Marjan Crnogaj (CRO)

 

CroHoops.com Power Rankings 19-10-2010
Written by Marjan Crnogaj
Tuesday, 19 October 2010 12:30

 

#1 CEDEVITA ZAGREB (3-0) – This team, assembled by coach Aco Petrovic, mainly consists of specialists who can either  very good rebounders or shooting specialist from beyond 6,75m. G/F Marino Bazdaric meniscus injury will keep him out 6-8 weeks and give some more playing time to SF Damjan Rudez and young combo guard Dino Butorac.

 

Butorac already grabbed his chance and against Cibona last Friday demonstrated that he can still be effective in small spurts. This showing, along with excellent communication skills with media, helped him to climb all the way up from #18 to #4 on the new edition of CroHoops.com TOP 30 prospects list.

 

Although Aco Petrovic reportedly failed to persuade NBA veteran free agent Chucky Atkins to play for his team during his summer visit to States, he should be more than pleased with the skill set young and explosive Dontaye Draper brought to Cedevita’s backcourt. Being the fastest player on the floor Draper already reminds Croatian crowd on a young rookie named Chucky Atkins who once played for Aco.

 

Player to watch is definitely young F Tomislav Petrovic who use to play point guard for BC Zagreb even at senior level but has grown all the way to 6’7” and is currently flourishing in Petrovic’s system with unique skill set for a big man.

 

#2 BC ZAGREB (3-0) – Despite this team is unquestionably heading in the right direction baring in mind it’s 3-0 Adriatic League record overall team performance is definitely raising some very uncomfortable questions for the head coach Denis Bajramovic.

 

Although Bajramovic promised to build this team based on a “twin towers” combination of Croatian NT centers 7’1” Mario Kasun and 6’11” Luka Zoric he is evidently facing some major difficulties having them both play at the same time.

 

Bajramovic has also given his critics some solid ground with not giving a proper playing time to a versatile European phenom Dario Saric who has already proved that he can effectively play on this level with certain adjustments.

 

When on floor Saric is mostly playing with a bunch of guards in the line-up. Therefore,as a fake “four” he is forced to set the screens, move to far away from the ball and is generally not given a fair amount of touches with a ball which is all disrupting his overall abilities and confidence.

 

All this reflects in his overall stock – after more than 3 months as #1 on CroHoops.com TOP 30 Croatian prospects list slightly failed to #3. Due to inability of Croatian coaches to recognize his unlimited potential some scouts even wonder if BC Zagreb coaching staff is on it’s way to make the same mistakes Cibona did in the process of developing young prospect Tomislav Zubcic who is currently ranked as high as #2 on the new edition of CroHoops.com TOP 30 Croatian prospects list.

 

With all said coach Bajramovic is despite perfect team record definitely sitting on the hottest seat in Croatian basketball right now with half of a dozen of potential coaching replacements eyes focused on his every single move. Players to watch on this team are definitely Dario Saric and Mario Kasun as they form potentially the most intriguing inside-outside combination of the whole Adriatic League. But the problem is that this combination still exists exclusively on paper.

#3 CIBONA ZAGREB (1-2) – despite their youth they are a team to watch this season. If this team, labeled by many as “Cibona XL” because it’s overall links with player agency “XL”, manages to stay together for a years to come it could become one of the top European teams. But that’s one huge “if”.

 

Next couple of months will be instrumental for the young core of players led by swingman Bojan Bogdanovic and coached by Zdravko Radulovic. Bogdanovic can take every shoot he chooses to in any given moment. He has all permits he needs. Radosevic and Zubcic will enjoy even more playing time than last season but they must focus on their act in closing seconds of each and every game.

 

Newcomers PG Rok Stipcevic and F Mario Delas still have to make a huge adjustment to become a formidable parts of this potential nucleus of  future Croatian NT. Stipcevic has to share the ball more and focus on A/T ratio while Delas, who was named MVP of 2009 U19 World Championship in Zealand where he dominated thanks to his size, now has to improve his defensive footwork and long range shooting.

 

USC standout Marcus Johnson fits nicely into this new Cibona equotation and could become the next in the line of Cibona’s excellent player acquisitions  in the last couple of seasons (Alan Anderson, Jamont Gordon…). He MUST develop his outside shot to go with his nice D and unbelievable jumping ability.

 

Without their oldest players in F Marin Rozic and C Jure Lalic who are both projected for a comeback near the end of calender year expect inexperienced coach Zdravko Radulovic to have rough times, especially in Eurolague competition which begins for Cibona with the game at Barcelona on Thursday.

 

The word is out that Radulovic is a lock for the head coach position regardless of the count in W-L column. Player to watch on this team is definitely SG Goran Vrbanc who was projected as a Croatian NT starter in summer 2006 but was injury prone since than.

 

#4 BC ZADAR (0-3) – This team is fueled by an explosive guard duet of PG Jakov Vladovic and SG Marko Car, who is an potential scoring machine but unfortunately known for frequently losing his temper. Some stability in the middle will be ensured by veteran Slovenian PF Jurica Golemac and young prospective center Miro Bilan.
This team definitely lacks a back-up point guard and a true center.Although head coach Danijel Jusup is pretty desperate because of this deficiencies he was the one who let Vedran Morovic go away to Siroki, who didn’t like last years French League MVP Ricardo Greer and who is reportedly absolutely against signing of yet unproven prospect such as PG Aleksandar Ugrinoski.

 

Player to watch on this team is definitely SF Sime Olivari who will demonstrate his explosiveness on both ends of the floor whenever he’s given a chance. He is already a proven team player, while he has yet to improve his outside shot. He has just moved from #10 up to #7 on the new edition of the CroHoops.com TOP 30 Croatian prospects list.

 

Head coach Danijel Jusup is definitely sitting on the second hottest seat in whole Croatian basketball, next to Bajramovic of BC Zagreb.

 

#5 BC SPLIT(competes exclusively in the Croatian League, 2-0 record) – Signing of proven international center such as Nikola Vujcic turned things around for this young squad which nucleus won the last season’s Croatian U-18 Championship. Basketball is definitely back in the town of Kukoc, Radja and Tabak.

