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The Dario Saric soap opera
23-11-2012

Rafael Uehara
TheBasketballPost.com managing editor

Dario Saric ('94) is probably the most special European prospect of this generation. The 18 year-old Croatian is a combo-forward that stands at six-foot-10 and possesses a great deal of athleticism. He is a historic figure among those that follow youth European tournaments after a 30-point, 11-rebound, 11-assist, 12-turnover performance in the championship game of the 2010 European championships against Lithuania. Saric led that tournament in scoring, rebounding and ranked third in assists. Among other accomplishments, he ranked third in rebounding and fourth in scoring the following year at the 2011 FIBA World Championships U19, going against players two years older than him, and in 2012, he led the Croatian national team to the European championship U18, scoring 39 points in the championship game, leading the tournament in scoring and ranking second in rebounding.

Saric has a versatile skill-set featuring a quality post game and phenomenal ability to attack the rim off the dribble when facing up the basket on the perimeter. DraftExpress has him ranked 15th overall in their current TOP 100 prospects board for the 2013 NBA Draft. He didn’t set the world on fire in his two appearances at the Nike Hoop Summit, but the teams with a strong scouting department focused on foreign prospects are well aware this is a household upcoming star in Europe, likely on his way to the NBA at some point soon. That’s what the sure fire projection up until this year as the mess that has followed is no doubt disappointing those that keep track of young Saric’s career.

As last season ended, Saric’s father and a representative negotiated with Spanish club Bizkaia Bilbao Basket a five-year deal for the 18-year-old, of which the first season would be spent with KK Split on loan so that Saric could graduate from high school. Saric was under contract with KK Zagreb, though, where he had spent the previous season splitting time between the pro team and the junior squad. According to Zagreb, the contract established a buyout of €1 million, while Saric’s father and representatives had told Bilbao it would only be a €200 thousand fee. On October, the 30th, FIBA’s court of arbitration ruled KK Zagreb must receive a minimum of €550 thousand. Bilbao backed off. What has ensued then is golden rush style of pursuit with everybody (Anadolu Efes, Fenerbahçe Ülker, CSKA Moscow, Unicaja Malaga and Cedevita Zabreb) showing interest but nobody stepping up and paying KK Zagreb the half-a-million Euros FIBA established they must receive in order to free Saric from his contract. Meanwhile, there is no sure word that Saric has at least continued to practice with KK Split and last Friday he was arrested for driving under the influence as he crashed his Jeep into three parked cars.

As we saw in Ricky Rubio’s case, as Saric switched teams and as an addendum, needed to stay this first season of his contract on loan back home in order to finish school, Bilbao would have likely set buyout figures rather high early in order to get at least a couple of years of service from Saric before he floated across the Atlantic. Between that and the fact that it’s hard to get access to the Adriatic league, Saric’s stock was already likely to drop if he planned to enter next year’s draft. But things have gotten much more chaotic; he has no team, he has missed half of what was supposed to be his first full season of pro ball and word (on the all very reliable internet forums /irony) a while back was that he was suing his father. This can only get much worse for him if NBA teams actually do keep track of DUIs in Croatia.

Those that have seen Saric play know how talented a prospect he is. Very few are as skilled and as athletic at such a young age. And it sucks that this freaking soap opera is no doubt hamstringing his development. It can’t be any good that he isn’t playing any games, even if he continues to experience the day-to-day with KK Split, which there has been no confirmation of. This isn’t the end of the world. Saric is 18 years-old, making some mistakes most 18 year-olds do and there is no doubt we will see him play again someday soon. Regarding his NBA future, all this has done is increase the possibility he will fall into the Spurs’ lap late in the first-round, because that’s how things work for them. It is just hard to look towards that point in the future amidst the height of this mess.


Twitter of the author: @rafael_uehara
 
Photo: FIBA Europe / Robertas Dackus

 
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