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.
This is the Colombian National Team for the Southamerican Championship 2016 Guards: Stalin Ortiz (190-G-81, college: Valparaiso) Rodrigo Caicedo (175-PG-88) Hansel Atencia (178-PG-97) Leonardo Salazar (178-PG) Forwards: Michael Jackson (195-F/G-87) Yesid Mosquera (1,95 - F . 97) Yildon Mendoza (204-F-97) Andres Ibarguen (198-F/C-96) Jhan Paul Mejia (204-F/C-94) Pivots: John Hernandez (207-C-84) Divier Perez (201-F/C-89) Michael Hinestroza Javes (208-F-90, college: UALR) Head C... [read more]
This is the Colombian National Team for the Southamerican Championship 2016
Head Coach: Guillermo Moreno Tomas Diaz Despite not having Juan Diego Tello, Tonny Trocha and Hanner Mosquera the national team looks solid enough to battle for a place among the top 4 or 5 of the continent, all the players are in shape and game rhythm, Ortiz arrives in his best shape of the last year, Caicedo and Atencia beyond his small size are good point guards, great and smart ball handlers, Jackson is a true swingman, he can guard multiple positions and also can lead the team in scoring, the big trio of Hernandez, Perez and Hinestroza can give the battle in the boards and help patrolling the paint, Leo Salazar is always a spark quick and accurate beyond the arc, the youngs Mendoza, Ibarguen, Mejia and Mosquera has the size to help in the defensive side but at the same time can bring some points if needed. Guillermo Moreno and Tomas Diaz are the right choice to guide this group, the time has been very short but both coaches knows well their players and the players really respects them and believes them so the chemistry is already there, Colombia will travel to Venezuela on June 19 to play warm up games against Venezuela and Uruguay.
Liga DirecTV Round 4 of Semi-Finals. Bucaros and Academia seal Finals appearance - 12 days ago
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Bucaros - Cimarrones 88-81 Bucaros rallied past Cimarrones to secure their Liga DirecTV Finals appearance. Bucaros dominated down low during the game scoring 64 of its points in the paint compared to Cimarrones' 44. They looked well-organized offensively handing out 25 assists comparing to just 12 passes made by Cimarrones' players. Naturalized Venezuelan power forward Luis Julio (201-80) fired a double-double by scoring 16 points and 15 rebounds for the winners. American-Jamaican guard... [read more]
Bucaros rallied past Cimarrones to secure their Liga DirecTV Finals appearance. Bucaros dominated down low during the game scoring 64 of its points in the paint compared to Cimarrones' 44. They looked well-organized offensively handing out 25 assists comparing to just 12 passes made by Cimarrones' players. Naturalized Venezuelan power forward Luis Julio (201-80) fired a double-double by scoring 16 points and 15 rebounds for the winners. American-Jamaican guard T.J. Sapp (190-92, college: Murray St., agency: Duran International) chipped in 22 points and 6 assists. American guard Brandon Sperling (196-90, college: Humboldt St.) produced 27 points and his fellow American import forward Tyquane Goard (201-93, college: Marshall) added 10 points, 12 rebounds and 5 assists respectively for lost side. Four Bucaros and five Cimarrones players scored in double figures. Top scorers: Cimarrones: B.Sperling 27+2reb+3ast, R.Caicedo 16+7reb+2ast, D.Haskins 14+7reb, T.Goard 10+12reb+5ast, E.Guevara 10+5reb, S.Mosquera 2+1ast Bucaros: T.Sapp 22+4reb+6ast, M.Jackson 20+6reb+3ast, T.Thomas 20+1reb+4ast, L.Julio 16+15reb+2ast, P.Obasi 6+4ast, L.Salazar 4+2reb+5ast