 

Nikola Vujcic inside presence has already enabled young prospects such as PG Toni Katic and F/C Filip Najev to approach each game more freely and to fully concetrate on their tasks.

 

Vujcic’s comeback will, if he decides to stay in Split until the end of the season, pay it’s dividends not only for BC Split results and attendance but also for a Croatian basketball in general.

 

Marjan Crnogaj is editor-in-chief of CroHoops.com.
He can be reached atmarjan.crnogaj@gmail.com

 

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ESPN “30 FOR 30″ PREMIERE: “Once Brothers”, Story of Petrovic and Divac
Tuesday, 12 October 2010 00:17

 

ESPN 30 FOR 30 – ONCE BROTHERS – PART 1
ESPN 30 FOR 30 – ONCE BROTHERS – PART 2
ESPN 30 FOR 30 – ONCE BROTHERS – PART 3
ESPN 30 FOR 30 – ONCE BROTHERS – PART 4
ESPN 30 FOR 30 – ONCE BROTHERS – PART 5
ESPN 30 FOR 30 – ONCE BROTHERS – PART 6

 

According to a special source close to CroHoops.com “The film got a great response on Hamptons Films Festival on Sunday 10-10-2010.”

 

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CIBONA ZAGREB: Turning Point?
Written by Marjan Crnogaj
Tuesday, 28 September 2010 18:19

 

With as much as 8 million Euros of debt and apparently left without the support of Zagreb mayor Milan Bandic, who is evidently beggning to realize all the burdens the word R-E-C-E-S-S-I-O-N has brought into his own populist universe, Cibona’s management had only one direction to turn – to the past.

 

Legendary coach Mirko Novosel, member of both Hall Of Fame and FIBA Hall Of Fame, decided to return to his pet project from the 1980s which is now facing it’s collapse. The words Novosel, a newly appointed Cibona’s adviser for sport development said today sound really encouraging for all Cibona fans:

“The situation in Cibona should be taken under the control in the next couple of years, and Cibona should again reach the peak of European basketball in the next two-three years. We have strength, we have numerous young talents and we know how to make players out of them.”

Novosel’s words sound encouraging, but a bit too ambitious at these extremely hard times for Cibona. Current club personnel and players have been left without pay over the entire summer, with the team reportedly holding practice sessions in the auxiliary hall inside Arena Zagreb.

 

Coach Zdravko Radulovic, who was one of the key players Novosel introduced to Cibona fans during his comeback session in 1990/91, is very excited to work with the top notch talents such as Bogdanovic, Zubcic, Radosevic and Delas, who all represent the potentially bright future of Croatian basketball.

 

In fact, according to the upcoming weekly CroHoops.com Croatian Report, this Cibona’s team already has as much talent and depth to make #2 on the list of best Croatian basketball teams at the moment only behind cross-town rival Cedevita.

 

But Radulovic’s relative coaching inexperience on international level, together with his reported ignorance of the newly designated three-point line at 6.75m could cost Cibona as many Euroleague victories as it’s youth movement cost it during the last season.

 

Novosel’s charisma could definitely help things work both on and off the court, but only if Cibona is already not left out of Euroleague owners future plans.

 

Marjan Crnogaj is editor-in-chief of CroHoops.com.
He can be reached atmarjan.crnogaj@gmail.com

 

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40 MINUTES OF TRUTH – PREVIEW: Croatia vs U.S.A.
Written by CroHoops.com Staff
Friday, 27 August 2010 23:20

 

HISTORY OF THE MATCH-UP: USA leads the series 3-0

1992 OLYMPIC GAMES IN BARCELONA, GROUP: Croatia 70, U.S.A.103
SHORT RESUME: with all eyes on the match-up of the future Chicago Bulls teammates Kukoc vs Pippen, Nets SG Drazen Petrovic was up to the task as expected and proved that he was already one of the NBA’s elite players.

 

1992 OLYMPIC GAMES IN BARCELONA, FINAL: Croatia 85, U.S.A. 117
SHORT RESUME: Croatia opened the game as best it could with C Franjo Arapovic dunking one down on a fastbreak and gaining a historical 26:25 lead for Croatia. But Barkley scored the three-pointer on the next possesion and the rest is history.

 

1996 OLYMPIC GAMES IN ATLANTA, GROUP: Croatia 71, U.S.A, 102
SHORT RESUME: talented Croatian guards Mulaomerovic and Rimac were left undrafted in the 1996 NBA Draft and were eager to prove themselves against The Dream Team III. With both Kukoc and Radja performing below their NBA level Toronto Raptors C Zan Tabak picked up the slack and scored 19 points (on 8-13 shooting from the field).

 

2010 EXHIBITION RECORDS


- Croatia 9-3 (losses coming from Lithuania, Greece and Russia)

- USA 3-0 (wins over France, Lithuania and Spain)

 

PROBABLE STARTERS

CROATIA

PG Roko Ukic, Fenerbahce Ulker

SG Zoran Planinic, CSKA Moscow

SF Marko Tomas, Fenerbahce Ulker

PF Ante Tomic, Real Madrid

Luka Zoric, BC Zagreb

 

USA

PG Chauncey Billups, Denver Nuggets

SG Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls

SF Kevin Durant, Oklahoma Thunder

PF Lamar Odom, L.A. Lakers

C Tyson Chandler, Charlotte Bobcats

 

SHORT PREVIEW

In order to keep it close Croatia should play the best game it can at the moment given the injuries of it’s backcourt players over the summer (Ukic, Kus, Planinic). If the Croatia sticks to the game plan, scoring open shots and attacking the offensive boards effectively, it’s starting unit could stay close.

 

However the performance of Croatian NT bench reinforcements (Popovic, Bogdanovic, Loncar, Andric) will determine if this game will become just a regular or a blow-out loss.

 

In the best case scenario this game could stay close until the last couple of minutes but this is when Mike Krzyzewski’s Hall of Fame type experience takes over Joke Vrankovic’s limited Euroleague experience with Cibona.

