By Bugra Uzar/ firstname.lastname@example.org
Even though Ante Zizic had been producing some impressive numbers with Cibona Zagreb since the beginning of the season,with one dominant show after the other, the question if he can deliver in a superior level of basketball remained.
Then in just his second EuroLeague career match with his new team, Darussafaka Dogus, the 20-year-old Croatian center had a breakthrough performance against Maccabi, providing a solid sample of the talent and potential that the Boston Celtics recognized to select him with the 23th first-round pick in the 2016 NBA draft.
Not only does Zizic look ready for the NBA, but also eager to be there next season. Actually, as he confirmed to Eurohoops, he’s sure of joining the Celtics this summer. He also talks about why he signed with Darussafaka Dogus, how his new team helps him on the path to the NBA and the important role David Blatt has in his development.
Around Christmas you moved to Darussafaka Dogus from Cibona Zagreb, a team that built its game around you. Why did you decide to switch teams mid-season?
Cibona is a team that has helped me a lot in my career. I spent the last two years there. I improved my game a lot in many details. On defense and offense. I thank Cibona for giving me the opportunity to be a starter and a basic player in a squad.
Now… I chose Darussafaka Dogus because I want to prepare for the NBA. Because this summer I’m going to the NBA for sure. I think that the best preparation for the NBA is playing at the highest possible level. And EuroLeague provides that.
There’s also the fact that Darussafaka has a style of basketball that is similar to some NBA teams. They play in a fast tempo and their pace is quick. Of course nothing could’ve happened if David Blatt didn’t trust me and give me the opportunity to come here.
And how’s your adaption process going?
For me it’s easy because the guys in the team have helped me a lot. I know what the coach wants from me and I’m 100% focused on it. I’ve played a few very good games so far and I think I’m doing my job well.
David Blatt has also played a big part on your adjustment, right?
Yes. I met David Blatt three years ago in Maccabi Tel Aviv when I was 16 years old. I like him both as a person and as a coach. He’s a great individual and he knows basketball. Every single day he pushes me to get better and better. As I said, he’s one of the reasons I came to Darussafaka because I think he can prepare me for the NBA. I’m only here few weeks but I’ve already learned a lot from him.
What do you think of Darussafaka Dogus as a club?
It’s a great organization! They have… everything! Whatever I need, they give it to me in moments. There aren’t many clubs and organizations like Darussafaka in Europe.
How has the transition from a championship like ABA League to the advanced level of EuroLeague has been thus far?
EuroLeague is a big league. Of course I’m really happy course I have opportunity to play here. It’s like a dream to be honest. One month ago I was in Zagreb and Cibona, playing against teams that are not of really high level. And after few days I’m playing Barcelona or Maccabi, some of the biggest clubs in Europe. I’m very happy and thankful sharing the room with these guys int he team as well.
You talked about going to NBA next season. It’s your definite decision?
Yes, of course. I was selected in the first Round but I wanted to stay one more year overseas in order to prepare for the NBA. Now I’m playing in EuroLeague and the next step is NBA. I’m 99% sure that I’m going to be there on summer. I feel comfortable now and I think I’m ready for this step.
Tell me about the Boston Celtics. They have some great players and are doing really fine this season.
I’m always in touch with the guys from Celtics. They watch my game and they come visit me. Indeed, they play really, really good this season. They have a lot of potential as a team, because it’s a young team. They have players who can play great individual and team basketball. Next season I want to be a part what they’ll do.”