Dorsey, Bogdanovic and Bjelica take center stage in Greece vs Serbia showdown
There are plenty of reasons to watch Greece's home clash with Serbia when the Second Round of the European Qualifiers for the World Cup tips off on Thursday in Heraklion, Crete.
Chief among them will be the presence of Tyler Dorsey, Bogdan Bogdanovic and Nemanja Bjelica.
When a fan has great talents like this trio to look forward to, Dorsey of the Atlanta Hawks and Sacramento Kings duo Bogdanovic and Bjelica, the tastebuds salivate.
The three will be making their first appearances in the Qualifiers. Bogdanovic and Bjelica are seasoned campaigners with Serbia and have done exceptionally well for their country while Dorsey, a start at the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup three summers ago, has yet to play in meaningful games for Greece's senior team.
Both Serbians were in the side that finished runners-up to the United States at the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2014 in Spain. Bjelica, 30, is four years older than Bogdanovic and has been in the national team setup longer. He burst onto the scene at FIBA EuroBasket 2009 in Poland when a young and precocious outfit coached by veteran Dusan Iovic was at the helm.
His all-round game helped Serbia the following year, too, at the World Cup in Istanbul. That Serbia team narrowly missed out on a Final with the USA and finished fourth. Bjelica was taken in the NBA Draft in 2010 but decided to wait before leaving for the league in 2015. He made the jump after a dazzling display at the FIBA EuroBasket, where he revealed himself to be a "Big Play Bjelica" of sorts.
Bogdanovic just completed his rookie campaign in the NBA with Sacramento, where he and Bjelica will be teammates in the league for the first time next season. Both recently hung out together at the Basketball Without Borders Camp Europe in Belgrade. The young campers, many of them from the Balkans, were almost in awe of the duo.
Dorsey is a different story. He is as naturally gifted as any of the Greek players that have appeared in the Qualifiers and everyone will be expecting him to put on a show, as he did in Heraklion in 2015 while still in high school. He played for Greece that year when it hosted the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup in Crete.
Dorsey has since played for the Oregon Ducks in college basketball, where he made the Pac-12 All Freshman team and also played in March Madness, even reaching the NCAA promised land, the Final Four. With the Hawks this past season, Dorsey played an average of more than 17 minutes per game.
Some perspective is required, though. Patience is needed because Greece play a style of game that California-born Dorsey will need time to adapt to.