Nikola Kuga (200-F/G-86) is a 25 years old shooting guard. He was born in Bihac, in the north-western part of Bosnia and Herzegovina. He lived in Croatia , then during the war moved to Montenegro, and finaly to Serbia. So he can call himself a truef Yougoslavian: 'It was a really hard childhood time, but I look at it in a positive way. I can say I was lucky because I met many different people as a kid.'
Kuga's basketball time was also interesting. The 200cm serbian grew up in the famous basketball school of FMP Belgrade (the same youth program of many Euroleague players like Milos Teodosic and Nemanja Aleksandrov). Nikola collected dozens of caps in the Serbia Cadet and Junior teams. He played in Serbia (FMP) , Cyprus (Achilleas), Macedonia (Amak Ohrid), Slovenia (Polzela), Iceland (Skallagrimur) and again in Cyprus (AEK Larnaca) before being a legit pioneer on the other continents: Morocco (Sport Plazza), Dubai (Al Sharjah), the Maldives (RLC). He played in South America (Colombia, the first European ever) and in Asia (Vietnam),and was a top 5 player in the Gran Canaria 2007 Summer League and one of the best in the Malaga 2010 Summer League. Time for an interview:
Hey Nikola, your story is pretty interesting. As a product of the Serbian basketball school you decided early to play abroad. Tell us a little bit about you and your career so far.
I love challenges. As a young player I had a chance to go and play abroad. I left Serbia very early. After Serbia I played in Cyprus, Slovenia, Macedonia, Iceland... after afew years in Europe I was offered to play out of Europe. It was an great chance for me to discover new basketball worlds and start to write the second chapter of my basketball story. My first contact out of the Europe was Morocco. I was fascinated by the different lifestyle, culture, people and history, so I never regretted that decision. I spend one great year and season there, with great success. After that I went back to Europe for one season. At the end of the season I got a lovely offer from the Maldives to play a summer tournament. It was a great preparation for the next season, and a really amazing and relaxing time.
The 2011 season brought big challenges. I went to Latin America, and was the first player from Europe in Colombia ever. It was a crazy time: four games per week, 24 games in less than 2 months, and play offs. It was a really tough league, with some NBA-players. I can describe it in a few words: games, practice, travel, sleep... Of course I had some days off, but only a few times I was able to go out and see the really amazing girls in Colombia.
After this 3 month competition I shortly moved to Dubai and spend a great time with Arabic 2011 Champion Sharjah . One of the best coaches in The Middle East area, Abdul Hamid, called me to help his team for some tournaments there . I couldn't play the championship, because only 1 import' player is allowed over there, and they allready had a US Point gueard. But it was a great expierience. After that I went to Vietnam, my last stop so far.
You have played in so many countries, from Europe to Africa, South America and Asia. What did you learn from this countries and what are the main differences of the game in these different areas?
Playing basketball in all those countries and experiencing different basketball and cultures made me a really better person and a better player. I feel very blessed and thankful for my basketball experiences. I'm focused on working hard, making teams happy and enjoying basketball. I'm a player who's trying to get better and better, this is my challenge and my job.
There are many differences between the game in Europe and other places I played. Out of Europe the game is much more focused on offense. Playing as an import means you have to score 20, 25, 30 points. It's more NBA-style, the game is fast. There's more motion, many fast breaks, people like to see their teams score 100 points in a game. In Europe, teams are more focused on defence, tactics, the position game... so that's the main difference. As a player you have to be a bit more athletic and get individual skills, because you can expect to play a lot of 1 on 1 games, and have to create your own space. Also, almost 80 procent of the points come from import players. Teams are expecting points from you each and every game, while in Europe there are at least 8 or 9 players able to have a high score almost every game. It's not an easy job, but every day you learn new things and that is why I really love basketball.
Do you have funny stories about different local cultures ?
Well, you have to be flexibile and adjust your lifestyle to the local culture. There are many more differences then in basketball. My career brought me in so many countries, experiencing cultures and different mentalities and always learn more about the world we live in. Adjusting is not always easy of course, and there are a lot of funny situations happening every time. People in Asia are so friendly it's always funny walking along the streets every day, where you can just meet people asking you something: it's amazing. It's always a lot of attention. In Morocco it was always funny. Really nice people, but not so organized about basketball. On the day before a game, on the practice all team owners appear and ask the same question: Are you ok?'. Then, the next 5 days, nobody come. The taxi drivers in Vietnam were also funny. They don't speak English. They drive you around the city for 40 minutes, before they drive you to your address. All you can do is wait. Now it's really funy, but there it wasn't .
