A Dario triple-double? Now that’s good timing

March Madness ended on Monday. On Tuesday Dario Saric, having just signed a new agent, delivered a triple-double with perfect timing to get the attention of NBA scouts. His 20 points, 13 board, and 10 assists in Cibona’s 96-70 Croatian Cup semi-final win over KK Zagreb. Super Dario certainly knows when to pick his moment.


Rumor: Anadolu Efes to pay for, transfer Saric to KK Split

Now here’s an encouraging rumor about Dario Saric’s potentially disastrous contract situation: According to Euro-Step, one team which can afford to do so will step up to foot the €550,000 transfer fee demanded by KK Zagreb to release the Croatian wunderkind.

As rumor has it, “Nikola Vujcic is acting as an intermediary” in a deal which would have “Saric sign[ing] with Anadolu Efes before joining KK Split on loan.”

Saric has reportedly been working out with Split for the month he’s been in contract limbo. Originally slated to play for Bilbao Basket of the Liga Endesa this season, the transfer was stopped when the now-second division Zagreb club demanded at least €1 million to win the prospect’s services. FIBA arbitrators ruled that the price would be €550,000.

Hopefully things will work out for The Next Big Thing Out of Croatia, who had been looking at the prospect of a Kanteresque sat-out season as Saric looks to continue moving up his basketball career ladder.

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European present, NBA future? Five more rights-owned draftees to watch in 2012-13

NBA Europe Live Tour and Euroleague American Tour games tip off tomorrow, giving a few fan bases a glimpse at some possible future prospects already drafted and with rights owned by a big league club.

Following up on yesterday’s brief look at five rights-owned European players developing their games on The Continent, today is offered another quintet for your consideration. Fans of Chicago, Charlotte, and San Antonio will particularly want to pay attention – and tune into some Euroball in 2012-13…

• PF Nikola Mirotic, Real Madrid (2011 NBA draftee; rights owned by the Chicago Bulls).
Few players are more greatly anticipated – and few could be more immediately useful to such an injury-prone frontcourt – in Chicago than Nikola Mirotic.

Mirotic rolled on last season after bagging the Euroleague Rising Star award for 2010-11, nearly doubling his EL scoring average from 6.6 to 12.5 ppg; not to mention a like increase in touches. Unfortunately for Bulls backers, Mirotic is contracted to Real through 2016 –although he’ll only be 25 years old by then and BiE wouldn’t be surprised to see Chicago at least attempt a hefty buyout within the next four seasons.

(To induce further covetousness in the Windy City, check out the 26-point, 10-rebound, 46-PIR damage Mirotic did in Real’s game two Liga Endesa victory over Blancos de Rueda Valladolid last night…)

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Who needs the Adriatic League?

With the recent announcement that the 2011-12 champions won’t in fact be seeking a second go-around in the Adriatic League and hard economic realities facing many Serbian and Croatian clubs, BallinEurope contributor Marko Savkovic today asks the hard question about one of Europe’s most prestigious associations.

Something is always up in the Adriatic League. After Maccabi Tel Aviv informed the league about its decision not to participate in next year’s competition, sportswriters started looking for a replacement but one announcement caught everyone’s attention: ULEB, it seems, has considered cutting number of teams entering the competition directly to just two. Therefore, whoever finishes third will go to qualifications. If agreed upon, this decision will become effective beginning in the 2013-14 season.

This is yet another blow to a proud basketball nation, since Belgrade powerhouse Partizan has failed – once again – in its efforts to receive a Euroleague’s “A” license.

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NIJT wrap: Lietuvos Rytas takes title; plus, BiE’s nine European (and one Chinese) prospects to watch

Sanli: Glue guy, team player

Congratulations this afternoon go out to the Lietuvos Rytas junior team, which handled home team Fenerbahçe Ülker in the championship game of the 2012 Nike International Junior Tournament. Before something of a sedate crowd (perhaps folks here are a bit sedate and/or hungover after last night’s city-rocking goalless match – hey, it’s football – in which Galatasaray took the Turkish league title over FBU), L. Rytas controlled tempo, game and scoreboard throughout for an 88-70 victory in Istanbul.

Now that the proverbial fat lady has sung, BiE goes through 10 names European basketball and NBA fans might want to keep track of in the medium-term future – some of these guys are certainly destined for international stardom before decade’s end. Please note that the following are not necessarily the best players in the tournament, but rather those who BiE believes have the most upside or could simply surprise those not in-the-know once they’ve risen to the next level.

BiE’s “Who’s Who” from the 2012 NIJT includes the following.

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Nike International Junior Tournament: Lietuvos Rytas torches Crvena Zvezda to reach finals

Just completed was the deciding game in Group A of the Nike International Junior Tournament – and for Crvena Zvezda the results were ugly indeed.

