Vlatko Čančar’s Denver Nuggets blog: Differences between NBA and Europe

by Vlatko Čančar

Hello everyone, 

Hope you enjoyed my first blog. I’ve been enjoying my second experience in Summer League so far, having wrapped up minicamp on Thursday. We have a great group of guys and I’ve been impressed by how quickly we’ve been able to develop chemistry considering it's only been a few days together. There’s also another Slovenian, Martin Krampelj, here so that’s been awesome. 

I’ve also gotten a chance to see more of Denver, a city that I really like a lot. I’m from Koper, Slovenia, a port city that has less than 26,000 people in it, so I really appreciate the laid-back vibe of Denver. It’s not too crowded and you don’t have to worry about feeling rushed or things like that. I’m a low-key guy, who likes to keep things relaxed and chill with friends. Denver feels like a great fit. 

If there’s one setback, it’s the minor ankle injury I dealt with at the beginning of minicamp. Luckily, our medical staff has been incredible in getting me back on the court quickly. It’s circumstances like that make me realize how far I’ve come in my playing career. Honestly, I feel like I’m in a movie when I see all of the facilities the Nuggets have at their disposal. It is state of the art and I’m happy to utilize it while I’m here. 

I remember when I started my professional career, our locker room was really a bench and a few coat hangers. That was it. Things are better at San Pablo Burgos, where I played last season, but it still doesn’t compare to an NBA locker room setup.  In the Nuggets locker room, you got comfy chairs, incredible lighting and rooms for regeneration. It’s a world apart.

The differences don’t stop there. The process of becoming a professional in Europe in comparison to America is interesting. I’ll explain. 

I got my love of playing basketball from my older brother, Zdenko. Growing up, we competed in everything, ranging from soccer, handball to eventually basketball. My brother didn’t go professional, but he was really good at streetball, especially three-on-threes. When I first got into basketball, I couldn’t get on the court with him so I’d just practice on the side. Eventually, I got a shot and I really started building confidence. That confidence and momentum led to a chance to play with the Slovenian U16 national team. 

I know you’ll think this isn’t true, but I didn’t really think I had a chance of being a professional ball player. Then, when I was 16, randomly one day, my U16s coach approached me with two pieces of paper. One was a chance to continue my normal high school curriculum. The other offered me a basketball-focused education set up. I would still have to take tests, but I’d have the opportunity to have two organized practice sessions a day. The choice was simple for me. I didn’t know whether or not, I’d go pro, but I wanted to take at least try my luck and see what happens. 

A year later that decision would pay off as I was offered a reserve contract with Olimpija Ljubljana, the biggest club in Slovenia. It was there that I started to really think about a career as a professional. As I started to have good performances, I started to think about Euroleague clubs as my next step. The NBA wasn’t really on my mind at that stage. 

Then a phone call from my agent a few years later changed everything. He suggested I put my name in the 2017 draft and I said, “OK, you know what’s best for me and I trust you.” I put my faith in him and it worked out well. I ended up getting drafted by the Nuggets with the 49th pick. As excited as I was, I knew being picked by an NBA team in the draft doesn’t mean much. There’s been plenty of European players who are drafted by teams and never play a minute in the league. I had to prove myself. I have to keep working as hard as I possibly can, keep improving my game and showing what I can do. This is where I want to be, so I have to make sure it becomes a reality. 

As told to Alex Labidou

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