By Vladimir Radicevic, Superkosarka magazine - Croatia
Since the era of Drazen Petrovic, and later Arijan Komazec, no 15-year-old has received as much media coverage (in Croatia) as Sibenik's Dario Saric, a playmaker who has already grown to 202 cm (6'8). Experts from the Spanish TAU Cerámica, who measured him a few weeks ago, are convinced that he will grow to 208 cm (6'10). Dario lives for basketball, he's absolutely head-over-heels for it.
His biggest basketball idol is one of the greatest playmakers of all time, Magic Johnson, whose games he collects and soaks in every move Magic made. He even chose the number 32 on his jersey to honor Magic. Since he's still growing and just starting to play basketball seriously, it's hard to say whether he'll be a top-notch player like Magic, but he is definitely talented. His plays look simple, and what makes him special is that he never plays for statistics.
“I've been following Saric for four years now, and what is most noticeable is how he always makes himself team leader. It's normal in the younger categories, but that's not wild basketball. The coaches in the “Drazen Petrovic” basketball school guided him to develop his talent. Dario never played simultaneously, he never played for himself. He's not an egoist on-court, he loves to pass, see everything” said Ante Vlasic, president of Cibona's basketball school “Vucici”.
We heard similar comments from other experts from who we knew we could expect an objective opinion. Coaches who have been working with Dario Saric since he was a little boy, as well as his family, have recently been thinking about where Dario will continue his career and whether his basketball skills will develop as they have planned.
Predrag Saric, known as "Sisi", played for a full 15 seasons in his Baldekin for the famous Sibenka. With his strong build and soft hands he could demolish any defense, and since he stayed with the club for such a long time, he is still the club's top shooter of all time. But Sisi probably didn't even dream that his son Dario, born in 1994, would grace the covers of all the papers and internet sites at the age of 15.
The ball started rolling when the Spanish club TAU Cerámica offered 3 million euros for the most talented Croatian player. Other wealthy clubs, such as Panathinaikos, Real and Lottomatica, are also interested in the “wonder kid”. All of them see a player of the future in Dario, a playmaker as tall as Toni Kukoc and as talented as Drazen Petrovic, with whom Predrag Saric played during the golden era of Sibenka. Dario's father was five years older than Drazen, and when he was the team's top player, Drazen was just getting his first minutes of first league play. So we were interested in hearing from Predrag whether his son has a talent that can be compared with Drazen Petrovic.
“I can't be objective, but since I played with Drazen, and I know how he played when he was a 15-year-old, I dare to say my Dario is just like Drazen. Maybe he's even more talented than Drazen, but Drazen's work ethic is incomparable. He practiced daily from 3PM to 11PM. Even the janitors often played ball with him."
Said Predrag, "Drazen was a worker like you've never seen, while Dario practices 3-4 hours a day. I'm always telling him to get up earlier and practice, but he doesn't always feel like it. Simply, he's not a hunter. But he has the genetic code to be a top-notch basketball player”, said Predrag. “He's 15 years and 7 months old, and it's not too late for him, he just needs a coach to work with him.”
When we spoke to several basketball experts, who wished to remain anonymous, they all confirmed that in comparison to Drazen, Dario is a versatile player who can play four positions in the future. In contrast, Drazen was a one and two his entire career, a classic “killer”. Drazen was a basket machine.
After TAU Cerámica offered 3 million euros for Dario, stories started flying about. Some mentioned Dario remaining in the Drazen Petrovic basketball school, others believed he would join Sibenka's team where he would practice with the real team and play with the cadets and juniors. However, it's well known that TAU has invested in young players for years. They brought in Argentinian Luis Scola, today a solid NBA player, Brazilian Tiago Splitter, Argentinian Andres Nocioni and many other players when they were just teenagers.
Dario's parents Vesa and Predrag like the idea of transferring to TAU, but problems arose over the length of the contract and some other details. The well-known American Agency BDA Sports got the rights to represent Dario Saric, but the contract hasn't been signed yet. Dario has already visited Vitorio, seen the court where he would practice on, the apartment he'd live in and passed the medical exams. But everything is at a standstill because TAU wants the contract to last 11 years, and the Saric family wants it to be 8 years.