 

In any case, this game should be just a formality for Team USA if it ‘s players give their best on the floor. Croatian NT should save their strength for the next important Group B games (vs Brazil and Slovenia) while trying hard not to embarrass itself in front of a global audience.

 

Nevertheless, expect Croatian NT players to enter the game with a nothing-to-lose attitude because they’ve already been outcasted too many times before.

 

KEYS TO WIN THE GAME

 

CROATIA

1 – slow down the tempo either with hitting shots or not committing turnovers
2 – attack the offensive boards being aware that Chandler is the only true center out there
3 – install the zone defense to protect the basket from “pick and role” schemes

 

USA

1 – apply defensive pressure in massive extent in order to create easy transition baskets
2 – protect the basket from easy drives and prevent offensive rebounding
3 – exploit favorable match-ups, especially try to have a big night from Kevin Durant

 

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2010 CROATIAN JUNIOR CHAMPIONSHIP FINAL FOUR, MAY 22nd – 23rd 2010: Split CO takes the trophy, Split CO forward Josip Matic wins MVP award
Written by Marjan Crnogaj
Saturday, 29 May 2010 10:28

 

The basketball stadium at Split’s Gripe was the first and most decisive step in the international careers of Toni Kukoc, Dino Radja, Zan Tabak and many others. Now, two decades after the beginning of their road to glory, the usually empty legendary Arena hosted the annual Croatian Junior Final Four and drew a  significant crowd that came to see the most talented young Croatian U18 players.

 

The General impression among numerous scouts is that the level of talent in Croatian basketball has dramatically decreased in the last couple of decades. Despite that, this generation led by Split CO dominant 6’9” center Filip Najev and Zagreb CO 16-year old phenom Dario Saric managed to put together a spectacular final game, which will surely be remembered.

 

GAMES BREAKDOWN

 

1st Semifinal Cedevita vs Zagreb CO: this was an up-tempo game with constant lead changes during the first 3 quarters of the game. With both team very good distance shooting the Zagreb team, led by phenomenal Dario Saric, managed to control the lead in the 3rd quarter and hold onto it until the end of the game. Both teams demonstrated the ability to knock down the open long distance shot throughout the whole game, but the difference in this one was the inside presence of Saric and his froncourt colleague Miroslav Ljoljic.

 

2nd Semifinal – Split CO vs Cibona Zagreb: from the very beginning, the home team was able to cash-in their inside presence as well as international experience on the both ends of the floor. The MVP of this game was Split’s center Filip Najev who scored 24 points to go along 12 rebounds and 4 blocked shots. He completely dominated all of Cibona’s interior defenders. Even though Cibona’s players have been specially mentally prepared for this one, they were simply not up to the task and have demonstrated an extremely poor shot selection. Both teams shot surprisingly poor from the line.

 

3rd place game – Cibona Zagreb 60, Cedevita 71:  Cibona continued with it’s sloppy play from the semifinal game. Cedevita took advantage of this and took a halftime lead of 42:25. However, Cibona was able to storm back with an unbelievable 13:0 run and make it only 42:38 for Cedevita. The game was open until the middle of the 4th quarter when Cedevita’s guards Rogic and Benkovic hit some critical long distance shots to secure the victory for their team. Over the whole course of the game Cibona played without a true point guard and was not able to execute and finish plays. At certain moments, Cibona players looked disoriented on the floor while failing to make any kind of floor movement.

 

The Final – Split CO 79, Zagreb CO 68: this was a game to remember. Even though his jumper was off from the beginning of the game, phenom Dario Saric managed to hold his team close over the whole course of the game. Even though he was chased all over the floor by literally every Split player and frequently doubled, and even triple-teamed, he really amazed everyone in the building with his moves. But much of his opportunities came after isolations and not after regular offensive flow and this made a difference. It was a “Man vs The Team” type of game in which Split, led by MVP Josip Matic took advantage of their aggresive home court approach and rebounding. It was all over for Zagreb when in the 2nd half Split’s 6’2” PG Toni Katic started to knock down his jumper which was off almost all Tournament long.

 

TEAMS BREAKDOWN

 

Split CO – really the strongest team out there, with a lot of very good individuals who are willing to sacrifice on the defensive part and to reckleslly attack the basket at the offensive part. A great basketball unit coached by Mladen Vuskovic which could change the fortune of Split’s city basketball if it stays together in the years to come.

 

Zagreb CO – every player gave the maximum to support coach Andrej Tesla’s system. However, it was obvious that their offensive flow was disrupted by Dario Saric’s insistence to become “the man” for his team. He should seek more opportunities to prove himself within the system and that will make him and his teammates even more succesful as a team. Although it has to be noted that this team would be just a mediocre basketball team without Saric on board.

 

Cedevita Zagreb – They’ve played solid basketball and proved that they are really are a better team than town rival Cibona at the moment. However this team was dependent on it’s backcourt perfomance with point guard Roko Rogic setting up the pace. When his shot is “on” they can easily win anyone in the country. But when his shot is “off”, his coach has nothing but a headache.

 

Cibona Zagreb – everything that they have demonstrated on this Tournament, except 13-0 2nd half run vs town rival Cedevita, should be forgotten ASAP. For a Euroleague household it should really be unacceptable to have a junior team basiclly without an on-court leader and with very low levels of discipline and basketball skill. They generally played sloppily, having trouble execute plays on numerous occasions, and with little or no player movement without the ball.

 

PLAYERS BREAKDOWN

 

F Dario Saric, Zagreb CO – During the weekend, one of my close colleagues from Split recalled the game between European champion Split and Scavolini Pesaro which was played in the same building two decades ago.

 

He remembered Darren Daye, an NBA veteran who, after backing up legendary Larry Bird in Celtics, decided to come to Italy and finish his career. “There was a certain aura all over this guy. You could see from an airplane that he was an NBA player. The stuff he did with the ball I have never see before. He was special.”

 

 

You can already see the same aura around 6’8” Dario Saric. He is special.

