Vasilije Micic: “It’s not a dream to go to the NBA. I want to be on a team with a good system”

One of Europe's star players, Vasilije Micic of Turkish Anadolu Efes, joined for a discussion on covid-19, Shane Larkin, the NBA and his improvement over the last years

Vasilije Micic of Anadolu Efes Istanbul in action during the 2020/2021 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Regular Season Round 8 match between Panathinaikos OPAP Athens and his team at OAKA on November 13, 2020 in Athens (Photo by Panagiotis Moschandreou/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images).

Vasilije Micic has become a Euroleague star in his own right.

At 26, he is considered as one of the best combo guards in Europe. What’s more, his performances over the last three years are vividly reflected on his teams’ results: Lithuanian giants Zalgiris Kaunas reached their first Euroleague Final Four in 19 years in 2018 and the same can be said of his current team, Anadolu Efes Istanbul, which were competition finalists the following year.

Micic is used to breaking new ground, although he doesn’t seem to be at the apex of his career. A second-round NBA Draft pick in 2014, the Serbian guard has been a sleeper for the most part of his journey. A breakthrough season with Zalgiris (7.7 points, 4.4 assists on average) brought him to the forefront, while the 2018-19 campagin turned out as a stunning token of his potential. An All-Euroleague Second Team selection, Micic saw his numbers increase to 12.4 points, 5.5 assists in 2019 and 14.5 points, 5.8 assists on top of an incredible 96.4 percent from the free-throw line last season .

Although it’s impossible for his accomplishments to go unnoticed, a few years ago not many would have seen a future European star in him. When the Philadelphia 76ers selected the 6’6” guard with the 52nd overall pick, he was hardly known even across his own continent.

Over the last two years, Micic has been under extensive scrutiny in order to join the ranks of the 76ers, but his star presence with Efes and the pandemic, which impacted basketball on both sides of the ocean, have pushed back all discussions.

After an astonishing 33-point turnup at the game against Panathinaikos OPAP in Athens, which naturally resulted in both a career-high for him and another win for Anadolu Efes (77-80, their first in Athens after 14 years!), Vasilije Micic spoke to about the pandemic, his alter ego Shane Larkin and his future plans regarding the NBA.

Q: What did it take for Anadolu Efes to win the game against Panathinaikos?

A: First of all, we missed so many players. Although we have a very talented team, we can look a little bit different without them. The good thing is that we showed character even after we missed Rodrigue Beaubois. During the game, I was not even aware of the fact that he was not going to play any more. He is a very important player for us, but somehow we found the way to win. We struggled in the beginning and I am very happy for this victory.

Q: Did you have last year’s personal and also team’s performance in mind?

A: I don’t want to talk about that because I don’t care about what’s in the past. Many times, you can have a bad game and you just have to go on. It’s the same with life. I was ready to play this game and it was my day. Hopefully, tomorrow it will be also, but I don’t mind. I’m ready to do everything for the team. We have been together for three years and know everything about each other. I hope we can be more dangerous in the future.

Q: How are you dealing with the pandemic? How has the season been for you?

A: Honestly, I don’t think about it. It may sound a little bit strange, but that’s the way it is. I’m aware of everything, I know what’s going on; especially in my country. Turkey is different for me because I don’t understand Turkish and I can’t follow the news. We have a very good organization in the club because we all practice personal responsibility. We’ve had some cases in the team and probably there will be some more in the future, but we’re trying to go through the situation as positive as we can. We don’t talk too much about that and I don’t feel that currently something big is going on around us, but I know what’s happening in the world. It’s a very dangerous situation and I’m trying to stay focused.

Q: Shane Larkin has been absent for most of the time, save a couple of games. How is your chemistry this season?

A: Yes, but it’s ok. I like him so much because we click. Hopefully, we will click until the end of the year. We have found a rhythm together and I like playing with him. When he’s healthy and ready, we’ll be a better team. I am very happy that he stayed with us. This season, we’re still trying to find our rhythm because we didn’t start well and he also missed some games. He is the only player for whom I can guarantee that he will be in great shape quickly because he has that killer mindset. So, I’m not too worried about him.

Shane Larkin and Vasilije Micic celebrate after scoring during the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague game between FC Barcelona Lassa and Anadolu Efes Istanbul in Barcelona, Spain on April 24, 2019. (Photo by Lola Bou/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Q: Do you feel that not concluding last season was unfair for Efes?

A: No, I don’t feel like that. The virus was all over the place. Even if we missed a championship, looking at what was going on in the world, I can accept it. I would be happy if we could continue, but who knows? There’s so many “ifs” in the air. We just have to focus on this year.

Q: Did you have any discussions with the Sixers last summer?

A: We had some kind of discussions, but in the end it was really impossible to meet because the dates didn’t stay as we had agreed before. I had an option in my contract with Efes and I couldn’t get out of it after a certain point. I feel ok with that because I’m happy at Efes. We’ll see what happens in the future.

Q: Have you made up your mind on where you will be playing next year?

A: No, it’s still too early. I don’t think about that because in my career, especially in the last four years, everything has happened too fast. People didn’t even believe that I would get to a level where I am now, not to mention playing in the NBA. I want to go slowly.

Q: Last year, during the Acropolis Tournament with Serbia, you told me that you want a guaranteed role on an NBA team.

A: It sounds like I’m a little bit arrogant, but I’m not. I feel really well being a part of a good team and being able to play. At this point, we’re playing really high-level basketball in Europe and I’m not missing anything. It’s not a dream [to go to the NBA] and if I go there, I want to be a part of a team that has a good system. I don’t want to just say: “I’m in the NBA!”.

Q: Do you consider it a risk, leaving a pretty much safe situation and going overseas to an unknown environment?

A: Nothing is safe. I don’t think like that. Every year, since I came to Efes and also the year before at Zalgiris, people have doubted my abilities. I don’t listen to that kind of stuff. If it happens, I will go 100% with that decision and I will believe in it.

Q: You have gone a long way, from being a role player off the bench to becoming a starter and a star. How are you experiencing your transition?

A: I don’t look at it as something special. At an early age, I remember people talking about me that I would become a talented player with a good career. Then, suddenly, it didn’t work out that way. That’s when I realized how important it is to be in your own world, besides all the stuff going on around us. I don’t listen to what others think about me. I work really hard and that’s something nobody can take away from me. I will probably have ups and downs, but if you believe in yourself and have a good attitude, everything is possible.

Q: Do you believe that this season is or can be decided by luck to a large extent? I mean, players getting infected, games being postponed or held without fans etc.

A: We all have fallen victims to everything that’s happened. So, nothing can surprise us. Hopefully, they will find a way to finish the season. I am optimistic that it can happen.