Klemen Prepelic is glad for turning down Fenerbahce, Carroll's belated retirement – BasketNews.com

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Klemen Prepelic explains to BasketNews how he ended up playing and staying with Valencia Basket, after having a stale season with Real Madrid and despite receiving a lucrative offer from Fenerbahce.
Klemen Prepelic is currently in his fifth season in Spain, third with Valencia Basket. It’s a period where both the Spanish club and the Slovenian shooting guard are trying to make a re-start. 

Klemen Prepelic

Klemen  Prepelic
Team: Valencia Basket
Position: PG, SG
Age: 30
Height: 191 cm
Weight: 75 kg
Birth place: Slovenia

“The season is going well for the moment. We could have had some more wins, but we could have lost some games as well. So, we got to be satisfied with what we’ve done,” Prepelic recently told BasketNews. 
After a EuroCup season that did little to add more titles or glory to the ‘taronja,’ the Russian teams’ suspension created a vacant spot in Europe’s top-flight, almost out of nowhere.
Valencia received a wild card to return to the competition they last played in 2020-21, while Prepelic had the chance to come back to action after sustaining a fracture in his left arm back in March that forced him to miss the rest of the 2021-22 season. 
Before surgery, Prepelic was Valencia’s top scorer, with an average of 14.2 points and 2.9 assists in the EuroCup and 15.0 points and 3.1 assists in the Spanish ACB League. But his current form usually doesn’t allow him to stay more than 20 minutes on the court, although his team has made significant strides compared to their slow start to the season. 
Valencia present a balanced record in EuroLeague (4-3) and the ACB (4-3), but Prepelic hasn’t been able to help the four-time EuroCup winners get their groοve back. The 30-year-old guard is averaging just 5.6 points on 16.1% from deep over 7 ACB games and 5.9 points on 21.4% 3-point shooting in the EuroLeague. 
Valencia Basket coach Alex Mumbru, a more than the respectable shooter in his playing days, knows that “shooters always have streaks.”
“We’re not worried about Klemen,” he recently said.

