Today, I’m going to introduce you to Rok Stipčević, a professional basketball player from Croatia.
He currently plays at the point guard position for Krka of the Slovenian League. He is a current member of the senior National Team of Croatia, and he was a member of the Croatian Junior National Teams U16, U18, and U20. Recently, he had an amazing performance for Krka, when he has scored 9 three-pointers (9/10), which is the third-best 3-point scoring achievement by any player in the league history in an AdmiralBet ABA League game.
Keep reading to get to know Rok Stipčević better.
1. Who Is Rok Stipčević?
Q: Who is Rok Stipčević? Can you tell the audience a bit more about yourself? How did you discover your love for this sport, and what drove you to pursue a professional career in it?
A: Hello, I’m Rok Stipčević, a professional basketball player and national team player of Croatia for 19 years. I started my career in the basketball club Zadar in Croatia. Later, I was playing for many clubs around Europe, and now I play in Slovenia. For most of my career, I played in Italy. I have nine professional seasons in Italy, one in Turkey, one in Lithuania, seven in Croatia, and this is my second one in Slovenia.
I discovered my love for this sport in my hometown. There was a war at the time in ex-Yugoslavia, and the closest thing I had next to my house was a basketball court, so to not go far away from home, I was playing basketball there. Also, my city is very famous for basketball, and all of my friends were playing basketball at that time, so I discovered a love for this game very early, at seven years old. I was also practicing singing, football, and tennis, but the only thing that remained was the real love I felt for basketball.
At the same time, Jordan was in his prime time, and I really admired him, which made the love I felt for basketball even stronger. During that time, I became one of the best in my hometown, and I found an individual coach for basketball. So, I invested in myself, and the only goal I had was to play in the basketball club Zadar. At the age of 17, I reached that goal, but then I had another one, and that was to play for the national team. I reached my second goal as well and continued to move forward.
2. How Do You Prepare for A Game?
Q: How do you prepare for a game? Do you have any specific rituals you perform, and why is that so?
A: When I was young, and I had a game, I was quiet the whole day, and I didn’t want anyone to disturb me. To make that happen, I distanced myself from everyone, maybe because I wasn’t ready to confront a stressful situation. Nowadays, I’m more experienced and prepare for practice because, for me, practice is just as important as the game.
There is no big difference between practice and a game. I don’t have any special rituals except coffee and espresso.
3. Do You Follow Specific Nutrition and Exercise Plan?
Q: Do you follow a specific nutrition and exercise plan? Also, do you use fitness gyms regularly and right before a game?
A: Yes, actually, I became a vegetarian two years ago, and I take care of my nutrition a lot. I’m trying to give my body everything it needs, and I’m starting to see the benefits more and more. When it comes to nutrition, you should be consistent and take time because there isn’t a thing that will work in a day, week, or month.
On the subject of fitness, I did fitness when I was young, right before the game, exercises like push press, bench, and squats. Nowadays I do it a little bit less, usually around three times a week, in order to stay in shape and to be ready to do any task the club gives me.
4. Which League Is the Most Competitive?
Q: You have a very long and interesting career. You’ve played in many national championships like Croatian, Italian, Turkish, Lithuanian, and now in Slovenia. Which league is the most competitive, and you liked the most?
A: I would say that each competition is different, and each competition is competitive because there is no player in the world that plays to lose. Every player is playing for the win. Maybe it’s a different approach, but I can say that Italian basketball is more dynamic and athletic, and there is more running.
Lithuanian basketball is more physical and static. Turkish basketball is a lot more about running. Croatian basketball is an intelligent game; like playing a game of chess, you need to think about what you’re doing. I will compare Slovenia with Croatia, but if I have to mark one, I will say that for me the best time was in Italy and I mostly enjoyed my time there.
5. How Do You Stay Motivated?
Q: Now, we both know that each sport comes with ups and downs. So, after you lose a game, how do you stay motivated? Furthermore, when the decision of the referee doesn’t go your way, how do you manage your frustration?
