Suns News

Suns Scout Yugoslavian Prospect

Mississippi State forward Mario Austin matches up with Yugoslavian forward/center Zarko Cabarkapa during Tuesday's workout.
(Jeramie McPeek/
By Dustin Krugel,
Posted: May 27, 2003

It seems like every team is searching for the next Dirk Nowitzki and the Phoenix Suns are no different.

On Tuesday, the Suns got a close-up look at Zarko Cabarkapa, a supposed Nowitzki clone, in a private workout session at America West Arena that also included Mississippi State Mario Austin, North Dakota forward Jerome Beasley and Notre Dame point guard Chris Thomas.

Cabarkapa is a versatile 6-11 forward from Yugoslavia, who can play all three frontcourt positions, but is most comfortable at the small forward position.

“I like an up-tempo game,” Cabarkapa said through his agent and interpreter Rade Filipovich after his first NBA tryout following a 13-hour flight to Phoenix. “I like to run the floor. I like to play outside and at the small forward position. I can also play at the four, but I’m obviously much more confident facing the basket.”

Suns Head Coach Frank Johnson liked the 22-year-old’s shooting touch, but admitted he still has a thing or two to learn about the NBA game.

“You can tell, especially Europeans, they always want to take that extra step,” said Johnson, one of several coaches who was calling Carbarkapa “Z” in practice. “They still have the extra step mentality in their heads. Yugoslavians, they always can stroke it. They’re very good shooters.”

Cabarkapa held his own against his American competition, but Johnson wasn’t surprised. Cabarkapa, who averaged 11.6 points and 4.8 rebounds for top European club Buducnost in 2002-03, was a member of the gold-medal winningYugoslavian team at the 2002 FIBA World Championships in Indianapolis. He was also a member of Yugoslavia’s Under-20 National Team and played at the 1999 World University Games.

“I guess he has an advantage because he’s been playing European pro ball,” Johnson said. “He’s been playing guys who are making a living out of this rather than guys who have not seen a pro basketball team, ever.”

Phoenix Suns President and GM Bryan Colangelo believes international players like Cabarkapa will make this year’s draft very interesting. He estimates that there will be five to seven foreign prospects selected among in the first 15 picks in next month’s NBA Draft.

“That means someone could get pushed down, perhaps a domestic player, perhaps it’s one of those foreign players we like,” Colangelo said of the Suns’ 17th overall selection in the first round.

While Colangelo wouldn’t say if this year’s foreign class is any better than last year when three of the first seven players drafted were foreign prospects, he said there’s more scouting in Europe than ever before.

“I will tell you the scouting experience has become that much more important and much more expansive in Europe,” he said. “Now the prospects are coming out younger and we’re scouting players, and taking a gamble on players that are younger and less experienced.”