By Stefan Djordjevic/ email@example.com
Panathinaikos OPAP announced that the team has reached an agreement with Mario Hezonja for the remainder of the 2020-21 season.
The addition comes just a couple of days before the EuroLeague deadline for registering new players to the competition on February 24th. Barcelona had the chance to match the offer of Panathinaikos and sign the player, but the Spanish club decided to comply with the wishes of the Croatian forward who wanted to play for the Greeks. As it was later announced, Barcelona will retain in the summer of 2021 the European rights of the player and will be able to be a factor in his future, if he stays in the old continent.
Hezonja will have the chance to return to action and finish the season playing in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague and the Greek League while preparing for the upcoming pre-Olympic tournament in which the Croatian national team will fight for a spot in Tokyo 2021.
The 25 years old Croatian spent the 2019-20 season with the Portland Trail Blazers, averaging 4.8 points and 3.5 rebounds across 16 minutes in 53 games.
Per Panathinaikos OPAP:
Panathinaikos OPAP announces the deal with Mario Hezonja until the end of the 2020/2021 season.
We would like to warmly thank the management of FC Barcelona for the excellent cooperation that contributed to the completion of the transfer.
Mario Hezonja who was born on 25 February 1995 is a Croatian professional basketball player. He was selected with the fifth overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft by the Orlando Magic.
Hezonja was promoted to the club level in his native Croatia when he was 12 years old, and at the age of 13, he stayed for two seasons with Dubrovnik. In 2010, Hezonja signed a contract with the Croatian club KK Zagreb. In 2011, he won the Nike International Junior Tournament with Zagreb.
In July 2012, Hezonja signed a three-year contract with Spanish club Barcelona, at the age of 17. For the 2012–13 season, he was loaned to the reserve team of the club: Barcelona B of the LEB Oro, the Spanish second-tier level division.
He played in the EuroLeague for the first time, in the 2012–13 season. He appeared in only 2 games, averaging 2.5 points and 2 rebounds per game.
During the EuroLeague’s 2013–14 season, Hezonja became a more constant part of Barcelona’s first team rotation, although playing very limited minutes.
Starting with the 2014–15 season, Hezonja’s role in the team increased to around 15 minutes per game, on a constant basis.
On 1 February 2015, Hezonja hit 8-of-8 from the three-point line in a 2014–15 Spanish League season game, in a 101–53 Barcelona win, against La Bruixa d’Or Manresa, becoming the Spanish League MVP for the week 19 of the season. Over 22 EuroLeague games played, Hezonja averaged 7.7 points, 2 rebounds, and 1 assist per game.
On 25 June 2015, Hezonja was selected with the fifth overall pick by the Orlando Magic in the 2015 NBA draft. On 10 July 2015, he signed his rookie scale contract with the Magic. He finished the season making 79 appearances with the averages of 6.1 points, 2.2 rebounds, and 1.4 assists on a 43.3 field goal percentage.
On 31 October 2017, Hezonja’s fourth-year option was not picked up by the Orlando Magic. On 6 July 2018, Hezonja signed a one-year, $6.5 million deal with the New York Knicks.
On 3 July 2019, Hezonja signed a two-year, $3.7 million deal with the Portland Trail Blazers.
Hezonja was named Most Valuable Player of the 2011 FIBA Europe Under-16 Championship, after leading his team with a double-double in the final, 21 points, 10 rebounds, and three steals. Over the tournament, he averaged 20 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 2.7 assists. He was named to the All-Tournament Team of the 2012 FIBA Under-17 World Cup.
Hezonja was part of the senior Croatian national team that participated in the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup. He also represented Croatia at the EuroBasket 2015. He represented Croatia at the 2016 Summer Olympics, where they finished in 5th place.