“The BDA Sports Agency, run by Bill Duffy, sent us their opinion of the contract on Sunday. We concluded that 11 years is too much, and that nothing is permanently defined. We'll send them a redefined version in which we'll ask that it be 8 years, and that each year will be defined.
We already have several serious options, amongst which is that Dario transfers to KK Zagreb. Dr. Slavko Trninic and his son would work with him according to a special plan, and he'd definitely have a chance to play with the seniors there,” said Predrag Saric, who is constantly bombarded by calls from curious journalists that disturb the family's ideal life in Jadrija, where they have a house with several apartments, from what, as they said, “live quite well”. Alongside that, Predrag Saric also has a transportation company with trucks, which he sometimes drives himself when his drivers are ill or on vacation.
When we asked Predrag Saric how the Spaniards got involved beside all the Croatian clubs, he said: “They didn't arrive suddenly. The Spaniards have been following him since the age of 11, they know everything about him. Coach Dusko Ivanovic, a friend of mine, was already asking about him then.” Dario's father Predrag also explained how much money Dario would get, and when he would get it, if he transferred to TAU: “If he signs a scholarship contract, he won't recieve any salary for the first three years. Only room, board and education are included. It'll be like that until they're convinced he's a player for them. He starts receiving payment at 18, and according to the contract, he could enter the market at 19.”
The way things stand now, he won't get to see his son play on Baldekin for Sibenik's first team: “For quite some time now, they haven't shown any concrete interest in Dario. No one would be happier than me if he played for Sibenik, if he stayed here three or four seasons and made a name for himself. In Croatia, the only teams that are in the running now are Zagreb and Cibona, teams where good work is done. I don't know where Dario will go, but we have to decide soon.”
Dario, a playful boy who turned 15 in April, isn't fazed by the millions of euros and the managers who visit his parents. Although he has no idea where he will be playing in the coming season, in Sibenik, Zagreb or Vitoria, he doesn't appear to be worried about it. His thoughts are focused only on his game.
Dario, are you ready to make sacrifices like Drazen Petrovic did in order to become a top-notch player?
Yes, I really love basketball and I hope to get something back from my sacrifice. If I'll be really good, I'll have material wealth as well. But I'm not into the big money.
This year you played senior ball in the B league and you're probably already thinking about senior basketball?
I'd love to, like Manu Ginobili, win the gold medal at all the great games, from the World Championships and the Olympics to the NBA ring.
Your role model is Magic Johnson and Ginobili proof that you can make it to the top if you work hard?
That's right. Ginobili is proof that hard work can make you successful. He and Rudy Fernandez proved that you can make it to the top of the NBA, even without all the muscles.
You play for the Croatian U16 team, but are you dreaming about joining the A selection?
I can't wait for the day, but now I'm concentrated only on the European U16 Championship.
Croatia is in the same group as the Czech Republic, Spain and Germany. What are you expecting at the European Championship?
I expect a lot and I'm motivated to the max. The fact that most of the players at the tournament will be a year older than me won't be a problem. I think we can get some good results.
Last season you played about 80 games in the senior B-1 league and with the juniors and cadets at the “Drazen Petrovic” basketball school. Which game was your favorite?
I don't remember the statistics, I always play for the good of the team, to win and have a good time together.
Which is your favorite move at games?
When I dribble and pass a player and go towards the center under the hoop, and when the center jumps up, I pass the ball to a teammate without looking. I also love to pass the ball behind my back.
Have you ever dunked in play?
The first time at a cadet game against Pet bunara at the beginning of the year. I was exactly 14 years and 10 months old. It was a great feeling.
Do you like the Drazen Petrovic NBA Nets jersey with the number 3, given to you by the Champion company?
It's an excellent jersey and you got the number right. Thanks to Champion for this great jersey I'll wear with pleasure. I haven't really seen a lot of Drazen's games, just some inserts. I'd love to watch some of his games from all the clubs he played for, from Sibenka to Cibona, Real and the NBA.
Photos by Igor Soban, Superkosarka magazine - Croatia
Translated by Marija Crnogaj
these big pgs are popping up everywhere
thejuggernautcometh NBADRAFT 2010
It'll be interesting to follow him the next few years, see if he is hyped up as much as Rubio was.
illgaulskus played pg at his age too, then hit a massive growth spurt... i doubt he ever playes pg in the future... although they are good skills to have.