While Dusan Ristic had his now-standard killer game for the Croatian side with 21 points and 10 rebounds, the tenacious play of the Lithuanians (clearly still rolling from their incredible second half against FC Barcelona yesterday) resulted in a huge 105-69 victory for Lietuvos Rytas. Augustinas Jankaitis chased his double-double of 16/13 yesterday – and augmented his chances of ultimately being named MVP of this tourney – with an amazing 30-point, 11-rebound performance.

Once again, Crvena Zvezda appeared to consciously eschew a physical game, a style which this Lithuanian side is not at all afraid to play. L. Rytas won the battle of the boards handily, with 39 against the Red Star’s mere 26.

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Notes from the Nike International Junior Tournament, day two

BallinEurope took in a couple of Nike International Junior Tournament games today – namely, Crvena Zvezda vs. Anadolu Efes and Lietuvos Rytas vs. FC Barcelona. A few brief impressions gleaned follow.

• Early on, Crvena Zvezda appeared intimidated by Anadolu Efes, a much more physical team than the previous day’s opponent, FC Barcelona – but somehow while the Red Stars mostly shied away from going inside and gave up turnovers by the bundle, big man Marko Tejic somehow amassed three fouls in less than three minutes.

• In the first half, Crvena Zvezda showed their fantastic wiles with tight defensive rotations and traps, though proving susceptible on the baseline; this allowed the larger frontcourt of Efes to score essentially every time a guard managed to find his man there.

• Speaking of those Efes guards, BiE’s eye was caught by the play of Furkan Bayrak and particularly Cedi Osman. Both showed nice game-management skills and in fact the Efes lead began to noticeably crumble when Bayrak and Osman both sat for a spell, allowing Crvena Zvezda to knot things up at 22 in the second quarter.

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Notes from the Nike International Junior Tournament, day one

As befits tradition, the 2012 Nike International Junior Tournament is running in parallel with the Euroleague Final Four competition in Istanbul. Eight youth league teams are competing for the grand prize – and, individually speaking, to garner some attention from club scouts as each player’s career burgeons on the big stage.

In the bigger picture, the NIJT games (and introductory qualifying tournaments) also serve as a handy barometer of club play on the national level. After day one, then, it’s good news for Croatia and Lithuania, whose homegrown squads swept, and bad news for Turkey, as powerhouses Fenerbahçe Ülker and Anadolu Efes both lost. And what’s up with FC Barcelona…?

KK Zagreb 79, Fenerbahçe Ülker 76
As though The Next Big Thing Out Of Croatia, a.k.a. 2011 NIJT MVP Dario Saric, weren’t enough, NIJT competitors will also apparently now have to take notice of Dominik Mavra as well. While Saric put in a ridiculous man-among-boys performance of 26 points, 17 rebounds, six assists and five steals, Mavra “added” 30 points and six boards as the pair consistently foiled any attempt by Fenerbahçe to establish their tempo: Each went to the free-throw line 12 times in the game and accounted for over 70% of the Croatian side’s points.

Crvena Zvezda 86, FC Barcelona Regal 77
The much-touted Blaugrana suffered a disappointing performance against Crvena Zvezda to take a nine-point loss after going up 18-12 in the first quarter and 20-15 after 10 minutes of play. Worse for Spanish basketball, Barcelona’s main contributors were foreigners Ludde “El Matador Sueco” Hakanson, Nick Spires and Alexandr Zhigulin. Crvena Zvezda’s big men pretty much had their way with Barça’s – even Spires’ 13 points belies his frustrating 4-of-15 overall shooting – as Serbia’s Dusan Ristic put in a crushing 23-point, 12-rebound (including six offensive) show.

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What makes the Partizan “system” of basketball?

BallinEurope today welcomes Marko Savkovic into its corps as the Serbia-based writer takes a look at just what has made Partizan Belgrade basketball tick through its many years of success…

In December, Armani Jeans Milano denied Partizan Belgrade from playing in its sixth consecutive Top 16 phase of the Euroleague. And yet again, in what is now considered a trademark display of affection, fans continued singing to their players and the team they love after the buzzer. They were grateful for what they considered a memorable season in which their team again defeated the likes of Maccabi Tel Aviv and Real Madrid.

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Posters absoluts & Monsterdunken: The Eurocentric slam dunk of 2011 – plus 25 others

Before BallinEurope signs off for 2011, let’s give a late Christmas gift to the dunkaholics out there, shall we? Below runs a collection compiled through the year featuring dunks by Europeans, on Europeans or perhaps simply in Continental games.

The first 20 will listed by competition, followed the top five runners-up and the champion jam of the year. Who will be no. 1? Read (and watch) on to find out…

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