Center of Attention

Sophomore Big Man Ante Zizic Opening Eyes in Vegas
by Joe Gabriele Managing Editor

Center of Attention

Sophomore Big Man Ante Zizic Opening Eyes in Vegas

The poor kid. Ante Zizic just turned old enough to drink a beer or play blackjack and he’s already being called a “dinosaur.”

But that’s what happens when you play a position that, in today’s NBA, is almost a blast from the past.

Popularized by the Golden State Warriors, today’s NBA has gone away from the traditional center – instead favoring players who can stretch the floor. Today’s game is about stretch-4s, combo-guards, floor-spacers and swingmen. Seven-footers routinely have the green light from beyond the arc. Kevin Love – not exactly the Artis Gilmore-type – started 48 games in the middle for the Eastern Conference Champs last season.

(Ironically, it was the Warriors who recently landed one of the league’s true remaining centers – and maybe its best (DeMarcus Cousins) – in free agency.)

Ante Zizic might be a throwback player – a down-on-the-block, back-to-the-basket big man – but that doesn’t mean his skill-set is obsolete. In fact, through the first two games of Summer League – and a strong but brief showing late last season – the 21-year-old center has shown that he can pile up all kinds of production.

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 7: Ante Zizic #41 of the Cleveland Cavaliers dunks the ball against the Chicago Bulls during the 2018 Las Vegas Summer League on July 7, 2018 at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

As the Cavs split their first two contests in Vegas – topping the Wizards on Friday before falling to the Bulls on Saturday, the “new” Big Z is averaging 20.5 points and 12.5 rebounds through the first three games of Vegas Summer League, shooting 63 percent (19-of-30) from the floor.

(Zizic got Monday’s matchup against the Pacers off for rest.)

He has shown the footwork and patience of a five-year veteran, he’s finishing strong with both hands and his assertiveness in the post has been tangible so far in Vegas.

”One of my goals (this offseason) was to be patient in the post because before I was always in a rush,” said Zizic. “So now I'm picking my pace and it seems good.”

If his field goal percentage numbers are good, it’s because Cleveland’s Numeral 41 – (chosen because of his birthday, January 4) – doesn’t stray out to the three-point line unless it’s to set a screen or track down a long rebound. And although he’s proven himself a solid passer, he won’t be triggering the offense, like fellow former Adriatic Leaguer, Nikola Jokic.

Zizic plays center. The Five.

After being named the 2015-16 Adriatic League Top Prospect – an honor previously given to impressive recent imports like Nikola Jokic and Dario Saric – the native of Split, Croatia was taken with the 23rd pick of the 2016 Draft by Boston and, by March of last season, was the only roster player remaining from last summer’s blockbuster trade with the Celtics.

(The Wine & Gold have since tabbed Collin Sexton with the pick acquired in the deal.)

Cracking the rotation on a veteran-laden squad like last year’s Cavs wasn’t easy. Zizic racked up 46 DNP-CDs early in the campaign, but kept working with then-assistant Vitaly Potapenko in Cleveland and was very productive in Canton – averaging 16.3 points and 9.4 boards in 18 games with the Charge.

"Over the past season, I was preparing -- working on my body, working on my game, working on everything ..."


When Zizic finally did get his shot – with Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson nursing injuries – he was aggressive and confident. The game didn’t seem too big or fast for him.

In 32 appearances, he shot 73 percent from the floor (49-of-67) – netting five games in double-figures, including a 15-point performance on 7-of-9 shooting against the Lakers in early March and a 20-point showing on 7-of-9 shooting in the regular season finale against the Knicks.

"Over the past season, I was preparing -- working on my body, working on my game, working on everything, actually," said Zizic, who was heading directly from the gym to watch his friend Stipe Miocic attempt to defend his heavyweight title. "So I feel much more ready for the league now."

Zizic has had a really nice run for the Wine & Gold here in the desert – and this past Saturday was especially interesting.