 

Although he did receive a bit of protection from the referees in the final game, he left everyone in the building wondering what basketball miracles will this kid be able to do in just a couple a years from now, if he could just keep up with his promise.

 

Being under constant pressure from exchanging opponent guards and “just-in-time” game-time tutorials from his tireless parents, he confirmed all the qualities we have already reported before.

 

His offensive arsenal is almost limitless. At this point, he is just a move or two away from becoming an almost unstoppable offensive threat. His shot is there, but he needs to improve it’s accuracy.

 

When he receives the ball in 3-point area, there is little or nothing a defender can do if left alone vs Saric who can shoot, dribble, penetrate and find an open man with a variety of passes he has in his repertoire.

 

Yup, he is reminiscent on Magic Johnson at times with exception of posting-up his opponents. During the clutch time, he virtually demands the ball on almost every possesion.

 

On the defensive end, he is holding his own against anyone. He is an excellent help defender and a very good rebounder. He was not trying to block all the shots he could have because he was very careful not to get into foul-trouble and left his team without it’s main offensive option.

 

On rare occasions he gets caught dribbling to much against smaller players and trying to create to difficult passes for his teammates to handle.

 

A scouting source close to CroHoops.com firmly believes that, in the worst-case scenario, “Saric could have a career path simular to those of Hrvoje Peric”, BC Zadar versatile small forward, a legit candidate for 2010 FIBA World Championship Croatian NT.

 

C Filip Najev, Split CO – If he continues to work hard on perfecting his game he could become this generation Mario Delas. He has improved his overall strength level and leaping ability compared to that one year ago, which enabled him to become just a tremendeous shot blocker and rebounder in this competition.

 

In order to make a quality transition to the senior basketball he has to improve:
- his free-throw shooting – his release is OK, but he needs more practice
- he should even more strongly finish certain plays and use his left hand more frequently
- he should learn how to get closer to the basket without/with ball in post-up situations

 

G Toni Katic, Split CO -  his quickness and explosiveness are still there, he can penetrate and create at will against any opponent. The area he struggled the most during this Tournament was knocking down the open jumper from 12 feet and beyond, even though he did hit some of those in the finals.

 

Adding a consistent three-point shot to his offensive arsenal would help him become even more dangerous for defences and therefore open some additional passing lanes for his passes.

 

He was definitely the best point guard of the Tournament, even though I would have prefered if I somehow got a chance to see him matched up with  Cedevita point guard Roko Rogic.

 

F Josip Matic, Split CO – Split’s 6’8” forward was named MVP of the Tournament.

 

Rarely misses a shot inside the paint, frequently uses his left hand and quick release. Not afraid to take the ball to the basket on almost any occasion, and to try to dunk the over anyone. Excellent rebounder for his size, works very hard to get into right rebounding position.

 

At moments, looked like a tireless worker out there who energized all of his teammates and sparked the decisive run in the finals.

 

G Roko Rogic, Cedevita Zagreb – This 6’3”  Cedevita product could easily be compared with Croatian NT candidate PG Rok Stipcevic of BC Zadar. He can easily create a shooting opportunity for himself against any opponent and launch a long distance shot. When he is “on” he is an instant scoring threat who can handle the ball very well, and penetrate and create at will. When he is “off”, bearing in mind that he is playing point guard position, his shot selection is sometimes extensively hurting his team’s efforts to set up the right plays and get his teammates more involved in the offensive flow.

 

With the scoring skills he has, and almost Iverson-like mental approach on offense at times, it is obvious that, at this stage, he must learn to apply “pass first and shoot second” approach to his point guard duties. If he learns that he could soon become a part of his club senior team.

 

The other way around he might become a tweener with a mediocre career, because the world has seen much better shooters among point guards.

 

HONORABLE MENTION

 

G Esben Reinholt, Split CO – 6’4” Danish combo guard made a quite impressive performance, hitting almost every open shot he got in 2 games. A surprisingly good rebounder for his size – he totalled 9 rebounds in the Final game. Bearing in mind that he had arrived during the season, he fits very well into Split’s offensive schemes. Excellent defender who can guard positions 1-3. Became an instant hit among basketball fans in Split.

 

F/C Miroslav Ljoljic, Zagreb CO – complemented well with Dario Saric, either feeding him with the ball when Saric was cutting, either hitting an open jumper when Saric was being doubled while posting up. Being very thin for a 6’9” guy, he immediately needs to put on some additional weight, hopefuly muscle. Has tremendous wing span.

 

G Karlo Lebo, Cedevita Zagreb – a versatile 6’4” combo guard with great athletic and leaping ability. Does a little bit of everything. Can jump out of the gym – he almost had a two-handed putback dunk against Cibona in a 3rd place game. An excellent defender who can guard positions 1-3. Cedevita Zagreb’s “glue guy”, who would have even more opportunity to demonstrate his talent with more playing time.

 

F/C Stipe Krstanovic, Cibona Zagreb – had a rather quiet showing but did register 20 points and 17 rebounds in the 3rd place game vs Cedevita Zagreb. Hustles all the time at both ends of the floor.

 

G Ivan Benkovic, Cedevita Zagreb – possesses a great shooter mentality. Can not be left alone at the 3-point line. At 6’4” he can create space either with the dribble or using a high screen to launch his shot over anyone. Shows emotion out there. Just an exciting player to watch.

 

F Filip Cvjeticanin, Cibona Zagreb – intriguing prospect at 6’9”. He already has the legit size to play small forward spot but needs to improve both his shooting selection and accuracy. Solid defender.

 

GENERAL OVERVIEW

 

The general impression among numerous scouts is that the level of talent in Croatian basketball has dramaticaly decreased in the last couple of decades. Despite that, this generation led by Split’s dominant center Filip Najev and Zagreb’s 16-year old phenom Dario Saric managed to put together a spectacular final game, which will surely be remembered.

 

Baring in mind that Dario Saric still has a couple of seasons left to play in this competition, and if he hopefully manages to stay on the right track on and off the court, this competition will become everybody else’s chance to amaze numerous international scouts locked on following Dario.

