Springtime Is Saric-Time

20 March 2013

EUROBASKET 2013

20. Dario Saric (Croatia)
Worried a little too much about his free-throw shooting: Dario Saric

When Cibona took on fellow Zagreb based club Cedevita in the Adriatic League on Sunday, the game marked a special day for teenage sensation Dario Saric.

It had been 100 days for the youngster at his new offices.

Coming off a magnificent summer in national team colours, Saric went through a problematic transfer period, watching his deal with Spanish side Bilbao Basket being cancelled and media talking about him for the wrong reasons.

The saga came to a long-awaited end on 28 November 2012, when the forward signed a four-year deal with Cibona Zagreb.

Saric debuted for his new club on 9 December 2012 in Adriatic League action against Cedevita, making sure he is back in the limelight for the right - sporting - reasons.

He spent 20 minutes on the court, finishing with eight points, four rebounds and five assists to help his team claim victory.

Three months later the result was in favour of Cedevita, but the stat line of Saric read similarly: five points, seven rebounds and seven assists in 27 minutes on the court.

The amount of attention has however diminished, with the cameras not exclusively focusing on the 18-year-old.

Saric is widely considered to be Croatia's greatest basketball prospect, and with his performances at youth level freshly conserved in the minds of fans and media, the wunderkind is expected to do even more wonder.

The 2.08m forward turned heads at last year's U18 European Championship, leading Croatia to the gold medal with a 39-point, 11-rebound double-double in the final against Lithuania and was consequently voted MVP of the tournament.

Dario Saric (Croatia)
Dario Saric is a night-mare for opponents in his age-group, showing great all-around skills every summer

He went on to make his debut for the senior national team and helped the Croatians clinch qualification to EuroBasket 2013 in Slovenia.

His current stats with Cibona in the Adriatic League - 7.8 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game - may not compete with his summer achievements on paper, but fit in the development scheme of a player who had to find his role on a new team and who will not turn 19 before April.

"I also expected to adapt faster, but it is not that easy to immediately fit in a team of such quality," Saric told Croatian newspaper Jutarnji List, promising his time is yet to come.

"I don't know why, but also in the past years, January and February were not my time. From April to June though I'd play like having been reborn."

He will hope his renaissance will include a major improvement on his free-throw shooting, as he is only converting 50 per cent of his penalty shots.

"The problem is a psychological one. I am not missing the shots because of the NBA scouts who frequently come to Zagreb, but rather because I think too much about how to position my hands.

"There's a saying for a reason that free throws are shots for dummies. My friends are joking that I'm at least no bonehead then," Saric added with a smile.

There is no doubt about the Croatian having a good head on his shoulders. He has proved his determination and passion for basketball ever since he stepped out at the U16 European Championship in 2009.

Having made his international debut with KK Zagreb in the EuroChallenge at the tender age of 15, Saric has kept both feet on the ground and focused on improving his game.

He is proving his work ethic in practice every day.

"Before morning practice with the team I shoot until I make approximately 300 field goals and 100 free throws. Before evening practice I work out another hour in the gym.

"My ambition for perfection pushes me. That's why I am disappointed if we still lose games despite six, seven hours of practice, if I miss my free throws or my shot is inconsistent," he explained.

Jasmin Repesa (Head Coach Croatia)
Jasmin Repesa knows about the talent of Saric, but will he take him all the way to EuroBasket 2013?

"I don't want to be one of the players that will only be praised for their defence.

"I know I have to play it [defence], but please let at least 20 per cent of the accolade come for my offence."

His offensive skill set hasn't gone unnoticed and it will further spark the talk once come summer, with scouts waiting to get another glimpse of his talent.

Saric however admits that the NBA is not on his mind yet and that he only thinks about the remainder of the season and the national team.

"Talks on the new season are far away right now; Cibona's plans also need to be considered.

"My plan for the summer is to play at the U19 World Championship, and if I play well I believe that [Jasmin] Repesa will invite me to the preparations of the senior national team," Saric concluded.

In the meantime, he has plenty of time to work on his letter of recommendation. After all, there are numerous days to spend at the office and a renaissance yet to come.

 


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