After 9 a.m. shootaround at the Cox Pavilion, he returned to the hotel where he watched Croatia top Russia on a 4-3 penalty shootout in the 2018 World Cup (“It was the first time I didn’t take a (pregame) nap,” joked Zizic.) In the early evening, he notched his second straight double-double, notching 25 points and 11 boards against Chicago.

Following the game, Cleveland’s young big went directly to the T-Mobile Arena to support his friend and fellow countryman, Stipe Miocic, tangle with Daniel Cormier for the UFC heavyweight championship – (which didn’t work out as well as they both would’ve hoped).

”It's been tough because he hasn't really played a lot,” said Coach James Posey after Saturday’s performance. “He was in the G League for a little bit, played some games down there, but even when he had the opportunity for us, he played well. He put in the work all season long for this moment right here and he's taking advantage of it.”

Big Z will be back in action when Summer League’s next round tips off later this week – banging in the post, moving bodies and doing what he does best: playing the position as it was originally designed.

Behind-the-Scenes from Media Day takes you behind-the-scenes through the lens of a slow-mo camera from 2018 Media Day powered by FirstEnergy.

Ante Zizic Feature - July 10, 2018

Scroll Video up Scroll Video down Scroll Video left Scroll Video right

Behind-the-Scenes from Media Day takes you behind-the-scenes through the lens of a slow-mo camera from 2018 Media Day powered by FirstEnergy.
Sep 25, 2018  |  02:31

Zizic, Thompson and Osman Highlights

Check out some highlights from the Cavaliers participating in the FIBA World Cup Qualifiers.
Sep 18, 2018  |  01:56

Summer League Dimes for #NBAAssistWeek

Check out some of the dimes dropped during the Cavs Summer League run for #NBAAssistWeek.
Aug 8, 2018  |  01:08

Top Plays from 2018 Summer League

Watch some of the Wine & Gold's best dishes, dunks and more from the desert during the MGM Resorts 2018 Summer League.
Jul 18, 2018  |  03:13 In-Depth: Ante Zizic

Cavaliers center Ante Zizic goes in-depth with as the 21-year old big man discusses his growth this summer.
Jul 17, 2018  |  03:47

GAME RECAP: Lakers 112, Cavaliers 109

Josh Hart carries the Lakers into the 2018 Summer League Championship round with 37 points and nine rebounds as they defeat the Cavaliers in double overtime, 112-109.
Jul 16, 2018  |  00:00

GAME RECAP: Cavaliers 96, Kings 84

Collin Sexton leads the Cavaliers over the Kings, 96-84.
Jul 11, 2018  |  00:00

#CavsBulls Summer League Postgame: Ante Zizic – July 7, 2018

Cavaliers center Ante Zizic spoke with the media following Saturday's loss to the Chicago Bulls in Summer League action in Las Vegas.
Jul 8, 2018  |  01:44

Ante Zizic (25 points) Highlights vs. Chicago Bulls

Ante Zizic scores 25 points and grabs 11 rebounds in Saturday's Summer League game in Las Vegas.
Jul 8, 2018  |  00:00

Okaro White Creates a Smart Play

Okaro White steals the ball before making a long pass to Ante Zizic for the score.
Jul 7, 2018  |  00:10

Ante Zizic Powers Past Bulls for Bucket

Ante Zizic banks in a tough layup early on in the first quarter of the Cavs' Summer League matchup against the Chicago Bulls.
Jul 7, 2018  |  00:10

GAME RECAP: Cavaliers 72, Wizards 59

Ante Zizic scored 16 points and 14 rebounds as the Cavaliers earn a 72-59 win against the Wizards in Summer League action.
Jul 6, 2018  |  00:00

Zizic and Sexton Work the Two-Man Game

Ante Zizic and Collin Sexton work the give-and-go as Sexton converts the easy layup.
Jul 6, 2018  |  00:09

