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Cedevita letting youngsters get experience
REGENSBURG (David Hein's Eye on the Future) - Cedevita Zagreb recognize that they have some of the best youngsters in basketball and the Croatian side is letting those talented players get some minutes in important competitions.
The biggest name of the top level prospects for Cedevita is 17-year-old Lovro Mazalin, who came back to the club after an underwhelming U18 European Championship, where Croatia took third place and qualified for the 2015 FIBA U19 World Championship.
Also on that U18 team and on Cedevita is 18-year-old Marko Arapovic. A third star talent is 19-year-old Karlo Zganec, who helped Croatia to the 2011 U16 European Championship and 2012 U18 European Championship titles.
After all three got minutes in the Adriatic League, all three also played in Cedevita's first game in the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Regular Season against Unicaja Malaga.
That was reason enough to see how the talented trio performed under the spotlight.
Cedevita coach Jasmin Repesa started Mazalin at small forward and the young lefty opened the scoring for Zagreb, hitting a long jumper with his foot on the three-point line.
After fending off Lithuanian international Mindaugas Kuzminskas to rebound Unicaja's first miss, Mazalin then drove from the right and kicked out to Fran Pilepic for an assist on a three-pointer. Mazalin later missed a lean-in jumper near the baseline with the shot clock winding down.
On defense, the youngster gave way too much space beyond the three-point line to Kuzminskas, who connected from long range. Mazalin later couldn't get around a screen as Kuzminskas curled and got a lay-up. The Croat also dove on the floor for a loose ball but then threw it away from the hardwood.
On offense, Mazalin missed out on another assist as his drive and dish to Miro Bilan resulted in the latter not being able to finish. And the native of Sisak was taken out with 4:18 left in the first quarter. He returned with 4:37 to go before halftime and once again left too much space to his man, this time Ryan Toolson, who raced right past the youngster when he came out to defend a long jumper.
At the other end, Mazalin fed a wonderful pass to Bilan for an open dunk to even the game at 33-33. Trailing 38-33, Mazalin turned the ball over and was subbed out at the next stoppage of play with 2:22 left in the first half.
Repesa didn't put Mazalin back in the game and he finished with two points on 1-of-2 shooting, two rebounds, two assists, one personal four and two turnovers in 8:30 minutes.
Arapovic was the first substitute to enter the game at the 6:57 mark of the first quarter. He didn't contribute much, mainly setting picks. He picked up a foul guarding veteran Vladimir Golubovic and then came out with 2:36 left in the opening period.
Arapovic returned to the court with 2:58 left in the first half and was the intended target of Mazalin's bad pass. Trailing 40-33, Arapovic went up for a dunk but was blocked by Malaga's Will Thomas.
Thomas was too much for Arapovic at the other end too as the veteran American scored an easy basket inside to make it 44-33.
After playing the rest of the second quarter, Arapovic sat out until there was about five minutes left in the game. He stayed on the court for two offensive possessions and was then subbed out. He returned inside the three minute mark after Tomislav Zubcic failed to convert an easy lay-up. Arapovic challenged a lay-up on defense and grabbed the rebound but didn't touch the ball the rest of the game.
All told, Arapovic went scoreless in 10:53 minutes of action, missing his lone shot attempt, grabbing one rebound and committing one foul.
Zganec, meanwhile, came on with 1:08 left in the third quarter and played out the rest of that period. He did not touch the ball on offense or defense but was in the middle of a 2-3 zone over which Unicaja threw for an alley-oop dunk by Kuzminskas.
Thus far this season, Mazalin has appeared in three games, also getting eight minutes of action in two Adriatic League contests, totaling four points, one rebound and one turnover.
Besides the Euroleague game, Arapovic has played in four Adriatic league games, averaging 6.5 minutes, 1.8 points, 1.3 rebounds and 0.8 assists. He collected four points, three rebounds, two assists and one steal in nine minutes against Metalac.
Zganec played double digits minutes twice in the Adriatic League, averaging 3.0 points and 1.0 rebounds in 12.0 minutes over three total games.
Cedevita lost the Malaga game 78-63 and the season is still young, but Cedevita are clearly showing a willingness to let their youngsters shine - which will be beneficial to the team and the players down the road.
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