ZORAN LUKIC is a passionate man. Not only is he obsessed with basketball he also exhibits the same pride and intensity for his country — Serbia-Montenegro.

The 34-year old is on a mission to India. On a request from FIBA's Zoran Radovic — in Geneva — Zoran had a meeting with the Basketball Federation of India Secretary General Harish Sharma. After the meeting, Zoran Lukic decided to make a trip to Pune during the 56th Senior National Basketball Championship and oversee the talent available in the country, before taking charge of the team.

Speaking to the Sportstar the unassuming Zoran said "I will be here for a two-month period and will be in charge till the team's departure for the Melbourne Commonwealth Games. From what I have seen here, I am impressed with a few players but there is much work that needs to be done for each of them. We are obviously not referring to some `gigantic' players but a few of the 2.04-2.06 metres tall guards and centres who can be developed into effective players. Someone like Punjab's Talwinder is pretty good but flashy and needs to be told what is expected of him and how best he can deliver. India can improve upon its present ranking amongst Asian countries. But the women's team cannot do much, beyond your shores."

Is he willing to come back if his contract is renewed? "Well there is an offer from a top club side in Russia and I've kept it pending. I will look into it only after I finish with this assignment," he said. "I want my services to be utilised to the full. So before the National camp gets underway in Bangalore from January 14, I am going to conduct clinics for coaches and referees, at the conclusion of this championship," he added.

Serbia-Montenegro has talent for ballgames and teams from Iceland, Lebanon and Russia have come down for training-cum-preparatory camps in Serbia-Montenegro. Even the basketball team from the United Kingdom is now in Serbia preparing for the Commonwealth Games. That said, Serbian players are looking for greener pastures. Seven players from Serbia-Montenegro currently play in the NBA league and quite a few younger players are seeking better prospects in Europe. "There is no money for sportsmen in Serbia," says Zoran. — Avinash Nair