Coach awed by FIBA-Asia energy
Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - August 8, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Bahrain coach Sasa Nikitovic of Serbia is new to Asian basketball and from what he’s observed so far at the 27th FIBA-Asia Championships here, the energy level is unbelievable. Nikitovic, 34, took over as Bahrain coach only last month and presided in seven days of practice highlighted by three scrimmages with PBA teams before making his debut in the zone qualifier for the FIBA World Cup in Spain next year.

“It’s incredible how everyone works hard for 40 minutes, aggressive on the boards, fighting for each possession,” said Nikitovic. “I worked five years with the Serbian national team as an assistant coach and I did scouting at the last FIBA World Cup in Turkey. I’ve scouted teams and players all over Europe. I think Asians play with a lot of energy. Players from other zones are a bit lazy, relying on their size and talent. I notice that with the Philippine team, the skill level is quite high.”

Nikitovic signed a two-year contract to coach the Bahrain team and supervise the country’s basketball development program. “When I arrived in Bahrain, the 24-man national team was already formed with C. J. (Giles) listed as the naturalized player,” he said. “There was little time to prepare for the tournament because the local league finished middle of July then players took a seven-day rest before reporting to camp for the national team. We were lucky to play three PBA teams (Barako Bull, Globalport and San Mig Coffee) as our warm-up. Next time we play in an international tournament, we will need to train at least 45 to 50 days and scrimmage with quality foreign teams.”

Despite limited training, Nikitovic piloted Bahrain to second place in Group D and nearly finished first, losing only a 79-76 overtime thriller to topnotcher Kazakhstan. In the second round, Bahrain made heads turn by playing Iran neck-to-neck for two quarters before succumbing. Iran led only by three, 30-27, at the half but poured it on later to end up on top, 75-56, last Tuesday. Nikitovic’ charges put up a courageous stand without Giles who returned to Bahrain that day to seek medical treatment for a torn MCL in his right knee. Giles averaged 12.5 points and 13 rebounds in two games before suffering the injury and leaving town.

“If we beat Kazakhstan, we would’ve made it to the knockout quarterfinals, a huge accomplishment for us,” said Nikitovic. “We’ve been hurt by injuries to our three starters but no excuses. Our goal is to improve. We realize we’re only in the third tier of competition in Asia. There’s a lot of work to be done. Bahrain has a population of only half a million but I’m surprised there are players who can play at a quality level. For the next two years, I’ll supervise the youth program in the under-16 and under-19 age groups and try to get the national players together every month even for at least three days when we’re not in camp. This is my first experience with a national team outside of Serbia and I’m excited to make our program a success.”

Although now transplanted to Bahrain, Nikitovic said the basketball scouting service that he started via the internet in Belgrade this year will continue. The service involves a scientific analysis of teams and players anywhere in the world.

“The process begins with a client submitting three games of a team on video that our staff of five breaks down,” he said. “It’s time-consuming for a head coach to scout teams he’s never played against with a tournament coming up. So we offer the service of scouting for him. We get three games on video, study and analyze then submit a video and written report explaining the offensive and defensive systems and the characteristics or tendencies of each player. We’ve done this service for several middle-ranked teams in Europe particularly in the FIBA Challenge Cup, the Euro league and the Euro Cup for countries like Georgia and Hungary. We do the scouting for them and our analysis is confidential. This is strictly a professional service we offer.”

Nikitovic said the video report consists of 12-15 minutes breaking down offense, 6-9 minutes on defense and 12-15 minutes on individual players. Additionally, the output includes a 15 to 20-page written report summarizing the aspects discussed in the video report. The cost for a seven-day delivery of the video and written report is 500 Euros or the equivalent of P29,000. For a fast delivery of three days, the cost is 1,000 Euros or P58,000 and for an express delivery of 24 hours, the cost is P87,000.

“Our staff is composed of experienced basketball coaches and we’re equipped to analyze any team or any player anywhere in the world in any league, collegiate, semi-pro or pro,” said Nikitovic. “We do precision work. We know basketball and this service is available to anyone in the world.” The service is called Perfect Scout and accessible on the website The email address is

“No other group offers this service in the world,” said Nikitovic. “We don’t want coaches to waste their time scouting particularly when they’re involved in a tournament where the games are played every day for a week and you don’t know the teams you’re up against.” Nikitovic said the service is open to coaches in Asia.

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