We are honored to be one of Europe’s first basketball camps. After more than four decades, the program has established a tradition thanks to the brilliant ideas of various basketball instructors and enthusiasts from Belgrade, Čačak, and Užice. Our motto has always been “Basketball for Respectable Children,” with three important terms – basketball, respect, and children – representing the founding pillars of the camp program.
The story opens in 1976 on the slopes of Zlatibor, a mountain in western Serbia known for its extraordinary climate, water, and diversified plant life dominated by pines especially a rare kind of “golden pine,” after which the mountain was named. But just as the golden pines were a rare and significant addition to their environment, so too did the sport of basketball emerge from the shadow of this mountain. It will start off tentatively, like a camp where kids from the former Yugoslavia can learn the basics of basketball, but it will quickly expand to include players from all over the world. In the mid-90s, it became the “Junior” Sports Club, and “Professor Aleksandar Nikolić” Academic Basketball Camp has been operating under its current name since 2003.
And it’s not a fluke, either; Professor Aleksandar Nikolić, a basketball legend not only in Yugoslavia, but Europe, and the rest of the world, spent the last days of his coaching career at this camp, where he generously shared his understanding of the sport with esteemed basketball experts, young coaches, and the children themselves. Our camp is special because it did two things at once: it developed a coaching staff that helped spread the gospel of basketball and it shaped some of the best players in the world.
The camp’s inaugural slogan was “Basketball for respectable children,” with three important terms – basketball, respect, and children – representing the founding pillars of our program. We have always had the same purpose in mind: to enhance youth basketball by learning, playing, competing, mingling, socializing, and having fun. The program has always provided participants with the opportunity to advance their basketball skills, and the ten-day stay at the camp allowed them to form international connections as well as friendships that will last a lifetime. More than 40,000 children, including both boys and girls, have taken part in the activities offered at the camp throughout the years. Many of them went on to have successful careers as basketball players or as professionals in the sports industry. Even in modern times, their connections to Zlatibor are strong.
Either by visiting or working in the camp, a great number of prominent names have made their mark on its history. Many developed as athletes and established coaching careers in our camp. Although it would be impossible not to forget someone in the process of listing them, the founders hold a unique place in history. Many are still with us today as coaches, supervisors or guests who return year after year. Others are no longer with us but continue to live on in the thoughts and wonderful memories of our basketball family.
Bratislav Bata Đorđević, Mihailo Miki Pavićević, Ratko Joksić, Božidar Maljković, Borislav Džaković, Slobodan Piva Ivković, Predrag Vučićević Preva, Vlada Paranošić, Borislav Ćorković Reba, Borislav Cenić, Dimče Kofileski, Slobodan Janković laid the foundations of this camp where grew another generation of successful basketball virtuosos like Aleksandar Saša Đorđević, Predrag Saša Danilović, Dejan Bodiroga etc.
They couldn’t have imagined that the story would go on for another 40 years, with fresh generations of kids coming to the camp every summer to train and play basketball with the same enthusiasm as the first campers.
And as a product whose life span has become endless thanks solely to the great quality of work with youth, it has become a Zlatibor brand, and it is the responsibility of the camp’s present organizers to maintain quality, sportsmanship, and live up to the name of Professor Aleksandar Nikolić.