By Semih Tuna/ Stuna@eurohoops.net
Selected with the 23rd overall pick of the 2016 NBA draft by the Boston Celtics, Ante Zizic ended up playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers and opted to redirect his career back to Europe after three years in the NBA.
“Looking back, the NBA was a good experience for me. At some point, I was saying it was a bad experience. But no, I was wrong,” he told Eurohoops during the preseason Media Day held by Anadolu Efes in view of the 2022-23 edition of the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague.
Backed by a brilliant campaign at Darussafaka Dogus under David Blatt, he made his way to the NBA, after his NBA rights were part of a trade between the Celtics and Cavs. In his rookie season, Cleveland led by LeBron James played in the 2018 NBA Finals and was swept by the Golden State Warriors.
“I spent three amazing seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers. In my first season, we made it all the way to the Finals. I played with some big names like LeBron [James]. Dwyane Wade. Both superstars, future Hall of Famers. We won the Eastern Conference Finals and went to the NBA Finals. Huge. For my first year in the NBA, that was amazing,” said Zizic.
“The situation for me was not very great. Because in the first year I did not play a lot but I did get some minutes and played well. I was on a team attempting to win the NBA championship. In this kind of team, you are happy whatever your role,” he added, “In my second and third year, I was in a rebuilding team. Instead of aiming to win the championship, we developed young players. It was very challenging mentally. I did not have a great opportunity.”
“When I was preparing for the NBA, I was looking to go to Boston. They drafted me, they stashed me one season,” he mentioned referring to the initial plan, “That trade happened. That is all behind me now. I did not play as much as I wanted to play. That was the reason for me to come back to Europe.”
“It was an easy decision,” he was clear on the move, “When you get invited by the European champions, then you don’t need to think a lot. These opportunities maybe come once in your life. I was delighted and proud to become a part of this organization.”
Zizic, 25, was a limited participant in the first international window focused on the 2023 FIBA World Cup Qualifiers. From there, he missed the cut for the 2022 EuroBasket. “I did not get invited for the final roster of 2022 EuroBasket. That’s it,” he said.
“[Nikola] Jokic said ‘people don’t care about basketball, they care for the medals,’. The mentality is the same in Croatia. People care about the medals, about winning the European championship,” he furthered in the struggles of the Croatia national team in recent FIBA tournaments, “Of course, people are losing interest. Basketball in Croatia is going lower and lower.”
Over three EuroLeague campaigns, Zizic has averaged 10.2 points and 5.6 rebounds per game over 85 appearances.