The youngest EuroLeague debuts this century

28/Feb/19 12:50 February 28, 2019

Antonis Stroggylakis

28/Feb/19 12:50
BADALONA SPAIN FEBRUARY 26: in action during the ULEB Cup Last 32 Game 2 between Dkv Joventut and Allianz Swans Gmungden at the Pabellon Municipal De Deportes on February 26, 2008 in Badalona, Spain. (Photo by Rodolfo Molina/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images)

With less than 50 seconds remaining and his Buducnost VOLI Podgorica team losing 82-74 to host Zalgiris Kaunas last Friday, Jasmin Repesa decided to put 15-year-old Montenegrin guard Fedor Zugic in the game.

By Antonis Stroggylakis/

In so doing, Repesa helped Zugic make history. By entering the floor at 15 years and 157 days of age, Zugic became the youngest player to appear in a EuroLeague game this century.

AX Armani Exchange Olimpia Milan star Mike James was one of the first to congratulate the Zugic on his EuroLeague debut. “Fedor Zugic…. Young fella!!!! Be great young man.. keep working,” James tweeted.

Would Repesa have let Zugic play if the game was, let’s say, 82-80? Most likely not.

These kinds of situations have provided coaches with the opportunity to send youngsters on the court in the past, too. In part, that’s why we’ve seen EuroLeague players debuting at 15 or 16 years of age.

The truth is that the age at which a player makes his EuroLeague debut doesn’t determine his talent or his potential. That’s why the list of the 10 youngest players in EuroLeague history features stars or veterans of the competition, but also several players whose debuts were their sole appearances in the competition.

Fedor Zugic

EuroLeague debut: 15 years, 157 days old

Debut stats: 0 points, 0/0 shots in 42 seconds

A sold-out Zalgirio Arena is the ideal atmosphere for a young player’s first EuroLeague game. And Fedor Zugic experienced exactly that, even though Buducnost didn’t leave Lithuania with a winning result.

Buducnost acquired Zugic after the latter’s rather productive performances (18.9 points, 4.9 rebounds) in last summer’s U16 European championship. He played 13 games in the Montenegrin League on loan to Studentski Centar but now he’s back with Buducnost and competing in the Junior ABA League with the U19 team.

Srdjan Zivkovic

EuroLeague debut: 15 years, 202 days old

Debut stats: 0 points, 0/1 shots in 3:00

Before Friday’s night, Srdjan Zivkovic was the record-holder for being the youngest player to have appeared in a EuroLeague game. Zivkovic did so during an 86-77 win by his team, Partizan Belgrade, over Telindus Oostende in the opening game of the 2001-02 regular season. That was the first and last EuroLeague game for Zivkovic, who parted ways with Partizan in 2003 and then continued his career in various non-EuroLeague Balkan clubs. He last played for Nyon in Switzerland before his retirement.

Aleksandar Ugrinoski

EuroLeague debut: 15 years, 266 days old

Debut stats: 0 points, 0/2 shots in 1:30

Aleksandar Ugrinoski has been playing with Cibona Zagreb since he was 14 years old and took part in the first Euroleague Basketball international junior tournament in 2003 before his 2003-04 promotion. That was the season when he participated in his first EuroLeague game, a blowout 92-63 regular season win of the Croatian team over Partizan Belgrade.

Following the completion of the 2005-06 season, during which he played in two EuroLeague games, Urgrinoski left Cibona. He had a stint with the Utah in the NBA’s D-League and declared for the 2010 NBA Draft, but wasn’t selected and stopped basketball three years later at 25.

Can Maxim Mutaf

EuroLeague debut: 15 years, 318 days old

Debut stats: 0 points, 0/0 shots in 15 seconds.

On November 23, 2006, then Fenerbahce coach Aydin Ors gave the young Can Maxim Mutaf the brief, but surely memorable experience of wetting his EuroLeague feet in Palau Blaugrana against Barcelona. Fener lost 84-70 but that was most likely a game Mutaf will never forget.

