One of the standout players in the 2022-23 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Regular Season has been Crvena Zvezda Meridianbet Belgrade forward Filip Petrusev, with the 22-year-old displaying his clear potential in a leading role under head coach Dusko Ivanovic. Back in his hometown of Belgrade after a year with Anadolu Efes Istanbul, Petrusev – the Round 17 MVP – has been able to silence some doubters with his performances on the court.
Although Petrusev was part of Efes's championship-winning team in 2021-22, he was limited to an average of 9.9 minutes per game across his 22 appearances, during which time he averaged 5.2 points and 1.6 rebounds per night. He saw his game time drop significantly in the second half of the season, while he didn’t get any minutes during Efes's games in the playoffs and the Final Four.
Zvezda decided to take a chance on Petrusev last summer, confident that he could recapture the performances he showed en route to become the ABA League MVP while playing for Mega Basket in 2020-21. That bet has so far paid off, and Petrusev admits that playing in front of Zvezda fans at a usually packed Aleksandar Nikolic Hall is something he relishes.
"This is where I grew up. This is where I feel comfortable. I don't really have to think about anything else but basketball, really," says Petrusev in the latest 'Focus On' episode. "Every time you step on the court, especially in your hometown in front of your people, it definitely feels better. It brings maybe a little more pressure, something like that, but I like it. It's like a real home."
Speaking about his experience with Efes, the talented Serbian recognizes that he needed a team that would allow him to make mistakes on the court as part of his growing process, something that did not align with the goals of the eventual 2022 EuroLeague champion.
"It was my first real professional year. It was a good learning year for me," Petrusev explains. "It didn’t end up being a great year in terms of myself and me playing, so I was just looking for a team in the EuroLeague that would allow me to have a bigger role, play more and keep developing, because I got a sense of what the EuroLeague is last year.
"I showed in some games that I can compete against those guys and have an important role on a team. That's what I'm used to: having a bigger role, having more minutes. I'm looking to learn, but learn on the court while playing, learning through those mistakes that are going to happen, because you're still a young player trying to prove yourself and still getting used to the league."
Finally, Petrusev discusses his desire to silence some of his doubters, as well as Zvezda's playoff push, with the team currently 12-16 and facing a tough ask to make the postseason.
"There were lots of doubts from last year, so there's got to be a lot of proving [people wrong], like showing people that I can really compete at this level," he comments.
"The playoffs are obviously in mind, it's definitely in everybody's head, everybody knows about it, but also everybody knows how tough the EuroLeague is, especially [with] 18 teams, only eight advance. Every game is really important."