Food is a special story. You need at least a month to adjust to the local food. In Asia they always make food spicy. On the Maldives, every single meal was spicy. I told them: please bring me an un-spicy meal the next time. Always they answered: sure. And always the next meal was the same as the previous. But hey, now I like spicy food...
Well, I am not much of a different person on and off the court. I love sports. Off season time, I try to stay at least 1 month out of basketball. But I play tennis and I like to swim. The last few years, I use the summer to go in a Hiperbaric Chamber to recover after the season.
I love to discover new things. I love music, the internet. Not so much different things than everybody I guess . I like to spend time with my family. Summer time is great for that, because during the season most of the time we're not together.
What's your next challenge as a player?
Well , I am 25 years old . My previous expierience told me never to say I will go there'. So I hope I will continue to write new chapters of my basketball story somewhere in the world.
Hanner Mosquera-Perea selected the top Colombian playing abroad in last week's games - 6 days ago
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Traditionally, every week we bring you a list of the top performances of Colombians who are currently playing abroad. Experienced Cesar Cortes (200-F/C-81). He could not help Fuerza Regia (32-4) to beat Garzas (22-14).
Traditionally, every week we bring you a list of the top performances of Colombians who are currently playing abroad.
#1. This week's number one is an international forward Hanner Mosquera-Perea (206-93, currently plays college basketball in the States). He led E.Tenn.St. to an easy victory against the The Citadel (2-5) crushing them 90-69 in the NCAA last Thursday.
Mosquera-Perea scored 12 points, grabbed 4 rebounds and made 3 blocks.
The East Tennessee State University has 4-1 conference record this season.
This year Mosquera-Perea averages: 8.7ppg, 4.8rpg, 1.5bpg, 2FGP: 62.4%(83-133) and FT: 53.2%.
He is currently a member of the Colombian senior national team.
#2. Second place goes to an international guard Braian Angola-Rodas (198, currently studies in the States). Angola-Rodas managed to help Florida State University in a victory against the North Carolina State University (1-0) crushing them 95-71 in the NCAA on Wednesday night.
He recorded only 4 points in 7 minutes on the court.
The Florida State University has 4-1 conference record this season.
It was his team's tenth consecutive victory in a row.
It's Angola-Rodas' first year with the team.
This season Angola-Rodas' overall stats are: 4.0ppg, 1.7rpg, 1.3apg, 2FGP: 46.8%, 3FGP: 40.6% and FT: 69.6% in 25 games he played so far.
He is in the roster of the Colombian senior national team.
#3. The Colombian player who performed third best last week abroad was an international swingman Thomas Diaz (193-93, currently plays in NCAA2). He contributed to an easy victory against the Texas A&M University - Kingsville (5-2) 77-59 in a derby game in the NCAA2 last Saturday.
Diaz scored 7 points in 20 minutes.
The Texas A&M University - Kingsville has 4-4 record this season.
There are only four games left until the end of the NCAA2 Regular Season. So now every game will be critical.
Diaz has been at the team for five years.
This season his total stats are: 2.9ppg, 1.9rpg, 2FGP: 42.9%, 3FGP: 26.7% and FT: 63.3% in 17 games.
Diaz is also a member of the Colombian senior national team.
#4. Guard Hansel Atencia (180-97, currently plays in NAIA) led The Master's College, CA to an easy victory against the Arizona Christian University (2-9) 102-85 in the NAIA on Saturday night.
He scored 23 points, had 6 rebounds and dished 9 assists.
The The Master's College, CA has a solid 8-4 record this season.
There are only three games left until the end of the NAIA Regular Season. So now every game is very crucial.
It's Atencia's first year with the team.
Atencia has relatively good stats this season: 11.4ppg, 2.5rpg, 3.9apg and 1.2spg.
He has a dual citizenship: Spanish and Colombian.
Atencia is also Colombian national team player.
The list of other players, who all have Colombian passport but never been selected to any of Colombian national teams:
#1. Experienced Cesar Cortes (200-F/C-81, currently plays in Mexico). He could not help Fuerza Regia (32-4) to beat Garzas (22-14).
Cortes scored 5 points and added 3 assists in 25 minutes.
The league leader Fuerza Regia lost in an overtime 75-80 at home to the lower-ranked (#4) Garzas.