Featured Highlight: Cedi Dimes Ante for the Slam

Cedi Osman throws the pretty dish to Ante Zizic for the easy slam.
Jul 6, 2018  |  00:18

Ante Zizic Gets It Going Early

Big man, Ante Zizic, gets things going in Vegas early with six points in the first quarter against the Wizards.
Jul 6, 2018  |  00:27

Top Plays of the 2018 Finals powered by Elk & Elk

Check out some of the best highlights from the Cavs' 2018 Finals, powered by Elk & Elk.
Jun 10, 2018  |  02:27

GAME 4 RECAP: Warriors 108, Cavaliers 85

The Golden State Warriors control Game 4 from start to finish as Stephen Curry scores 37 and Kevin Durant notches his first triple-double in the playoffs as they complete the sweep in Cleveland, 108-8
Jun 8, 2018  |  00:00

Blackout The Q for the Finals

Do 'Whatever it Takes' and wear your favorite black Cavs gear at all home games at The Q for the 2018 NBA Finals.
Jun 8, 2018  |  00:29

Peep the Cavs' 2018 NBA Finals Player Introduction

Check out the brand-new player intro video that premiered before Game 3 of the 2018 NBA Finals between the Cavaliers and Warriors on June 6, 2018.
Jun 8, 2018  |  01:04

Gear Up for the 2018 NBA Finals!

Do 'Whatever It Takes' and gear up for the Finals by visiting the Cavaliers Team Shop or
Jun 7, 2018  |  00:15

Warriors vs. Cavaliers Game 4 Look Ahead

The GameTime Crew look ahead and discuss what they expect during Game 4 of the 2018 NBA Finals and talk about if they believe the Cavaliers will overcome the 0-3 deficit.
Jun 7, 2018  |  00:00

GAME 3 RECAP: Warriors 110, Cleveland 102

Kevin Durant erupts for a playoff career-high 43 points with 13 rebounds and seven assists to lead Golden State over Cleveland in Game 3, 110-102.
Jun 6, 2018  |  00:00

Warriors-Cavaliers Game 3 Ultimate Playoffs Highlight

Check out the best moments from Game 3 of the 2018 NBA Finals as Kevin Durant put on a show to carry the Warriors in Cleveland.
Jun 6, 2018  |  00:00

2018 Finals Mini-Movie: Game 3

Kevin Durant's 43-point performance gave the Golden State Warriors s 3-0 lead over the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2018 NBA Finals.
Jun 6, 2018  |  00:00

Cavs, Warriors Set To Meet In Game 3

The Cavaliers return home for Game 3 and hope their home crowd can help spark a Finals win against the Warriors.
Jun 5, 2018  |  00:00

Warriors vs. Cavaliers Game 3 Look Ahead

Casey Stern, Matt Winer, and Dennis Scott look ahead to Game 3 as the Cavaliers will face the Warriors in Cleveland in efforts to overcome a 0-2 deficit.
Jun 5, 2018  |  00:00

2018 Finals Mini-Movie: Game 2

Stephen Curry hits a Finals-record nine 3-pointers to lead the Golden State Warriors past the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 2.
Jun 3, 2018  |  00:00

GAME 2 RECAP: Warriors 122, Cavaliers 103

Stephen Curry sets an NBA Finals record with nine three-pointers, as he scores 33 points to help give the Warriors a 2-0 lead over the Cavaliers with a 122-103 win.
Jun 3, 2018  |  00:00 Gets You Hyped for Game 2 at Golden State and KeyBank get you ready for Game 2 of the Wine & Gold's NBA Finals matchup against the Golden State Warriors.
Jun 1, 2018  |  01:17

2018 Finals Mini-Movie: Game 1

The Warriors outlasted the Cavaliers, taking Game 1 in overtime 124-114, despite a massive 51-point game from LeBron James.
Jun 1, 2018  |  00:00