IN case you haven’t heard, something’s happening in European basketball. The same competition that housed the likes of Manu Ginobili, Andrei Kirilenko, Ricky Rubio and Miloš Teodosić is perhaps the second-best basketball league in the world, and amongst the men battling it out for a potential shot at the big time is an 18-year-old capturing headlines around the globe. His name is Luka Doncic.
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THE Slovenian national has been hooping for Real Madrid for three seasons now and is expected to be one of the first players drafted in 2018 should he decide to declare he’s ready for the NBA. He was the recipient of Euroleague’s Rising Star award last season and currently throwing up 19.1 points, 6.1 rebounds, 4.2 assists a game it’s clear that handing him the trophy was justifiable.
DONCIC’S success didn’t happen overnight though. In fact, for years the teenager has been groomed for stardom with the highly touted kid dominating youth basketball forcing Real Madrid to offer him a five-year contract at the tender age of 13. Of course, his performance in the 2012 Under-13 Lido di Roma Tournament justified the signing alone, with Doncic scoring 54 points to go along with his 11 rebounds and 10 assists.
PART of his success can be attributed to his father Sasa Doncic, who played professionally for close to 20 years in Slovenia. While Sasa was never able to make his way to the NBA, he had some familiar teammates throughout his playing days, including Goran Dragic whom he won the Slovenian League championship with in ’08 playing for Union Olimpija.
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THE younger Doncic has had the pleasure of playing alongside Dragic too, with the Miami Heat guard signing the praises of the young phenom. Repping Slovenia in the EuroBasket 2017 tournament together, they helped their home country go undefeated and claim it’s first gold medal in the competition’s 40-year history.
DONCIC wasn’t just there to make up the numbers either with as he was named on the All-Tournament Team alongside his teammate, peer and MVP winner Dragic. In fact, Doncic could have made a run at the MVP trophy himself had it not been for an ankle injury which he suffered in the championship game.
BOASTING averages of 14.3 points, 8.1 rebounds, 3.6 assists through the tournament, he still had noteworthy performances. Amongst them was a near triple-double (11 points, 12 rebounds and 8 assists) against a Spain side littered with NBA talent and a 27-point outburst against another young European star, Kristaps Porzingis.
AT 6-8 and weighing 220+ pounds the unique blend of size, poise, playmaking and shooting make Doncic a ready-made NBA prospect and GM’s are taking note. From the age of 16, he has been playing against grown men and Doncic seems to have benefitted greatly from doing so. His outburst just a few months ago at EuroBasket against top-level talent back up his EuroLeague performances, indicating he’s ready for the big time.
WE all have to prepare ourselves for the realistic possibility that he decides to stay with Real Madrid beyond this season. With the maturity he is playing with at such a young age though, it expect to see Doncic in an NBA uniform 12 months from now though. And I can’t wait. With a legitimate chance of being the first name called come draft night, scouts are flocking to Real Madrid games to see what he is capable of. The scary part is, we aren’t sure.
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