preparation camp.
"But looking back, I think the decision to keep her involved for so long was a great one.
"That's because she is one of the biggest talents and will be a real leader of many youth groups in the next few years and also with the senior team in the future.
"When Aleksandra now tells her team-mates on the U19 team about the stories and experiences of preparing with the senior players and how everything was, I know they will all have had big eyes and be listening to every word.
"Because of the involvement of Aleksandra and also because of the results the senior team achieved, all the younger players are more eager than ever to show to they can fight like a Milica Dabovic, Ana Dabovic or Jelena Milovanovic."
Maljkovic continued: "All our younger teams were watching the games in France and stopping their usual routines because of the excitement.
"The younger girls are totally changed because of this and they now have much more energy and confidence.
"My coaches tell me that every practice has been better since they are now following the lead and success of the senior team."
In addition to the buzz around the emerging Crvendakic, the team will rely on the playmaking skills of Aleksandra Stanacev and leadership qualities of the irrepressible Natasa Kovacevic when they step out in Klaipeda.
However, Kovacevic and Stanacev will have to dig deep into their reserves of energy, since they are currently competing at the U20 European Championship Women in Samsun, Turkey - a tournament which ends only a few days before the action gets underway in Lithuania.
Serbia are in Group A and will go up against Brazil, Korea and Russia.