Klemen Prepelic

Klemen  Prepelic
Klemen  Prepelic

MIN: 19.33
PTS: 6 (43.28%)
REB: 0.75
As: 2
ST: 0.75
BL: 0.13
TO: 0.88
GM: 8

“I’d be worried if he wasn’t involved or if he wasn’t sticking around to work on his shooting after games. I can see that he’s focused and willing to help the team. For sure, there will be a time when he’ll be more efficient. It’s not something that obsesses us,” the Spanish tactician commented.
Prepelic’s early struggles are a sign that he’ll need some time to get back to where he used to be – one of Valencia’s leading men. It’s a role that the 30-year-old guard gladly undertook when he first signed with the club back in 2020. With COVID spreading all over Europe, he was coming off a productive season with Joventut Badalona, where he had been loaned out to by Real Madrid. 
Coming into the summer transfer market, Prepelic had set his priorities straight.
“I wanted to stay in Spain for both family and professional reasons. Valencia made a big step forward with the decision to make their new arena. The club is probably one of the best organizations in Europe,” Prepelic contends. 
During the 2019-20 campaign in Badalona, the Slovenian showed he can lead any EuroCup team. Beating his average career-highs in several statistical categories (points, rebounds, assists, steals) was enough to propel his name into a higher rank.
He was only 20 when he made his EuroLeague debut with Union Olimpija in 2012, but his one-year passage from Madrid had left much to desire. 
The ambitious project that Valencia laid down for him in the summer of 2020 included some attractive names as future teammates and also bigger responsibility. 
“We made good signings, adding Derrick Williams, Nikola Kalinic, Martin Hermansson while keeping the core and guys like Sam Van Rossom, Guillem Vives, and Victor Sastre. The role offered to me was to be the main scorer, which was the most important thing for me as I was coming off a lack of minutes in Madrid,” Prepelic says.
“Coming back to the EuroLeague, I wanted to prove I can be an important piece in a good EuroLeague team,” he adds. 
On the outside, Valencia seemed to tick all the boxes. But what happens when an old acquaintance comes knocking?
When almost everything had been arranged, Prepelic received a lucrative, last-minute offer by Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul, who were about to hire former Slovenia national team coach Igor Kokoskov.
The two had won the 2017 EuroBasket together in what proved to be a one-off job for the Serbian tactician. 
“We spoke with Igor in June (2020),” Prepelic remembers. “But he had a contract with Sacramento and then with Phoenix. For him, it was tough to get out of those contracts.”
During their call, Prepelic says he explained to his former coach that his priority was to stay in Spain if there wasn’t a big difference in the financial part between Fenerbahce’s and Valencia’s offers.
“Back then, he hadn’t signed with Fenerbahce. Literally, the day before I signed with Valencia, he told me he was going to go there. But everything was set for me to stay in Spain. I had an amazing offer from Valencia, and I didn’t want to make a last-minute change,” Prepelic continues. 
The Slovenian is a firm believer in the benefits that a stable environment can give him. He calls his decision to sign with Valencia “perfect” and further adds that he’s the right fit for them. 
“At the end of the day, that’s the first club where I’ve stayed for more than one season. I fit perfectly in the club; I and my family all speak Spanish. Valencia is an amazing city, and we wanted to keep it like that,” he maintains.
Prepelic came to Spain the year Luka Doncic left Real Madrid to join the Mavericks. The Maribor-born guard says expectations of him weren’t excessive as no one would ask him to fill in for his fellow countryman.
“I never compare myself with Luka. He’s one and only. I can see that on a daily basis every summer,” he clarifies.
“But obviously, I wanted to have a role there. I came in with high expectations, but at that point, I couldn’t understand what a 16-player roster means. I was in and out all the time, and it was difficult to adjust.”
Prepelic remembers he was coming from Levallois Metropolitans in France, where he was playing for 35 minutes, having the ball in his hands all the time. Moreover, in his early talks with Madrid, he was told that Jaycee Carroll, the team’s starting shooting guard at the time, was about to retire. 
“When I started to adjust, Carroll decided to stay for one more season. There was no room for me. That’s basketball, and it can happen to everyone. I’m not mad at what happened at all. Next year (2020), he prolonged his contract for one more season,” the Slovenian stresses. 
It turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Prepelic. 
“Now, I’m happy that he made that decision because probably I would never have gotten to Valencia Basket if Real Madrid hadn’t loaned me out to Badalona,” he concedes.
Last year, Prepelic and Valencia played the first EuroCup season under a new format with consecutive knockout games deciding the winner instead of best-of-three series. Now, it looks like the EuroLeague front office is seriously thinking about abandoning the Final Four tournament for the sake of the playoff series.
However, for Prepelic, there’s no real question about which system he’d choose in both competitions.
“I’d keep the current one,’ he firmly responds.
“Last year, the EuroCup format was perfect for smaller teams. Knock-out games are good for teams without pressure. When the season comes to an end, teams are made already. You can’t say in April that your team’s not working or that it needs time.”
Valencia entered the EuroCup playoffs from the pole position but came up short when clashing with future champions Virtus Segafredo Bologna. Prepelic, one of the team’s key contributors, was forced to miss that crucial knockout contest due to his arm injury.
In his book, Sergio Scariolo wrote that Prepelic’s absence made Valencia look a bit more predictable. Eventually, both clubs received a EuroLeague wild card for this season.
