Dejan Kamenjasevic has lofty ambitions for basketball in the UAE that includes, but isn’t limited to, a Euroleague team being based in the region.
Since opening Basicball Academy in Dubai last year alongside Zoran Savic, Kamenjasevic has set out to ensure the sport reaches its potential in the country.
While the academy has expanded to 18 locations and reached 250 kids in little more than a calendar year of its existence, Kamenjasevic believes they’re just scratching the surface right now.
“Our main goal is to bring the Euroleague in the future,” the 39-year old Bosnian told Sport360.
“We’re not here just to have an academy. We are here to work with everyone who wants to develop and enhance basketball in this region.
“In four, five years, we will do some things that will change basketball here.”
The players worked under the Sports Area Director Dejan Kamenjasevic and of the Coach Ivan Vilotic, watch video... http://t.co/Da4dY9Napn— BASICBALL ACADEMY (@BASICBALL_UAE) November 1, 2014
Kamenjasevic also wants to bring current youth and senior Euroleague teams for tournaments hosted in the UAE, but his ultimate vision is indeed ambitious.
The Euroleague is the highest level of competition for club basketball in all of Europe, fielding star-studded outfits like Barcelona, Real Madrid, Maccabi Tel Aviv and Olympiacos. After the NBA, there is no other league in the world that has more talent.
The goal of having a Euroleague team based in the UAE seems like a pipe dream on the surface, until you consider what Basicball have already achieved and the contacts that Kamenjasevic and Savic have from their background in the sport.
After leaving his home of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1993 due to war, Kamenjasevic went to Spain, where he reached the Catalan League as a player.
Injuries forced him to retire at the age of 25, but Kamenjasevic went into coaching and was the assistant coach of Akasvayu Girona which won the FIBA EuroCup and the Catalan League in 2007.
Kamenjasevic then progressed to being an assistant coach in the ACB League, the Euroleague and finally a coach at the Europe Basketball Academy of Girona.
His journey allowed him to cross paths with fellow Serbian Savic, a former renowned Euroleague pro, general manager and then agent at the time of their meeting. The two worked together on a project to strengthen basketball in the UAE.
“It was our decision to do it in the Middle East because this is a region in the world which has potential, money, infrastructure and has taken a huge march towards improve the kids’ and the population’s knowledge about basketball,” Kamenjasevic said.
“I have a vision and I have a perspective of the bigger picture. I was looking for stability… not only economic stability, but stability where you feel you’re growing with a project and doing something that is yours.
“Because I believe in that, I left everything there – not only the team and the professional coaching job, but I left my family and my kids to come here.”
Basicball have wasted little time in making a name as they brought Houston Rockets star Dwight Howard, the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Ricky Rubio and former NBA sharpshooter Peja Stojakovic for camps at Dubai Sports World last August.
“We’ve showed our background, what we’re capable of, our experience and of course our network,” Kamenjasevic said.
“The people who are on the ground are people who have been in basketball all of their life and this is what makes a difference in our company.”
Ravens clawed back in the second half to repel holders Panthers, 45-39, and lift the Jazzville Basketball League- Women’s Division Season 2 Cup at Satwa Park in Dubai.
Final MVP Yska Santiago led Ravens with 16 points, including four triples, while Eli Lizondra and Emm Matreo added 10 and seven points respectively.
Defending champions Panthers started aggressively and posted a five point lead, 16-11, at the end of the first quarter. They continued their fine form in the second period to remain ahead, 22-18, before the half time break.
But Ravens made a strong challenge in the third quarter and Santiago’s back-to-back triples shattered the zone defence imposed by Panthers, whose advantage hang by a thread, 31-30, going into the final period.
Matreo, who was adjudged Season MVP, opened the fourth quarter with a three-point play which gave Ravens the lead for the first time, 33-31.
Ravens never looked back as they turned merciless and imposed a suffocating defence which caused Panthers scoreless in the first five minutes of the payoff period.
Santiago then banked another triple in middle of fourth quarter which gave Ravens a double digit lead, 41-31, as they soared to their seventh straight win since the elimination round.
Ravens coach Bart Sarabia praised her players for clinching the Cup.
“We started slow but we soared and played smarter in the second half by adjusting with our defence and focusing it on the Panthers’ point guard (Lean Mary Ramirez) to break up their game,” Sarabiatold Sport360.
For her part, Panthers coach Ram Robleado said: “We were exhausted in the fourth quarter and our scoring also ran dry. Our zone defence collapsed after Santiago started hitting her triples.”
Meanwhile, Bonitas survived Magic’s fourth quarter surge and escaped with a very tight 49-48 win in overtime to bring home the third place trophy. Mythical 5 member Jaymie Llanes led Bonitas with 11 points.
Final MVP – Yska Santiago
Season MVP – Emm Matreo
Mythical 5 – Ronnagie Go, Lean Mary Ramirez, Wacky Lucio, Jaymie Llanes, Juvi Banaria
Best coach – Bart Sarabia
Ravens 45 – Yska Santiago 16; Eli Lizondra 10; Emm Matreo 7; Ronnagie Co 6; Lovely Rabena 4; Tin Siapoc 2
Panthers 39 – Lean Mary Ramirez 14; Jaycelle Estrada 10; Wacky Lucio 6; Ram Robleado 4; Gail Fermin 3; Janice Napao 2