Spanning the globe with Nik Koprivica

RIGA, Latvia -- He must have thought he was seeing things. Cougar fans all the way across the world, in the little Baltic country of Latvia. But Washington State forward Nikola Koprivica wasn't seeing things. It was actually me, my father, and my little bother Travis -- all pressed against the railing hollering, "NIKOLA!! GO COUGS!!"

Editor's note: Hayden Eller, the Chelan teenager who started writing features for Cougfan.com two years ago, has given new meaning to the term "self starter." Out of the blue this week he submitted the following Q & A that he conducted -- in person -– in Latvia. His family moved there last year courtesy of a teaching opportunity landed by his dad Jeff, a WSU graduate. So you just had to figure that with Koprivica in town, there was no way to keep this enterprising young reporter away.

KOPRIVICA, A WSU-JUNIOR-TO-BE, was the captain of the Serbian team, which went 5-1 in the U-20 European championships and captured the gold medal on Sunday in a 96-89 win over Lithuania. After the championship clinching victory, I caught up with the 6-foot-6 Cougar in the tunnel of the arena in Riga to talk about his summer of international competition.

CF.C: How does playing international basketball compare to playing college basketball?

Koprivica : "It's a big difference. I like international but I got used to playing college basketball, so I don't know -- I really like both."

CF.C: Do the differences in rules make a big difference?


KOPRIVICA GETS HIS GOLD IN RIGA.

Koprivica : "Yea, and also the quickness of the game, because when I play with the Cougars we like to play slower and international is really run and gun."

CF.C: Why did you choose to play college basketball instead of signing a pro contract in Europe?

Koprivica : "Mostly because I wanted to make sure I had a degree, because you can't play basketball all of your life and you need to have a life after basketball. So I wanted to make sure I have everything (in order) for a life after basketball."

CF.C: What's it like to represent your country on the basketball court?

Koprivica : "It's a big honor, especially to be a captain. That is the dream of everybody, to represent your country, to be one of the best (players) in your country. So it's great and I'm so happy that we won the trophy.

CF.C: What were your first thoughts when you arrived in Pullman at the beginning of your freshman year?

Koprivica : "I was like ‘Wow, this is a huge difference from where I was living before'. But I like it because I like to see new things, so it's really good."

CF.C: How does winning the U-20 Championship compare to playing in the NCAA tournament?

Koprivica : "I would say its almost the same. It's different because over here we play for the national team and over there it's kind of like a club team, but they are both definitely big things for both teams."

CF.C: Do you think basketball is more serious when you play in college or when you play internationally?

Koprivica : "I would say here, because in college it's like you have school and then basketball but over here it's just basketball."

CF.C: When did you first start playing for your country in international competition? How did you start playing, did you get invited for tryouts?

Koprivica : "In 2001.They have a few practices and they check out all the talented kids in the country. Then they take like 20-30 kids and they follow us. I have played for Serbia every year (since 2001) except for last year when I had knee surgery."

CF.C: What's it like to be the captain of the Serbian national team?

Koprivica : "It's a big honor to be the captain of the Serbian team and I hope I will get the chance to be captain again."

CF.C: How did you get picked to be the captain?


KOPRIVICA GETS DEFENSIVE IN A TOURNAMENT EARLIER THIS SUMMER.

Koprivica : "It's kind of a team decision. The team takes a vote and then the coach picks who he thinks should be captain."

CF.C: You're starting to see more and more American players going to play basketball in Europe. How do you think this will affect basketball as a whole?

Koprivica : "I think it's better because then European teams are going to get better and maybe be closer to the NBA and then it will be more interesting."

CF.C: What differences do you notice about people in Serbia and people in America?

Koprivica : "It's a very different culture, especially with the different language, which was a huge deal for me because I couldn't understand half the things people said but I got used to it. So, I mean I'm always going to love Serbia the most but I really like America and I really like the American people."

CF.C: Do you think that fans are more intense here or at WSU?

Koprivica: "I think fans here are crazy, they want to fight. But the fans at WSU are nice, they're great, I love them."

CF.C: How does your role change when playing for Serbia and when playing for WSU?

Koprivica: "When you play for a national team that means there are 12 guys who are equally talented, and everybody's one of the best. So sometimes you can't do certain things and you have to make sure to play as a team, so sometimes you are not the best scorer because you are playing for the team."

CF.C: How does being the Captain of Serbia prepare you for next season at WSU?

Koprivica: "I hope I'll get the chance to be a captain for the Cougars next year because I am going to be an upperclassman, but I don't know, I like being a leader for the team and I am trying to help everyone because I really want my team to win."


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