"The NBA? I'm not ready"

Spain's Nikola Mirotic is the star of the U20 Euro champs

Nikola Mirotic greets the enormous interest that he arouses in his fans with humility and a perennial smile. On Wednesday he was signing autographs for, taking pictures with and being congratulated by a fair few of them in the hotel in Bilbao where he and the rest of Spain's under-20 national basketball team are staying while they contest the European championships. And it's already been quite a championships for the Montenegro-born 20-year-old, who became a Spanish national in March 2010: he's scored 138 points in the first five matches alone and placed Spain at the top of its group. Today it faces Latvia in the quarterfinals as it seeks to advance in a competition where, as Mirotic sees it, France is the main rival.

Question. Spain remains undefeated. How far do you think it can go?

Answer. We're playing at a great level and it's up to us to continue like that. We cannot be complacent. The team feels comfortable playing together. It can get to the final and it can win it, but we don't want to think like that. We'd rather go step by step. We have a good feeling.

Q. After your 41 points against Ukraine, you are the big star of the championships. Do you feel pressured by the responsibility?

A. No, I don't feel any pressure. It's easy to play with the wonderful players that I have by my side. My teammates deserve a good part of the credit for what I'm doing and I'm feeling very comfortable playing. The team is winning, that is what matters in the end. It doesn't matter if I score 20 or 30 points. If the team doesn't win, it's not worth anything.

Q. What do you think your role will be at Real Madrid next season?

A. That of a young player who will have to struggle for minutes, who has to make an impact on court, who has to defend well and play with the balls that come to him in attack. It's going to be a very important year for me. I'm already really eager for the preseason to start.

Q. How come you haven't made the jump to the NBA yet if you've already been drafted by the Bulls?

A. Because I don't think that I'm ready, and I feel very at home at Madrid. I'm growing as a player and as a person and I want to carry on here. I want to win titles - I want to compete. I came here when I was a child. Madrid has given me everything and I want to be here still. At the moment I'm not even thinking about the NBA.

Nikola Mirotic at the under-20 national basketball team's base.
Nikola Mirotic at the under-20 national basketball team's base.SANTOS CIRILO

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