Academia upset Sabios on the road to advance into the title series. Academia outrebounded Sabios 51-40 including a 34-20 advantage in defensive rebounds. They brought some defensive toughness making 8 blocks. Worth to mention a great performance of Puerto Rican-Dominican forward Jonathan Rodriguez (196-87, college: Campbell, agency: DTMones) who helped to win the game recording 20 points, 9 rebounds and 8 assists. Canadian forward Dwayne Smith (198-89, college: G.Washington) contributed with a double-double by scoring 22 points and 12 rebounds for the winners. Five Academia players scored in double figures. Venezuelan forward Juan Herrera (197-81) replied with 24 points and 6 rebounds and the former international center John Hernandez (207-84) added 13 points and 8 rebounds in the effort for Sabios. Top scorers: Sabios: J.Herrera 24+6reb+3ast, J.Hernandez 13+8reb, B.Aguaslimpias 9+6reb, C.Bradford 6+4reb+3ast, J.Velez 5+5reb+3ast, S.Coombs 3+2ast Academia: D.Smith 22+12reb+2ast, J.Rodriguez 20+9reb+8ast, T.Murray 12+4reb+6ast, C.Arboleda 10+11reb+1ast, D.Perez 10+7reb+3ast, M.Hinestroza Javes 6+8reb
Liga DirecTV Round 3 of Semi-Finals. Sabios and Bucaros earn victories - 13 days ago
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Sabios - Academia 76-73 Sabios held off Academia to cut the deficit in the semifinal series. The hosts took control from the first minutes by winning first half. But Academia won third quarter 14-11. However it was not enough to take a lead and get a victory that evening. The best player for the winners was Venezuelan forward Juan Herrera (197-81) who scored 23 points and 4 assists (went 7 for 7 at the free throw line). The former international center John Hernandez (207-84) chipped in 1... [read more]
Sabios held off Academia to cut the deficit in the semifinal series. The hosts took control from the first minutes by winning first half. But Academia won third quarter 14-11. However it was not enough to take a lead and get a victory that evening. The best player for the winners was Venezuelan forward Juan Herrera (197-81) who scored 23 points and 4 assists (went 7 for 7 at the free throw line). The former international center John Hernandez (207-84) chipped in 12 points and 8 rebounds. Four Sabios players scored in double figures. At the other side the best for losing team was Puerto Rican-Dominican forward Jonathan Rodriguez (196-87, college: Campbell, agency: DTMones) who recorded 24 points and 7 rebounds and international forward Michael Hinestroza Javes (208-90, college: UALR) added 8 points, 12 rebounds and 4 assists respectively. Top scorers: Sabios: J.Herrera 23+4reb+4ast, S.Coombs 19+1ast, J.Hernandez 12+8reb, L.Blandon 10+8reb, C.Bradford 6+3reb+6ast, D.Reyes 3+2reb+1ast Academia: J.Rodriguez 24+7reb+3ast, D.Smith 15+3reb+2ast, D.Perez 10+8reb+3ast, M.Hinestroza Javes 8+12reb+4ast, T.Murray 8+3reb+6ast, M.Montano 6+2reb
Bucaros rallied past Cimarrones to grab 2-1 lead in the series. It looked good early as Cimarrones took a 5-point small lead at the end of first quarter. But then Bucaros had a 23-17 second period charge getting the lead and Cimarrones were not able to take back game control losing it eventually 72-79. It was a good game for American Tayron Thomas (191-84, college: Philadelphia) who led his team to a victory with 20 points and 7 rebounds. International swingman Michael Jackson (197-87) contributed with 14 points and 5 rebounds for the winners. Four Bucaros players scored in double figures. American forward Tyquane Goard (201-93, college: Marshall) answered with 20 points and 9 rebounds and the former international power forward Enielsen Guevara (204-82) added 9 points and 9 rebounds in the effort for Cimarrones. Both coaches used bench players which allowed the starters a little rest for the next games. Top scorers: Bucaros: T.Thomas 20+7reb+2ast, M.Jackson 14+5reb+3ast, M.Bermudez 10+8reb, T.Sapp 10+2reb+5ast, L.Julio 9+6reb+2ast, P.Obasi 7+3reb+2ast Cimarrones: T.Goard 20+9reb+2ast, D.Haskins 12+4reb+2ast, E.Guevara 9+9reb+1ast, B.Sperling 9+6reb, E.Renteria 9+2reb, R.Caicedo 7+2reb+5ast
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