 

This exclusive CroHoops.com scouting report has been supported by BC Cedevita Zagreb.

 

Marjan Crnogaj is editor-in-chief of CroHoops.com.
He can be reached at marjan.crnogaj@gmail.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 

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TWILIGHT ZONE SHOT: Kecman did it in less than 0.7 seconds, just before the countdown of the remaining 0.6 seconds started on the shot clock!
Written by Marjan Crnogaj
Wednesday, 28 April 2010 15:00

 

KECMAN DOES RELEASE THE BALL IN 0.64-0.68 SECONDS INTERVAL, BUT WITH 0.6 SECONDS LEFT ON  THE SHOT CLOCK:  If anyone is sceptical about this specific data, please download the video and do the math – Kecman’s release lasts 16-17 frames=0.64-0.68 seconds (25 frames=1 second). Shot clock starts the countdown of the remaining 0.6 seconds when the ball is already released from Kecman’s hand.
With as many as a dozen of my friends cheering for Partizan Belgrade and an all-time low society cohesion, some of the major Croatian media took advantage of Kecman’s miracle shot and again tried to convince us that we are just a bunch of natural born losers who need to consume even more drugs and alcohol in order to become natural born winners.

 

It was more than a game. More than a final. It was an epic back and forth basketball battle until the last second of the regulation. Then, in overtime, it became a living thriller with both teams going where basketball has never gone before. And Kecman scoring a game winning shot from as much as 60+ feet. Legendary Bosnian coach Rusmir Halilovic calls this game the “Game of all games, victory for all basketball”. I am happy that I was there among 16000+ living souls who witnessed this festival of unlimited and pure basketball provided by the magnificent Adriatic League staff. But this specific special game I am going to write about did not deserve to end like it eventually did end.

 

However, with only 0.6 seconds left on the shot clock, after Cibona’s young star Bojan Bogdanovic hit his only three-pointer of the Tournament after 10 consecutive misses, this game turned into the biggest basketball controversy since the 1972 Munich Olympics Final when Sergei Belov  brought  the Soviets the gold medal “at the moment when cameras were already switching off”. The situation that took place in the Zagreb Arena less than 72 hours ago will be discussed time and time again among basketball fans worldwide.

 

From the point I was seated, only 3 rows from Partizan’s basket, only one thing was clear: The situation on the floor became unclear!!! Cibona’s head coach Perasovic went as deep into the floor as opposite three-point line, what was later recalled by Cibona’s SF Marko Tomas in his ironic  postgame comment:: “our coach should have guarded Kecman”. After seing Perasovic’s celebrating act, both assistant coach Tomislav Mijatovic and Cibona’s injured  Cibona’s Marin Rozic rushed onto the floor to celebrate with the players.

 

In yesterday’s exclusive phone conversation with Cibona’s assistant coach Tomislav Mijatovic, he categorically denied that he and Rozic went onto the floor with the idea that Vujosevic would take a time-out. Mijatovic also added that in the moment’s just after Bogdanovic’s three Vujosevic “was clearly shaken, almost unrecognisable in the face” so we can now, with a dose of certainty, say that Vujosevic wasn’t calculating at that very moment. He was clearly  worn out and felt beaten, so he let Kecman do what he did.

 

All this time, around 10 seconds of precious time, the Slovenian referee trio looked to Vujosevic, waiting for him to call the time-out. They did little or nothing to remove the non-playing personel from the court. And then they signaled the continuation of play before taking the final count of how many people  were present on the floor. Some say that in those moments, the referees reached out their hand to Vujosevic who constantly pressured them during the whole game.

 

One of the most clear details which demonstrate the chaotic referee act is the referee who, after the trio signaled the continuation of the game, ran alongside the left sideline and signalled Cibona’s injured player Marin Rozic (present at the game as a common spectator) to leave the court. All of this is disputable.

 

After Kecman’s shot went in, Partizan’s bench and the Serbian press went onto the floor to make some kind of “protective shield” for the eventual winner. The referees shouldn’t have allowed that to happen. Cibona’s bench and fans could have done the same thing if the shot happened in the real time visible to their eye. During their consultation over whether the shot should count, the referees did little or nothing to talk to the person who operated the shot clock, and who, according to the Croatian media, did have problems operating the shot clock  even before running down the final 0.6 seconds.

 

Soon after they made a premature call about the winner, not taking all available evidence into account, they headed to the dressing room, doing little or nothing regarding Cibona’s appeal, which should have stopped Partizan’s winning ceremony. Generally, the situation was out of their control what might have reflected in the final outcome of the game. All of this is also disputable.

Video recording inside the arena was explicitly forbidden for anyone but Croatian National Television, which covered the event with as many as 13 cameras, but after today’s telephone request from CroHoops.com, they were “unable to provide any recording which already haven’t been seen  on TV”. Still, always resourceable YouTube.com offers some videos which are recorded from the angle CNT did not cover during the broadcast . One of those specific videos is recorded near the position where I was seated, close to the Partizan’s bench and gives a pretty good look at what really happened on-court at the Zagreb Arena.

All of us at CroHoops.com know that basketball is an exact science, in comparison to sports like football and handball, and we deeply dislike and disregard reports about the game in almost all of the Croatian media which convince us that what we saw was “another unlucky event in the ongoing chain of unlucky events in the modern sports history of our nation, which very well describe our overall mentality”. Are we really the nation of natural born lusers?
Yesterday’s CroHoops.com analyses of the mentioned video clearly indicates that  the Kecman release move lasted between 16-17 frames which, having in mind that 1 second of video contains as many as 25 frames, is between 0.64 and 0.68 second. Instantly after he released the ball shot clock turned on. THIS IS THE FACT BASED ON HARD DATA.

These are not anyone’s nationalistic comments, assumptions whether a non-NBA player can make a shot like this in less that 0.7 seconds, what is according to Cibona’s assistant coach Tomislav Mijatovic a standard minimum time for jump-shot buzzer-beaters.
But the final decision about the winner has already been made and since we all have more important things to do in life, we’ve accepted to take the place of  2nd best, even with many  facts telling us that thi time we undisputably deserve 1st place. But it’s far away from us being a loser nation in big-time games.

