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Photo from Euroleague

Brose Baskets Bamberg have dominated the Beko Basketball Bundesliga all season. And one of the absolute leaders for Chris Fleming’s team has been Predrag Suput. The 33-year-old Serbian was one of the most valuable players in the BBL and Bamberg will be relying on him to win the title.

But who is Peja Suput?

First off, here is his answer in his own words:

“Who is Peja Suput. (Laughs) (long pause)… I can’t say anything about myself. A good man. A player with heart. I always want to give my all. But I still think I can be better,” said Bamberg’s starting power forward.

Suput moved with his family during the Yugoslavian war in 1995 from Lika, Croatia to Apatin in Serbia. He started playing basketball at 13 years old and idolized – as many from the region did –  Drazen Petrovic. He made his professional debut at 18 and helped Spartak Subotica into the first division before landing at Vojvodina Novi Sad with stars such as Nenad Cenak and Milan Gurovic.

“That was really a lot of fun. And I was chosen as best Sixth Man,” said Suput, who one year later in 2004 moved to Serbian giants Partizan Belgrade. And he won two Super League titles in the Serbian capital.

But a broken foot during the 2004-05 season meant Suput would spend four months in a cast.

“That was really difficult. But you have family and friends and teammates who tell you to have heart and keep going,” said Suput.

In 2006, he moved to Vrsac on a two-year contract with Hemofarm. But he only lasted one year in northeast Serbia.

“Serbia is different. Here in Germany, everyone can beat everyone else. In Serbia, it’s Partizan and Red Star. Really only the two teams. In the playoffs (in 2006-07) we played Red Star and lost two games right away. But that was because of the referees,” recalled Suput.

Suput had had enough of Serbia and in 2007 went looking for a new club – and his first experience outside of his homeland at age 30.

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“He’s a heck of a player. To be that age and still get it done like he does it’s unbelievable. He does that day in and day out. He just hurts you in so many ways offensively. It’s just amazing how many different ways he can score,” Bamberg’s Brian Roberts said about Suput.

“He doesn’t speak too much but when he does it’s hard to understand. He has a little funny side to him. He can’t really speak too good English. You can kinda figure out what he’s talking about a little bit. So you try to guess. Off the court, he’s a cool guy.”

Slovakian international Anton Gavel’s opinion of Suput: “Personally I get along with him very good. We have the same nature so to speak, and he’s a little crazy like me, and I like that in him. We have shared all kinds of different situations and all different moods.”

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When Suput began looking abroad, it came down to either Russia or Germany. But long domestic flights and brutally cold temperatures spoke against teams from the Moscow region.

“It is hard in Russia. I played two times in Kazan – and it was minus-35 degrees. That is really hard,” said Suput, who had already had two of his three children by 2007.

Suput sought advise for his decision and spoke with veteran Dejan Milojevic, a former teammate at Partizan.

“Dejan said Germany is a super country for life and basketball. The life is important. And money too. Money is money.”

And his choice was the reigning BBL champion Bamberg.

But a major issue for Suput upon his arrival in Franconia was the language barrier as he spoke neither English nor German – despite having “a bit of German” in school. It proved to be a God send that Serbian Ivan Pavic had long played with Bamberg.

“I never really wanted to leave Serbia. The beginning was difficult. Ivan Pavic was very important for me. He helped me to live,” said Suput.

He and his family quickly made Bamberg their home and Suput extended his contract already in December 2007 until the end of the 2009-10 season.

The coaching change from Dirk Bauermann to Chris Fleming finally brought a title in the 2009-10 season with both the German league and Cup crowns. Suput was the hero of the 2010 German Cup final with 26 points while captain Casey Jacobsen had to watch on the sidelines injured in Bamberg’s 76-75 victory over Deutsche Bank Skyliners.

The league championship followed and Suput averaged 11.8 points and 4.8 rebounds as Bamberg again held off the Skyliners – in five games.

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“Peja is a machine. He’s the most versatile player I’ve ever been around. He really understands the game and he knows how to win. When it’s important he understands that and is ready to go,” said Bamberg coach Chris Fleming after nearly three years as Suput’s coach.

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Before the 2010-11 season, Suput extended his contract with another year and an option for the 2011-12 season.

Suput led Bamberg in scoring during their charge through the BBL – with just two losses – in averaging 12.6 points to go along with 4.2 rebounds and 1.7 assists. He also nailed 47.5 percent of his three-pointers and 83 percent of his free throws. The biggest highlight came in Bamberg’s 97-93 victory at Alba Berlin in late March as he scored 34 points – in making all 11 of his shots – and grabbed nine rebounds.

“Predrag plays like he’s from another galaxy,” said Fleming after that game. And Bamberg general manager Wolfgang Heyder added: “He has worn our jersey for nearly four years – but that was his highlight.”

In the Euroleague, Suput averaged 10 points a game including 21 points in Bamberg’s home victory over Real Madrid.

In early April, Bamberg claimed their third straight title – winning the Beko BBL Top4 German Cup as Suput had 14 points and six rebounds in the semi-final win over Artland Dragons and then 10 points in the final against New Yorker Phantoms Braunschweig.

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“Peja is one of the best players I’ve ever played with, and that includes the NBA,” said Jacobsen, who played five seasons in the NBA with Phoenix, New Orleans, Houston and Memphis.

“He plays best when there are big games, which is a quality which is rare. Peja’s been one of our most consistent performers in the last two years. He deserves a lot of credit. To me, it’s hard to say who’s the most valuable player on our team, but if I had to choose it would be Peja Suput.”

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Suput is clearly one of Bamberg’s most valuable players, but he was also mentioned as the MVP of the entire league.  In the end, he finished second in the voting behind Skyliners’ Dashaun Wood – 118 points to 39.

“He remains calm and exudes his experience to show that we should follow him,” said Gavel.

The guard went a step further upon the question who Peja Suput is: “The MVP of the Bundesliga.”

“We wouldn’t be the same without him,” added Roberts.

Suput just enjoys shooting the ball through the hoop and everything else surrounding it.

“Basketball is life for me and work, but also fun. When you play it has to be fun,” said Bamberg’s star.

When asked how he feels when some people say he is the MVP of the league, Suput answered: “That is super for me. I can only say thank you. I will keep going. You can also do better, you know. It’s crappy that you can’t keep playing until 55.”

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“Quiet family guy,“ said Fleming to the question about how Suput is off the court.

But captain Jacobsen to the same question answered: “Off the court he’s crazy, but I love him just the same.”

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Everyone in Bamberg love Peja Suput – even though it’s not exactly easy to say who he is.

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