Ivica Zubac Draft
Ivica Zubac speaks with the media after being drafted by the Lakers on June 23, 2016.
(Chris Marion/Getty Images)

Lakers Seek Growth from 'Developing' Zubac

by Joey Ramirez
Digital Reporter

Ivica Zubac cried at 4 a.m. while watching Kobe Bryant’s final game live in Croatia.

His first basketball jersey was Bryant’s, soon to be followed by Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Metta World Peace.

And now the 19-year-old is a member of the purple and gold — or, as he put it, the gold and purple.

In fact, Zubac — whom Los Angeles considered a top-20 pick — was praying for the teams ahead of the Lakers to pass on him

“I don’t care which number I am,” Zubac said in a conference call with the L.A. media. “I just care about being on a good fit for me and a great team with an amazing, legendary franchise. I couldn’t be happier right now.”

While Zubac’s love for the Lakers made for one of the better Draft Night moments, his potential as a 7-foot-1, 265-pound center has the team’s sights set solely on the future.

With a 7-foot-4 wingspan, Zubac has a frame that could translate well from the Adriatic League — where he averaged 10.9 points and 5.1 rebounds while shooting 50.0 percent for Mega Leks — to the NBA.

He’s able to run the floor surprisingly well for such a mammoth prospect and has improved his post game and proficiency on the boards.

However, the Lakers know that there is a long way to go.

“He’s young and he’s big and he’s got skills,” General Manager Mitch Kupchak said. “He did remind me of NBA players that, in this league, have made it. But he is a young player. So if he continues to work hard and develop, he has a chance to stick in this league and be a good player.”

Welcome to the family, Ivica!! With the 32nd pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, the Lakers take 7-foot-1 Ivica Zubac!

A photo posted by Los Angeles Lakers (@lakers) on

Kupchak wants Zubac to play for the Lakers’ Summer League team in July, though it may not happen since he is still under contract in Europe. He does, however, have an NBA opt-out clause that could allow him to play for L.A. this upcoming season.

Zubac wants to enter the NBA immediately and Kupchak says the Lakers “wouldn’t be opposed to that.”

Regardless of where he spends the 2016-17 season, the Lakers hope that their 32nd-overall pick makes strides in his game.

For example, he provides almost zero shooting, playing nearly exclusively around the basket on offense. However, Zubac did shoot 80.0 percent on free throws with Mega Leks and has a nice stroke that could translate into some mid-range touch with enough work.

“He started playing late, (has) a body that’s still developing,” Kupchak said. “You may say he’s not as fluid or … clearly still growing into his body and becoming more comfortable on certain parts of the court.”

Now that process continues as Zubac becomes part of the rebuilding process that comes with the retirement of his favorite player.

“My older friends and guys who I looked up to were all loving Kobe, so I started watching him and I really loved his killer instincts and his will to win the games,” Zubac said. “That’s really the most important thing in basketball. So I loved him from the first game that I watched him.”

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