 

This moment of truth also provided the Adriatic League with a great deal of mainly positive global publicity, but also with a conditional warning that all of the teams playing in second best European basketball league should be able to provide referees with the possibility to instantly review all disputable events in the future.

 

Should the shot count? Conditionally YES, because instant replay wasn’t obligatory in just finished Adriatic League competition. Have the referees done major damage to the Game? Unfortunately YES. Again. Who should have won the game? According to the human eyes Partizan, according to the digital video-tape recording, Cibona.

 

It is quite unthinkable that in the climax of an digital era, when literally anyone can pull a cell phone out of the pocket instantly and precisely measure the time up to a one hundredth of a second, and when even minor basketball leagues use video-recordings to determine what really happened in the clutch time,  one of the strongest European basketball leagues is still risking the significance of it’s 190+ games season because it’s technically unprepaired to track the events which happened within the second frame. And it has passed as much as 38 years from Munich Olympics and Sergei Belov ‘s shot.

 

The reality is now completely different. The Shot has become an instant global YouTube Hit, Kecman has became an overnight BBall Legend, today’s controversy will become tomorrow’s Myth…

 

Marjan Crnogaj is editor-in-chief of CroHoops.com.
He can be reached at marjan.crnogaj@gmail.com

 

 

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MAKING SOME MAJOR NOISE: Croatian U18 NT feat. phenom Dario Saric
Written by Marjan Crnogaj
Wednesday, 14 April 2010 21:11

 

Although the Croatian U18 NT finished only 7th in the recently finished prestigious Albert Schweitzer Tournament our group, led by 16 year old phenom Dario Saric, certainly made some noise out there. Not only our exclusive correspondent  from Germany Josip Stjepanovic registered this pleasant noise on his own “alien identifier meter” – as of today, distinguished draft sites like NbaDraft.net and EuropeanProspects.com have published their AST 2010 reports  with obvious focus on Croatian NT performance and are using only superlatives when it comes to Dario Saric huge upside in the years to come.

 

“The most promising player goes to Croatia’s Dario Saric a 1994 born SF/PF, who, despite being 2 years younger than anybody else, showed a court sense and feel for the game beyond his years. He is along the lines of a young Tony Kukoc, emulating him in his slim body and superb skill set.” – Simon Dresden, NbaDraft.net  

 

Marjan Crnogaj is editor-in-chief of CroHoops.com.
He can be reached atmarjan.crnogaj@gmail.com

 

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ALAN ANDERSON RECONFIRMS: “I still consider playing for Croatian NT”
Written by Marjan Crnogaj
Saturday, 03 April 2010 20:02

 

History repeats itself. Not only are the defending NCAA champions Michigan State Spartans once again contending for the NCAA title., but  on the other side of the world one of the new millenium’s most prominent Spartan players, after another very successful Euroleague campaign, is once again seriously talking about wearing the Croatian NT jersey in the upcoming World Championship.

 

After his team Maccabi Tel Aviv lost the last battle of the quarter-final series vs Partizan Belgrade, Alan completely opened his mind to the reporters present:

“That thing still ain’t over yet. I admire Croatia as a country – everybody there has been really good to me and I felt very good. I STILL CONSIDER PLAYING FOR THE CROATIAN NT.”Alan Anderson, Maccabi Tel Aviv

 

Of course AA should present a huge boost for the Croatian NT squad in the World Championship in Turkey (28th August – 12th September). The only question is whether the new Croatian NT coach Joke Vrankovic is prepared to take the rock from the Croatian NT proven ball hogs and give it to AA to do his thing.

 

At this point I need to remind you that Alan Anderson isn’t just a one-dimensional offensive option – he is also an extremely tenacius defender. His overall game and burning desire to prove what he can do on premium international scale could boost the Croatian NT chances, especially in the game vs U.S.A.

 

Now, decision is up to Mr. Vrankovic, as well as his superiors in the Croatian Basketball Federation. Our annual poll clearly indicates that 57.1% of CroHoops.com visitors would like to see Alan Anderson as part of the Croatian NT. Some people should get rid of their prejudiced way of thinking. ASAP.

 

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THAT’S THE SPIRIT: Cibona players choose to stay aboard the Titanic of Croatian basketball with a slim hope that 2010 will be a better year than 2009
Written by Marjan Crnogaj
Wednesday, 20 January 2010 18:12

 

I must admit that ever since my childhood days my passion for sports, especially basketball, has been driven by the success of local sport teams, especially the basketball team Cibona Zagreb, which in the mid 80’s featured a basketball player who became a legend while still alive.

 

Drazen Petrovic put Cibona on the basketball map as much as Cibona helped him put his name on the basketball map. Drazen’s success, both in Europe and in the NBA, literally propelled Cibona to a well-known basketball brand worldwide.

 

Unfortunately the man who was put in charge of coordinating how well financial support from local businesses is transferred to Cibona’s youth and senior programs was not up to his duty. After one decade of Boze Milicevic’s reign, Cibona’s stands are half-empty in Euroleague’s games and almost completely empty in some Adriatic League games.

 

Due to Mr.Milicevic’s interference in player personnel movement, many very questionable player signings have been made in past seasons which resulted in Cibona’s increase of debt to its former players and at the same time it eliminated literally every player who came from Cibona’s youth program.

 

Therefore, Mr.Milicevic’s player policy, heavily influenced by player managers, determined the fate of almost every young player who proved himself in Cibona’s youth program. Even though Mr.Milicevic claimed that none of his young players cannot play senior basketball, this season’s youth movement by Cibona of Bogdanovic-Zubcic-Radosevic (motivated by the recession) would fit in nicely with the cast-offs from last season which include Croatian all-star Zeljko Sakic, and Zrinjevac products Filip Kruslin, Filip Toric and Dragan Sekelja.

