Maccabi Tel Aviv visits Valencia on Friday night at 22:00 as the Yellow & Blue get back to Euroleague action with ten games remaining in the regular season. Ioannis Sfairopoulos’s squad are in fifth place sporting a record of 16-8 while the Spanish side are 12-12 good for 7th place in the standings. Maccabi easily defeated Valencia earlier in the season by the score of 76-63 but Jaume Ponsarnau’s crew have improved steadily over the campaign.
One of the players who has helped turn around Valencia’s season is Vanja Marinkovic who arrived at the club this past summer after featuring at Partizan Belgrade the last three years. The 23-year old Serbian guard was selected with the final pick of the 2019 NBA Draft by the Sacramento Kings and will look to continue to improve in order to one day play in the world’s greatest league.
The Sports Rabbi sat down with the shooting guard in Valencia earlier in the season when he starred in his club’s comeback win over Khimki Moscow by scoring 13 clutch points, “It’s been a great season so far. The club is great, the team is great and my teammates are great. So everything is great. I think we can accomplish even more in the future.”
Although Marinkovic played with Partizan which competed in the EuroCup over the past three seasons, this is his first time testing his wares against Euroleague competition, “This is my first Euroleague season and before that I played Eurocup for three years so it’s a big difference because of really everything. I personally didn’t know it was that big, but it’s a huge difference and I think the Euroleague this year is tough because everybody can beat everybody. But even in this Euroleague this team can do big stuff.”
Watching Marinkovic play is like watching an artist at work and he attributes his success to the whole club, “The coach and the entire team have given me confidence and I’ll have confidence even if I miss my first two or three shots. I’m a shooter and I have to keep on shooting.”
This past summer Marinkovic had to sit through the entire NBA Draft to finally hear his name called with the 60th and final pick. But that didn’t deter the Belgrade native, “It was a dream come true, honestly. I was expecting to be a little higher but never mind. When I heard my name out there it was a special feeling. Last but not least.”
With so many players vying for so few spots in the NBA, Marinkovic knows that it’s an uphill battle especially being selected in the second round but nonetheless he feels that he’s got the goods and legitimate shot to one day heading over to North America, “I think yes, I have the skills and I’m still young, only 23 years old. I think I need to still play in the Euroleague and get stronger and more experienced and then if everything is alright I think that I can play in the NBA.”
Like many players, Marinkovic followed the NBA and his favorite player from his youth shouldn’t suprise anyone, “Growing up my favorite player was Kobe Bryant. I was watching the Lakers my whole life. From Serbia I don’t know but there are a lot of good players, but from the NBA it’s Kobe Bryant.
Marinkovic didn’t play the first time the two squads met and Friday’s matchup will be his first against Maccabi, “We started 0-5 and since then we improved a lot. They also did, but we will play at home and I think we have a little advantage. Maccabi have new players, and they are playing well. But we are also playing well lately and it will be a tough game.”