Los Angeles Clippers center Ivica Zubac had just watched the U18 squad of his former club Mega Basket beating Real Madrid‘s team in the Adidas Next Generation Tournament during the EuroLeague Final Four (19/5 – 21/5) in Belgrade, Serbia when he joined Eurohoops for a Q&A on his growth over the previous season and his goal to get a medal with Croatia in the 2022 FIBA EuroBasket.
“There’s a lot of talented guys on both teams,” Zubac told Eurohoops on the ANGT competition. Mega, by the way, went on to win the whole tournament Saturday (21/5) a few hours prior to the EuroLeague championship game. “I haven’t been in Belgrade for a few years now. To come back and watch some EuroLeague basketball is fun. A lot of the [ANGT] guys are talented. The next generation is in good hands.”
Zubac is fresh off his most productive run in his NBA trip so far. The 25-year-old center averaged career-highs in all statistical categories with 10.3 points, 8.5 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.0 blocks over
“I think I did better than the previous year,” Zubac, 25, said on his 2021-22 performances with the Clippers. “I think that I improved on some stuff. There was more opportunity for me offensively and I think I took advantage of that. We didn’t make the playoffs in the end but considering all the injuries and missing Paul George and Kawhi Leonard throughout the season, I think we did a pretty good job in the regular season. Fighting and finishing with a winning record.”
Zubac also played 24.4 minutes, the most since he arrived in the NBA for the Los Angeles Lakers in 2016. He was a starter in all of his 76 appearances.
“It’s great,” Zubac said about the trust he receives from Clippers coach Ty Lue. “I hope that keeps on going. Every year I get more and more minutes so, hopefully, by the next year I’ll get even more. The coach trusts me, the teammates trust me and I’m really enjoying my time there.”
The Clippers have until June 29 to exercise a $7.5 million team option on Zubac’s contract and they are widely expected to do it after the big man’s displays this last year and justified projections that he can improve further.
“I want to stay and I think they want to keep me,” Zubac said. “I think I should be there and they’re going to pick it up. I like Los Angeles a lot and I like the Clippers. It’s like a family to me. Hopefully, everything is going to work out.”
Once the Clippers situation is resolved, Zubac can fully focus on this summer’s big challenge: Getting ready for the EuroBasket.
Zubac was a star for Croatia’s youth squads, a silver medalist in the 2015 U19 World Championship and leading scorer of the team in the tournament. He made his debut with the senior roster in the 2019 World Cup Qualifiers but Croatia didn’t manage to advance.
This summer will mark Zubac’s return to the national team and it’s an ambitious one.
“I think we have a really good chance to do something in the EuroBasket this summer,” Zubac said. “We got a lot of good players and I think that this is the year that we’re all going to come together. We can get a good result. Of course [I’m committed]. I’ll be there. Hopefully, everyone else will. I think we have a good team and this is a good chance for us to finally fight for the medal.”
Croatia hasn’t been at the podium in a major summer competition since the 1995 EuroBasket and the era of Hall of Famers Toni Kukoc and Dino Radja. Zubac was born in 1997 so he never experienced his country’s national team winning something.
Now, he plans to help end that drought for Croatia, a country abundant with rich basketball history but that has bee any medal for over two decades.
“I was watching when I was growing up and it was always tough,” Zubac said on Croatia lacking a medal. “Seeing that we can’t get to the medal, we can’t get to those games. Now, that’s going to be my first big competition with the national team and I think we have a really good team. I’ll do whatever it takes and all of the guys are going to do whatever it takes. Everyone’s ready to finally get that medal.”
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