 

If you add ex-NBDL players Aleksandar Ugrinoski and Damir Markota who were the only two players raised by Cibona in the period from 2000-2005 you have a serious basketball team. The icing on this “wasted basketball potential” cake would certainly be BC Zagreb’s PF Luka Zoric who is  just in the middle of his surprising campaign for the most improved Adriatic League player.

These 10 players would rule Croatian courts today under any coach. But they were not given a chance. They were expandable. They were literally expelled from the building to make space for someone’s provision. You all know what I am talking about.

 

Even such a team without spectators, it’s own players and consistent policy was attractive enough for one of the most successful Croatian businessmen in the like of Emil Tedeschi. But characteristically for Cibona his buying offer for a brand and everything what goes with it wasn’t answered at all. The scam going around Cibona was already too large so Tedeschi’s attempt to bring back a true game inside Drazen Petrovic’s Arena failed.

 

From the beginning of this recession-depleted season it was clear that at some point of the season Cibona would finally have to face it’s own problems. Uncharacteristically for his conservative reasoning coach Perasovic decided to, more than ever, use young and talented players such as Bojan Bogdanovic, Tomislav Zubcic and Leon Radosevic.

 

As a result of this change in his coaching philosophy Cibona is currently best ranked team in Adriatic League and still has a legitimate chance of entering the Euroleague’s Final 16. Recession caused a chain of events that proved that young and inexperienced Croatian players can still play serious ball while saving their team a load of money which was previously spend on someone’s bottle of champagne in a shady night bar.

 

But this positive happening on the court alone wasn’t enough to fill the stands on each and every game, bring back sponsors and, most importantly, convince Zagreb’s mayor Milan Bandic to secure the future funding for the club. Yup, you read it right – in the town of Zagreb it is perfectly normal that the mayor supports it’s biggest sport clubs with reportedly as much as 3,5 million euros of the people’s money going to the soccer team Dinamo and about 1 million euros going to Cibona.

 

As the financial crisis of the city advanced to it’s current almost chaotic phase it became clear that it will be almost impossible to meet players demands in the form of an ultimatum with a strike starting at the end of October. The deadline of the well-publicized ultimatum quietly passed with nothing new on the table for players. Some of them also tried to convince mayor Bandic to bring back the funding with almost desperate statements.

 

Marko Tomas, Cibona’s leading scorer in Euroleague fired one away:”In Spain, where I have played, almost everyone knows Zagreb for Cibona, not for soccer club Dinamo.” This statement was a sign that the bottom has been reached and it’s time for desperation shots, in the basketball also known as “prayers”. Some independent observers noticed that the best solution for Cibona’s players would be to rent a bus and closely follow and disturb Zagreb’s mayor Bandic public appareances during his presidential campaign.

 

At Christmas time, it became obvious that Cibona’s players will not receive any “answered prayers” from the town of Zagreb and nobody else. From their perspective it is now better to stay and play for their stats then to pack themselves and leave in an unknown direction on the rapidly shrinking market. So they’ve figured out that the money now needs to be put in second place in their lives. This is what the recession does in all our lives – brings back row reality with genuine feelings for life. Not bubbles. That’s why recession is conditionally a good thing in our lives.

 

The first media to recognize this real state of Cibona’s pocket was the most influential Croatian media at the moment – www.index.hr. They’ve ran the this brutal but real story even before we did. We can just update that story with claims from various independent sources many Cibona’s front-office executives, unable to find any kind of help for the club they have claimed to love, are currently very busy seeking other career alternatives.

 

In the time when really anyone’s job isn’t secured, anyone who dares to say that Cibona must stay “afloat” should first consider two things: 1) true values this basketball organization stands for 2) how much money he has in his pocket right now.

 

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MARIO KASUN QUITS THE CROATIAN NATIONAL TEAM
Written by Marjan Crnogaj
Wednesday, 20 January 2010 13:27

 

“There are better and younger players than me. Let them play. They are the future. At 29 I am an old horse. Right?” – Croatian NT starting center Mario Kasun

 

 

If this is really Mario Kasun’s final decision it presents a huge blow to all future Croatian NT efforts. At this moment, Croatia has no other frontcourt player who could guarantee P+R double-double each and every game, regularly play above the rim and match the athleticism of much younger opponents.

 

By making this decision he set a clear example what some of his senior NT teammates should have done after their disappointing performance in this year’s Eurobasket. At 29 years of age he is ONLY THE FIFTH OLDEST PLAYER on Croatian NT roster behind Prkacin, Nicevic, Kus and Vujcic. In this year’s Eurobasket in Poland he averaged a miserable 13,3 minutes a game and was not once paired with Nikola Vujcic to form the potentially most dominant frontcourt duo of the competition. In the quarterfinal game vs Slovenia he was pulled out of play after a solid 13 minutes of action with ONLY ONE PERSONAL FOUL on his stat sheet.

 

This was not the first time the Croatian NT coach Jasmin Repesa failed to capitalize on Kasun’s frontcourt value as he averaged only 18,4 minutes of play during the 2007 Eurobasket in Spain, while being the team’s second leading scorer with 10.1 points per game. The critics may say he was foul-prone and injury plagued but the truth is that he was placed on the bench during decisive moments of many games, when he was absolutely determined to help his homeland team more then anybody else IN THE WHOLE UNIVERSE.

 

After crashing down in Poland, the Croatian NT “black box” has now been officially found and opened. It tells a story that even being in minority, 4 guards (of which neither one is a true shooting guard) played 44.8% of overall minutes and managed to dominate the team’s scoring by making 49.7% of overall points scored, while roster majority of 6 big guys played 40% of overall minutes and scored only 41% of overall points scored.

 

On the other hand, big guys pulled down 48.8% of overall rebounds (vs only 28.4% pulled down by guards) creating numerous offensive opportunities which were at the other end mostly executed by guards in the last 10 seconds of numerous possessions. Not only did he remind us of unique time-out speech techniques used by Croatian handball coach Lino Cervar; Repesa also failed to capitalize on our potential inside presence and to develop a healthy inside-outside connection which could have been our only chance in slow-tempo conditions.  COACH REPESA USED SMALLBALL LINE-UPS TO PLAY SLOW-TEMPO STYLE.

