Mladen Mihajlovic and the key to Serbia’s physical edge

The Olympic Games in Brazil are over and Serbia men’s basketball team have a result they can be proud of. Not even the most hopeful among the nation’s fans could have foreseen such confident performances from the team, but it seems the best is yet to come from the boys orchestrated by Sasa Djordjevic. After a somewhat slow start and three losses in the group stage, Serbia has ended its campaign as a silver medalist, not least thanks to the efforts of strength and conditioning coach Mladen Mihajlovic.

(Image via Vecernje Novosti)

In an interview with “Novosti”, Mihajlovic spoke of his bond with the players:

“Most of these guys I know since they were young. It’s my job to keep them as comfortable as possible on the court.”

He also noted synchronizing a national team wasn’t easy, with all sorts of info on the players’ fatigue flying in from different clubs.

Mladen Mihajlovic’s experience with some of the best clubs in the Balkans, as well as an NBA internship, have proven indispensable for head coach Aleksandar Djordjevic. Serbia has had two important NBA players (Nemanja Bjelica, Boban Marjanovic) pull out of the Olympics, but the squad’s preparation is making it look as if this fact hasn’t taken any toil on the rotation. Milos Teodosic, the team’s playmaker and leader, had been complaining of an injury prior to the opening game against Venezuela, but is now looking as agile and quick as ever.

The highlight of the Olympic tournament was undoubtedly Serbia’s group stage clash against the United States’ Dream Team — with everyone backing Mike Krzyzewski’s superstars to win the game by a comfortable margin, they ended up having to watch Bogdan Bogdanovic’s open three-point attempt bounce wide before breathing a sigh of relief and winning it by just three.

Small forward Paul George said after the game he and his teammates simply couldn’t cope with the smart movement of Serbia’s players:

“These international guys, they really know how to move and cut. It’s how they run their offense that’s wearing us down.”

Serbia’s physical preparation proved equally as important during the team’s semifinal game against Australia. Having lost to the Aussies during the group stage, Djordjevic’s players completely turned the tables on their opponents, “outbullying” them, to put it in basketball terms.

The team is now looking sharp both mentally and physically and did not hold back against the United States during the Finals, despite losing by a thirty-point margin.

The Serbs might not have had the raw size and athletic ability their American opponents boast, but they sure looked like they could physically keep up throughout the most important games of the tournament. After timing their form at just the right moment in Brazil, everyone is wondering what the next big step for these guys is.

Whether it’s running offense or defense, rebounding or hustling, Djordjevic’s men are certainly no pushovers in any regard.

Just ask coach Mladen Mihajlovic, he’ll be sure to tell you.

(Twitter: @IAmDPick)