Bosnian big man ready to do battle for Denver Nuggets

Jusuf Nurkic excited to start NBA career
by Aaron Lopez

Jusuf Nurkic started playing basketball when he was 15 years old.

Less than five years later, he made his first trip to the United States to begin his career in the NBA.

“The word ‘amazing’ doesn’t even do it justice,” Denver Nuggets coach Brian Shaw said. “It just goes to show he was obviously blessed with the size and he put the commitment in to get better. I think with him only having five years of experience, his best days are still ahead of him.”

Seeing an opportunity to develop an impact center, the Nuggets acquired Nurkic’s draft rights from the Chicago Bulls on Thursday. The 6-foot-11, 280-pound big man has spent the bulk of his teenage years working on his game while playing professionally in Bosnia and Croatia.

In addition to impressing scouts with his footwork, ferocity and soft shooting touch, Nurkic showed his sense of humor during his introductory press conference Friday at Pepsi Center.

Asked how he started playing basketball, he said: “My agent came and found me and told me, ‘you play the game.’ ”

At that point, did he have a choice?

“I had a choice – to go and start practicing.”

Nurkic figures to get plenty of practice time next season as he learns the ropes behind current Denver centers JaVale McGee and Timofey Mozgov – both legitimate 7-footers who can run the floor and crash the glass inside.

“I can’t wait to see the battles they have in practice,” Shaw said.

The son of a police officer, Nurkic doesn’t figure to back down from anyone as he begins his NBA career.

“We will see next season,” he said. “I will do the best I can do. I am going to try.”

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