Serbia and Montenegro says Divac skipped draft

Updated: November 17, 2005, 2:14 AM ET
Associated Press

LOS ANGELES -- Former NBA center Vlade Divac said Wednesday that he was surprised to learn that his home country was accusing him of avoiding its military draft.

Serbia-Montenegro's army says it has filed charges against him. Divac, 37, was obliged by law to join the compulsory six-month military service by the age of 35, that country's state prosecutors office said earlier Wednesday.

It asked Serbia-Montenegro's foreign ministry "to determine Divac's citizenship and his home address" to be able to carry out the legal proceedings and hand him the draft notice.

"I have learned about this a couple of days ago and it came as a complete surprise," Divac said in a statement issued through his agent, Marc Fleisher.

"I have filed all of the necessary documents required for postponing army duties on a regular basis with the Serbian embassy in the United States and the Department of Defense of Serbia and Montenegro. In my opinion, this is a non-issue and it will be resolved in the next couple of days."

Divac, who lives in Los Angeles, could face a one-year prison sentence in his native country if he does not join the army soon, legal experts said in Serbia-Montenegro.

He ended his 16-year NBA playing career last month, taking a job with the Los Angeles Lakers as a liaison and scout in Europe.

Divac was one of the first Europeans to have a major impact in the NBA. He was first drafted by the Lakers in 1989, and later played for the Charlotte Hornets and the Sacramento Kings.

He joined centers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Hakeem Olajuwon as the only players in NBA history to get 13,000 points, 9,000 rebounds, 3,000 assists and 1,500 blocked shots.

Divac is hugely popular in Serbia for helping Yugoslavia to silver medals at the 1988 and 1996 Olympics, and leading the country now known as Serbia-Montenegro to a gold medal at the 2002 World Championships.

At one point, there were widespread public calls for Divac to join a presidential race after former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic was ousted in 2000.

"Throughout my professional basketball career, I have always voiced my patriotism for my native land," Divac said. "My fellow countrymen are well aware of my contributions and know how much I care for Serbia and Montenegro."


Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press

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