 

“Kas” will always have a special place in Croatian NT fans memories. He idolized legendary Drazen Petrovic, presented a fearless style of play similar to great PF Dino Radja and dunked the ball like Shawn Kemp.

 

HE APPROACHED EACH AND EVERY GAME LIKE IT’S HIS LAST FOR TEAM CROATIA.

 

Good bye Mario, we will miss you.

 


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RETURN OF THE OUTCAST. POLAND 2009: Coach R goes “SmallBall”. Public reacts.
Written by Marjan Crnogaj
Wednesday, 20 January 2010 17:14

 

After surviving a 14 point halftime deficit vs newcomers Macedonia and 2 and a half games filled with a lack of defensive presence and clear offensive struggle to find the open man we all know that Alan Anderson would really be just too much for this Croatian NT. Tooo much.

 

Either being absolutely crazy, or unbelievably lucky, Croatian NT coach Jasmin Repesa managed to pass Group A by making a bunch of very disputable choices and wrong decisions with completely wrong timing.

 

Letting alone not defensively covering the competition’s leading scorer Lior Elyahu with Marin Rozic, benching Kresimir Loncar for most of the game vs. Greece, Repesa also managed to do the unthinkable by totally separating the potentially most dominant frontcourt pair of this year’s competition, Nikola Vujcic and Mario Kasun.

 

The ingeniousness of this coaching acrobatics was most evident during the game vs. one of the world’s top teams, Greece. While at separate times left alone to guard both Bourousis and Baby Shaq both Vujcic and Kasun were foul-prone and offensively ineffective. If they both played at the same time, the development of events would have been completely opposite and the previous sentence would refer to their opponents.

 

Croatia has yet to face France and Germany in the quarterfinal stage of Eurobasket 2009. Even being only one win away from the quarterfinal game, this year’s Croatian NT leaves a bitter taste with it’s game approach, actual game performance and postgame comments.

 

This leads us to a crucial question: Are we there to play basketball or to make a result? I think that right now coach R has this mind set primarily on making the Result. But this will be very hard to achieve with this roster without making right adjustments at right times.

 

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02-06-2009 CROATIAN LEAGUE FINALS – GAME 3 REPORT
Written by Marjan Crnogaj
Wednesday, 03 June 2009 22:21

 

Air America leads Cibona to 2-1 lead over Zadar

 

For the last couple of months, I kept putting off writing about an American player who listens to the Croatian national anthem and aims to play for the Croatian NT some day.

 

Now, when it’s obvious that this guy is definitely MVP of the Croatian league and might as well end up being the next MVP of  the Israeli or some other European National Championship, it’s inevitable we address some issues regarding Cibona’s swingman Alan Anderson.

 

The first time I saw him play (@ Zadar on 03-01-2009) I thought his best edition could be something like Derek Anderson. Although Cibona made it clear that they spent a decent amount of money on this ex-Bobcat, there wasn’t anything in his performance that would indicate that he would be anything special.

 

Things rapidly changed over the course of the past few months. Throughout the second phase of Euroleague and the closing phase of the Adriatic League, the American journeyman proved that not only he can fill the role of the go-to-guy for which was he brought here, but that he can also sense what his team needs most in any given moment of the game, whether it is an assist to an open man, a bunch of rebounds, or a big block.
Anderson’s performance yesterday in Game 3 of the Croatian League Finals was definitely something to see. I didn’t want to miss his game since it maybe be the last AA game in Zagreb…

 

Faced with the some of the guys from Zadar he might play against in the Croatian NT camp someday (Peric, Rancic, Johnson…) Anderson demonstrated unparalleled court-sense, vision and skill reminiscent of some of the great players in the history of the basketball:

 

- his backing in with the ball from the perimeter to the baseline and reaction when being doubled in the form of a spectacular no look behind the back bounce pass for an uncontested dunk reminded me of Magic Johnson’s passing ability

 

- his driving reverse lay up on the left side, while skipping away from triple-team, reminded me of Michael Jordan’s scoop shoot ability

 

- his 3-1 breakaway solution in the form of a spectacular two-handed slam over the lone opposing point guard reminded me of some VC/TMac Raptors sequences

 

- his block from nowhere of the uncontested left lay-up and breakaway pinon Marin Rozic reminded me of Charles Barkley’s overall versatility
If I would need to compare AA with just one of above mentioned players it would be Charles Barkley. Both are 6’6” players who can handle the ball, score from outside/inside, rebound, and do whatever their team needs to win. Anderson is, of course, superlight weight category compared to Sir Charles, but is evidently tenacious defender.

 

Anderson’s only visible weak point is long-distance shooting. He sometimes gets carried away trying to build up a shooting streak, and sometimes it is clear to everyone in the building that it’s not his night.

 

It seems that Cibona’s coaching staff is very aware of that and they have generally let him loose on the floor, let him run his show which has become Cibona’s general style of play especially in the last couple of games.
CROATIAN LEAGUE FINALS 2009/CIBONA vs ZADAR/GAME 3/PART 1
CROATIAN LEAGUE FINALS 2009/CIBONA vs ZADAR/GAME 3/PART 2
CROATIAN LEAGUE FINALS 2009/CIBONA vs ZADAR/GAME 3/PART 3
CROATIAN LEAGUE FINALS 2009/CIBONA vs ZADAR/GAME 3/PART 4
CROATIAN LEAGUE FINALS 2009/CIBONA vs ZADAR/GAME 3/PART 5
CROATIAN LEAGUE FINALS 2009/CIBONA vs ZADAR/GAME 3/PART 6
CROATIAN LEAGUE FINALS 2009/CIBONA vs ZADAR/GAME 3/PART 7
CROATIAN LEAGUE FINALS 2009/CIBONA vs ZADAR/GAME 3/PART 8
CROATIAN LEAGUE FINALS 2009/CIBONA vs ZADAR/GAME 3/PART 9

 

 

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