A: Losing is part of the game. The day after the loss, I say to myself that the previous day is in the past. I don’t focus too much on the past, but instead, I focus on the future. I just want to be the best I can be and be in the best possible shape.
You must be relaxed because when you’re experiencing too much stress, you cannot give your best. You need to give it your best until the game comes, and when the game comes, you have to enjoy it. The decisions of the referee are also a part of the game. Sometimes it’s on our side; sometimes, it’s against us.
I don’t allow them to disturb my focus and my concentration because they cannot change the call, so I just speak to them but calmly. I don’t want them to mess with my head because when someone disturbs me, I’m not in my zone anymore.
6. How Does It Feel Making Your Country Proud?
Q: You are a national team player for more than a decade. You’ve played World Championship and EuroBasket. How do you feel about making your whole country proud?
A: Yes, I played in the world championship in Turkey, I played two times in EuroBasket, and I played in the Rio Olympic games. I think that the Olympic games are the best part of my career, something that is sacred and different. That cannot compare with the world championship, EuroBasket, or any championship, because it’s something crazy and different, and I will remember it for life.
Every time I play for the national team, I’m proud because I’ve reached the goal that I had for myself when I was young. Representing your country to the world is something special and something that you live for; it’s a big responsibility. At the same time, you are proud because you see the flag, you hear the national anthem, you know the people that are behind you, and you have to give your best to make them proud.
When you play for the club, it’s you and your teammates, but when you play for your national team, you play for people who are cheering for you and are always support you.
7. What Is the Most Important Game You Played?
Q: What was the most important game you played in your career, and why? What has basketball taught you?
A: There were a lot of games, I cannot mention only one, but I can mention a couple of them. For example, one of the most important games was winning the championship in 2008 and going to the main square where 40.000 people were waiting for us and celebrating. Another important game was winning the cup in Lithuania in 2018 when I played the last 4-5 minutes against Zalgiris, who was among the top 14 in Europe at the time, and we were playing in front of 17.000 people in the arena.
Sport taught me everything. It taught me how to work with my teammates, how to behave among others, how to manage my ego and character among other players and teams, and how to behave in different cultures and countries. I traveled to a lot of countries, I met a lot of new people, I made a lot of friendships. The message that I’m taking away is that you always have to try because if you don’t try, you have no idea what could happen. That’s sport.
If you shoot the ball, you have two things that can happen – you could either score or miss. But if you didn’t shoot the ball, you never know if the ball will go in or out. It’s the same in life; you have to try to see the result. A lot of people are scared to try, but once you try, you get out of your comfort zone.
8. The Difference between Euroleague and Aba League
Q: You played in Euroleague and Aba League. What is the difference between these two championships?
A: I would say that the Euroleague is the highest competition after NBA since the physical approach is much tougher than in any other league. Adriatic (ABA) league is also great, there are a lot of young players, and I think that people from ex-Yugoslavia are very talented, very smart, and there are a lot of good players, not just in basketball but in every single field. We are very talented, and we don’t have to underestimate ourselves; we have to respect our self more than we do and work hard.
9. Pressure to Perform
Q: You played a lot of games in your career and have a lot of experience on your back. How do you deal with the pressure of having to perform in front of a crowd?
A: I don’t think much about the crowd. Sometimes I feel bad for them when we lose a game, but at the end of the day, it’s my burden to carry and not theirs, because they are going to forget about it in a week or two, and I’m going to have to carry it myself forever.
Maybe it’s selfish, but players have to put themselves in front of the crowd and everyone else, and they have to think about their teammates, coaches, and staff. Then, the most important part is families and after that is the crowd. I respect and love them, but there is a hierarchy, and you need to know where your place is.
10. Your Message for the World?
Q: Your motto and message to the world, especially for a young basketball player?
A: Never listen to others who are telling you that you cannot do it because they are watching everything from their perspective. If you want to reach something, you are going to reach it. Never ever give up, keep pushing, keep working, be smart, and always have a smile.
It was a pleasure talking to you today, Rok. Thank you for being honest, and I hope I get to talk to you again soon.
As for the audience, if you want to know more about his life, you can check out Rok Stipčević’s official Wikipedia page.
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