His team will play only one more game in the Regular Season. And that game will be critical.
This year Cortes averages: 5.7ppg, 1.3rpg and 2.2apg in 19 games he played so far.
#2.Oscar Ferro Ocampo (180-G-87, currently plays in Sweden) was not able to help Trelleborg in their game against Wetterbygden (5-2) in the Swedish Basketettan (second division). Ferro Ocampo's contribution was not very remarkable in Sunday's game.
He recorded only one point.
The fourth-placed Trelleborg (4-3) was defeated 78-63 on the road by the higher-ranked Wetterbygden (#3) in the Superettan group.
It was Trelleborg's first loss after five consecutive victories.
Ferro Ocampo's total stats this season are: 3.0ppg and 2.3rpg.
Tofas Bursa (BSL) agreed terms with 32-year old Colombian international power forward Juan Palacios (206-111kg-85). He is a dual citizen owning also Spanish passport. Palacios played most recently at Pinar Karsiyaka in the BSL, but left the team in Dec.'15. In 11 games he had 8.6ppg and 4.5rpg last season. Palacios also played 9 games in Euroleague where he recorded 8.3ppg, 4.2rpg, 1.2apg and 1.6spg. He won Turkish League championship title. The list of the past achievements is quite long... [read more]
Tofas Bursa (BSL) agreed terms with 32-year old Colombian international power forward Juan Palacios (206-111kg-85). He is a dual citizen owning also Spanish passport. Palacios played most recently at Pinar Karsiyaka in the BSL, but left the team in Dec.'15. In 11 games he had 8.6ppg and 4.5rpg last season. Palacios also played 9 games in Euroleague where he recorded 8.3ppg, 4.2rpg, 1.2apg and 1.6spg. He won Turkish League championship title. The list of the past achievements is quite long as among others Palacios was voted Eurobasket.com All-Lithuanian LKL Import Player of the Year back in 2014. He has been regularly called to Colombian Senior National Team since 2016. Palacios is quite experienced player. His career allowed him to visit three different continents, while he played in four different countries. Palacios tasted the life as pro basketball player in Europe, Latin America and of course North America. He has played previously professionally in France (JSF Nanterre), Lithuania (Lietuvos rytas), Spain (Gran Canaria, Vic and La Palma) and Colombia (Guerreros).
Academia de La Montana, the colombian flag in the Liga de las Americas fall in their first game against the host Leones de Ponce from Puerto Rico 61- 76. Beyond the first quarter when the Academia finished just 4 points behind the locals, the green team did not had real chances to battle against a more talented and more deep Leones, American Hakim Warrick (206-F/C-82, college: Syracuse) did not had opposition since the Academia's big guys were heavy or too slow to stop him. Coach Girald... [read more]
Academia de La Montana, the colombian flag in the Liga de las Americas fall in their first game against the host Leones de Ponce from Puerto Rico 61- 76.
Beyond the first quarter when the Academia finished just 4 points behind the locals, the green team did not had real chances to battle against a more talented and more deep Leones, American Hakim Warrick (206-F/C-82, college: Syracuse) did not had opposition since the Academia's big guys were heavy or too slow to stop him.
Coach Giraldo try putting a 2-1-2 zone but the Leones quickly made an accurate read and finish the ball rotation in the side of the slower Academias player finding open shots in the corner, on the offensive side Jonathan Rodriguez , who was supposed to be the Giraldos main weapon, was cold as ice, finishing just with 6 points shooting 2 of 12 from the field, John
Hernandez always a warrior finished as the best in the Colombian team posting a nice double double of 16 points and 15 rebounds.
Beyond the result, which is not a surprise due the difference in the rosters, the worries in Academia begins in the bad shooting night of the team that finished with 35% FG , 25% 3pt FG and 36% from the FT.
Leones de Ponce 76 - Hakim Warrick 26 pts, C. Arroyo 9 pts + 9 assits, V. Liz 9 pts, F. Rivera 8 pts, A. Vasallo 7 pts, D. Reese 6 pts, E. Dawson 4 pts, D. Morales 4 pts, A. Torres 2 pts, G. Colon 1 pt. Academia de la Montana 61 - John Hernandez (207-C-84) 16 pts + 15 rebs, K. Gransberry 13 pts, K. Pena 12 pts, M. Jackson 7 pts, J. Rodriguez 6 pts, S. Granados 3 pts, G. Diaz 2 pts, G. Bacci 2 pts.
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