Mutaf was loaned to various teams through his years with Fenerbahce, which ended in 2013. In the meantime, he was a regular on Turkish national team youth squads, winning the bronze medal in the 2009 U18 European championships. He returned to the EuroLeague in 2016-17 with Anadolu Efes and now he’s playing with Besiktas. That’s three of the four major Turkish powerhouses that Mutaf has played for, so far.

Manuchar Markhoisvihli

EuroLeague debut: 15 years, 327 days old

Debut stats: 0 points, 0/1 shots, 1 steal in 3:00 minutes.

Here’s the first player on the list who proceeded to become a EuroLeague staple after debuting as a young teenager. That’s not surprising, since we are also talking about the youngest player to ever appear in a Final Four.

Markoishvili stepped onto a EuroLeague court for the first time in Round 1 of the 2002-03 season as Benetton Treviso routed Pau Orthez 94-73. Despite his young age, he remained an option on the rotation, enough to accumulate 131 minutes that season. He even participated in the both of Benetton’s Final Four matches, the victorious semifinal vs. Montepaschi Siena and the loss to Barcelona in the championship game. His basket against Barcelona made him the youngest scorer in a Final Four, too.

Since his debut, Markoishvili has played 125 EuroLeague games with such teams as CSKA Moscow, Galatasaray, Union Olimpija and Cantu.

Gino Cuccarolo

EuroLeague debut: 15 years, 318 days old

Debut stats: 0 points, 0/0 shots in 15 seconds.

A rout is a what hands coaches a fine chance of bringing in the youngsters, and that’s what Ettore Messina did when his Benetton Treviso team was beating ASVEL Villeurbanne 80-59 on November 26, 2003. Late in that game, Gino Cuccarolo got his first taste of a EuroLeague match.

It would be one of just two EuroLeague games that Cuccarolo played in his career. The Italian center stayed with Benetton until 2012 (with some loans to other teams) but by then the team was competing in the EuroCup. Cuccarolo is now playing in Italy’s third division team Fiorentina Basket.

Ricky Rubio

EuroLeague debut: 16 years, 3 days

Debut stats: 2 points, 1/1 shots, 3 assists, 1 rebound, 4 turnovers in 12:30

It was the first game of the 2006-07 season and Joventut Badalona was hosting Panathinaikos Athens at home in the Spanish team’s return to the top-tier for the first time since 1995. Joventut head coach Aito Garcia Reneses trusted Rubio enough to put him in the game for 12 minutes. Rubio had played in the Spanish League since he was 14, and his coach was well aware of the rare talent he had at his disposal.

Although he was just 16 years old, Rubio remained a steady playmaking and defensive asset off the bench for Reneses throughout the season as a backup to veteran Elmer Bennett. His minutes increased as the season progressed, and he ended up averaging 20:27 in the Top 16.

The rest is history for Rubio. He went on to win the EuroLeague title with Barcelona in 2010. Indeed, Rubio remains the only EuroLeague champion on this list of the youngest players to make their debuts in the competition.

Uros Tripkovic

EuroLeague debut: 16 years, 28 days

Debut stats: 0 points, 0/0 shots in 1:00

Uros Tripkovic more than established himself in the EuroLeague rotation of Partizan Belgrade at a relatively young age, when he was 18 years old. But he had already made his baby steps in the competition much earlier.

It was October 9, 2002, and Round 1 of the regular season when Tripkovic got an idea, albeit a short one, of what a EuroLeague game is all about. Partizan fell to Real Madrid 82.86 in Belgrade.

Tripkovic proceeded to become a core member of Partizan from 2004 to 2009. He amassed 818 points in 87 games and was considered a player who could make a notable career based on his shooting skills. However, he faced injury issues and didn’t have the career many expected of him after his Partizan days. These struggles were also the reason he hung up his shoes at just 28 years old.