3x3 great Stojacic excited about transition into coaching with newcomers Vienna
VIENNA (Austria) -After an epic Jeddah Final 2020, where Liman fell in a heartbreak due to Nauris Miezis' magic, 3x3 great Stefan Stojacic couldn't walk for seven days because of his worsening right knee.
Even though he had deep bone bruising, causing him unrelenting agony, the spectacular Serb well known across the world as 'Mr Robot', pushed his pain threshold last season in a bid to represent his powerhouse country at the Tokyo Olympics.
Stojacic's injury struggles, which began when he tore a calf muscle in 2019, ended his Olympic dream but he still courageously represented Liman at the FIBA 3x3 World Tour 2021 although was not part of their redeem team in Jeddah.
One of the most efficient scorers 3x3 has ever seen had unfortunately been a shadow of the player who won the FIBA 3x3 World Tour 2017 MVP.
With his body betraying him, Stojacic knows his playing career might be over - not even doctors know definitively at this point - but his contribution to 3x3 will continue after he was appointed coach of new team Vienna, who were previously known as Graz, and the Austria national team.
The 33-year-old's wealth of knowledge and expertise - he is one of 3x3's best ever players who famously engaged in an epic rivalry with 3x3 GOAT Dusan Bulut - will be shared with the emerging Austrians, who showed talent during the last couple of years and might make the leap under Stojacic's guidance.
"I really like the guys and they have definitely talent but I'm not going to put expectations on them because they are still mostly young," Stojacic said.
He particularly looked forward to mentoring Filip Kramer, Austria's best player who has already showed off his high-flying ability numerously during his brief 3x3 career. But Stojacic believed the 6ft. 7in (2.02m) athletic marvel can become even scarier for opponents with more 3x3 experience.
"He moves so well for a big guy and we will have to figure out a way to use that to the team's advantage," Stojacic said of the 29-year-old. "I think he can get even better when he learns more about the game and tactics."
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As he hopes to build up 3x3 in Austria, an emerging country for the 21-point game, Stojacic will be taking the lessons learned from previous coaching stints in China and the Philippines, where he was an advisor on their men's national teams.
"They were great experiences because I learned how to deal with players from different cultures," he said. "In China, it's very strict and rules based, whereas Philippines is more relaxed so it was totally different but those experiences helped me understand how to get the best out of players in different ways."
While he starts looking ahead at a change of career, the 6ft. 4in (1.94m) Stojacic hasn't totally given up hope of stepping out on the court for Vienna as underlined by being on their playing roster.
"I'm not sure if I'll play but I do know it won't be for a while," he said. "I pushed through a lot of pain the last couple of years and it's been tough but we'll just have to hope for the best."
Having been a long time leader of 3x3 power Liman, it's been a little bit of a strange transition for Stojacic but one he has embraced especially getting to be based in his favorite city in the world.
"I love everything about Vienna, it's chilled but also full of history and filled with green spaces," Stojacic said. "It's a bit strange leaving Liman but this is a new start and it means a lot to come here because they really had faith in me to be able to help out.
"I'm really excited about this opportunity and I feel very motivated."