Slovenia coach Aleksander Sekulic acknowledged the popularity of his team–due to the presence of NBA superstar Luka Doncic–which they had felt upon arriving in Manila for the final phase of the Fiba World Cup.
Doncic and the Slovenians landed at Ninoy Aquino International Airport ahead of Wednesday’s quarterfinal match with Canada amid a lot of fanfare as Filipino fans are starting to find ways to either catch a glimpse of the Dallas Mavericks cager or get a rare chance for a photo or an autograph.
Sekulic, whose team got a trip to Manila by way of being the top two finishers of the second round, said that it was pretty obvious that having Doncic has made Slovenia one of the top attractions going into the business end of the competition.
WATCH: Luka Doncic and Slovenia hold their first practice at the Mall of Asia Arena ahead of Wednesday’s FIBA World Cup…
“Basketball is very popular [here, and] having Luka on the team makes us more popular. It’s obvious,” said Sekulic after Slovenia wrapped up practice at Mall of Asia Arena. “It’s a good feeling playing here and playing for [a spot in the] semifinals.”
But Slovenia is expected to share the attention with a Canadian side boasting of Shea Gilgeous-Alexander, RJ Barrett and anti-hero Dillon Brooks as the two squads fight for a berth in the semis against either Lithuania or Serbia.
“It’s the quarterfinals,” said Sekulic. “If it’s Canada or any other team, everybody came here to win. It’s the knockout stage and if we win, we go for a medal.
“Regardless of the opponent, they’re going to give anything they have to win this game,” he added.
Doncic spent practice either working on his shot or sharing light moments with his teammates as Slovenia seems to have shaken off Sunday’s loss to Germany in Okinawa, Japan.
Slovenia had a strong start and led by double digits before Germany mounted a comeback to join Lithuania as the only teams to enter the quarters unbeaten.
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