Draft Spotlight: Dario Saric
While his American peers were learning about Punnett squares and reading The Catcher in the Rye, a 15-year-old Dario Saric was busy learning post moves and how to read pick-and-roll defenses.
Saric has had a basketball in his hands since before he could walk. The son of Croatian sharpshooter Predrag Saric, he was immersed in the sport at a young age, learning the game’s intricacies while his primary school classmates struggled to dribble the ball down court without traveling. He was first approached by European scouts as an 11-year-old, signing a professional contract with KK Zrinjevac of the Croatian Second League in 2009, four years later.
Growing up, the young point-forward idolized fellow Croatians Toni Kukoc and Drazen Petrovic, the latter of whom played alongside his father in the early 1980s. Predrag, who has played a major role in his son’s development, sees the similarities between Dario and 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,” he said in an interview with a Croatian publication in 2009. “Maybe he's even more talented than Drazen.”
Fast forward three years, and the 6’10” Saric had garnered a significant amount of attention from NBA scouts; by the end of a breakout 2012-13 campaign with Cibona Zagreb, the teenager had earned a first-round grade from most experts leading up to the 2013 NBA Draft. The Croatian star initially declared, but withdrew his name a week before draft night due to concerns about the amount of playing time he would earn as a rookie.
He returned to Zagreb for the 2013-14 season looking to polish his game and improve his draft stock, and that’s exactly what he did.
At just 20 years old, he led Cibona Zagreb to its first ever Adriatic League Championship, averaging team highs in scoring (16.7 PPG) and rebounding (9.7 RPG) and increasing his field-goal percentage from 36.8% in 2012-13 to 49.7% en route to league MVP honors. His 3.2 assists per game were second only to veteran point guard Jerel Blassingame (7.7 APG).
While Saric is already a star in his native Croatia, American fans have likely only seen him play via the collection of highlights available on YouTube. Speaking of…
The 2014 NBA Draft will take place on June 26 at 7pm (EST). Watch at home on ESPN or come out to one of our 76 draft parties across the tri-state area!