“Last year, with Joan Penarroya, we were playing very good basketball at the end of the season, but we had some injuries that derailed us. Virtus made some great signings in Hackett and Shengelia, and it was very difficult to compete with them. Honestly, they deserved to win,” he admits. 
Although several key players in European basketball insist that a new format should be introduced to do justice to teams’ and players’ efforts, Prepelic thinks the EuroLeague season is so long that it’s difficult to have it any other way.
“It’s 34 games, then a best-of-five playoff series. You can have a bad game, but we saw a final game with less than 60 points (editor’s note: last year’s Anadolu Efes-Real Madrid). This format has been in place for years now, and it’s working so far,” he contends. 
According to the Slovenian player, the same can be said about this version of Valencia Basket. Alex Mumbru has built a team that plays just over 82 possessions in the EuroLeague and relies on ball movement to create optimum conditions for their shot selection.
The Spanish side presents an excellent 38.9% shooting from the perimeter, in addition to 18.0 assists per game.
What’s more, they’ve already beaten Olympiacos in Piraeus and Anadolu Efes in Istanbul. Their three-game winning streak speaks volumes for the team’s form. 
“Some guys came late from the national teams, and they missed practices. But now, it seems that we’re connecting with each other much better,” Prepelic thinks, and points to the changes Mumbru has brought to the squad compared to his predecessor, Joan Penarroya. 
“Our system’s completely different than last season. We’re playing much more open-court [basketball] right now, trying to get easy baskets. We’re more aggressive and vertical in the basket, especially with the two point guards that came – Jared Harper and Chris Jones. We play faster than last year, try to get in transition, and avoid 5-on-5.”
“But obviously, not everything’s going to work out right away. We have to practice some things and watch video, which we haven’t managed to do so far,” he adds.
One of the main reasons for it was the 2022 EuroBasket, where Klemen Prepelic couldn’t contribute to Slovenia as much as he had done in 2017 when he averaged 13.8 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 2.3 assists to help his side win gold.
For years, Slovenia had been one of European basketball’s biggest underachievers because they rarely managed to get the best out of their roster. If Luka Doncic and Goran Dragic were the two main reasons why the narrative changed from 2017 onwards, team chemistry also has its share.
Slovenia has been playing attractive, high-pace, high-scoring basketball, but they rarely manage to reap the benefits. 
After being eliminated from the 2019 World Cup, as Dragic and Doncic couldn’t play in the FIBA qualifiers, they saw France destroy their dreams of an Olympic Games title game.
“Those FIBA windows hurt us a lot because we missed the 2019 World Cup, which means we weren’t together that summer. It was a bad experience for us,” Prepelic recalls.
“After that, the Olympic Games were huge for us. We played amazing, but unfortunately, I got a block from [Nicolas] Batum in the very last second of the semifinal game,” he continues.
Prepelic assures that the block he received is behind him now and that he doesn’t think about it anymore.
However, in the summer, Slovenia collapsed entirely in the EuroBasket quarter-final game against Poland.
“That’s part of basketball,” Prepelic comments. “Other teams didn’t even make it to the final round, which doesn’t make us feel any better. The EuroBasket is a huge competition, and you have to be ready every day to play at the top level.”
A lot has been said about naturalized players joining European teams in big competitions. Slovenia has already found two of them in Anthony Randolph and Mike Tobey.
In both cases, things have worked out fine for all parties involved. Even if it were up to Prepelic to decide whom to recruit, he would hardly pick two players more suitable and ready to serve their role. 
Interestingly, Prepelic played with them at the club level as well – with Randolph at Real Madrid and two seasons with Tobey at Valencia. 
“They’re completely different players,” he points out.
“We have a great group of guys – and probably have the best chemistry compared to all other teams. That’s why it’s easier for them to get into the group. They both played with certain players from our team. Anthony played with Luka at Real Madrid, and then with me; Mike also played with me at Valencia,” Prepelic says. 
Although one can safely argue that Slovenia’s basketball history has been marked by the rise of Luka Doncic, there’s one thing in particular that the Mavericks star has acknowledged as one of his biggest weaknesses: his endless rants at referees wherever and whenever his teams are playing. 
Nevertheless, Doncic said he came up with a trick to help prevent him from venting his frustration when the whistle doesn’t go his way: he sings to himself.
Prepelic falls under the same category. At some point, he admitted that protesting every call generates a bad image of the player he wants to be.
“I must try to leave the referees out of it. It’s a challenge for me to be myself but also to have a cool head in hard times,” he argued.
The experienced guard does recall saying that after a game in Spain, where he got ejected.
“I had to apologize – which was the right thing to do. At the end of the day, referees can make mistakes as players do, and we have to understand it.”
“But it’s hard to do so at certain moments,” he adds. “We have this Balkan character which sometimes is difficult to control.”
“We never attack referees because we want to hurt them,” he explains.
“We just react that way. Many times, we’ve apologized to them afterward. Obviously, we should control it much better, but sometimes it’s difficult because we have this kind of character. You have to react well in the first seconds.”

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