River Lions report submitted to the ThoroldNews by Stephen Dyell
The Niagara River Lions' winning ways continue after defeating the Fraser Valley Bandits 108-87 Friday night due to the shooting touch of Nem Mitrovic.
Mitrovic hit five three-pointers against the Bandits to finish with a team-high 20 points. Overall during Niagara's three-game winning streak, he's tallied 15 triples and continues to find his rhythm in the offence.
“One of the more underrated things in basketball is the team chemistry and we've had that developed since training camp,” Mitrovic said. “That's led to the entire team doing a great job of getting everybody open and I'm benefiting from that.”
After four years of college basketball at the University of Portland, Mitrovic began his international and professional career overseas.
Although he spent much of his life in Ontario, Mitrovic was born in Sarajevo, still under the name of Yugoslavia,where his father played basketball for KK Bosna. After attending Canadian basketball camps in his youth, an opportunity arose for Mitrovic to join the Bosnia and Herzegovina national basketball team; an opportunity to not only make the roster, but compete next to the country's biggest stars.
In 2013, Mitrovic made his debut in the EuroBasket qualification round alongside Jusuf Nurkic of the Portland Trail Blazers and Mirza Teletovic.
“It was a really cool journey as I got to play against a lot of high-level players on other teams,” the first-year River Lion said. “At a young age getting that experience with even the top players from Bosnia and Herzegovina, you gain so much.”
Teletovic played six seasons for the Brooklyn Nets and Milwakee Bucks before retiring last year due to medical issues. Nurkic, whose past season was also cut short due to injury, has played six seasons in the NBA.
Mitrovic played one last time with Teletovic at the 2015 EuroBasket with legendary head coach Duško Ivanović on the sidelines. Ivanović coached veterans Juan Carlos Navarro at FC Barcelona and Pablo Prigioni at Tau Ceramica while also winning numerous European basketball championships along his historic coaching career.
Ivanović was a great role model on what professionalism meant, Mitrovic said.
“His views on how you are supposed to work every day were amazing. He taught what it takes to prepare to play on the highest level and just being able to experience that at such a young age, helped me prepare for my professional career.”
Mitrovic spent the previous season in Spain for Araberri BC. He's played in Greece, Italy and France before getting the opportunity to play in front of family and friends with the River Lions
Trae Bell-Haynes continues to be a model of consistency for the River Lions, shooting 6/10 for 16 points on aggressive drives to the basket. Ryan Anderson had four three-pointers and finished with 14 points. Guillaume Payen-Boucard struggled with turnovers but grabbed a team-high seven rebounds.
Niagara moves to 4-1 on the season and sits atop the Canadian Elite Basketball League. River Lions play tonight in Guelph before returning home June 8 versus the Hamilton Honey Badgers. Game starts at 7:00 p.m.