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Sixteen-year-old Musa makes historic Euroleague debut for Cedevita
REGENSBURG (David Hein's Eye on the Future) - Last week's Eye on the Future column featured the young players to watch out for this season in the Turkish Airlines Euroleague. One name was left off as it seemed unlikely he would contribute much.
You could imagine the surprise when Dzanan Musa - the name left out of the column - started at shooting guard for Cedevita Zagreb in their Euroleague season opener against Olympiacos Piraeus.
It was a surprise because Musa is all of 16 years old - actually 16 years five months and seven days to be exact. That made the Bosnia and Herzegovina star talent the ninth-youngest player to make their debut in the Euroleague.
And it's likely the first big game of a lengthy professional career.
Musa played the first 4:55 minutes of the game and was lined up against Olympiacos' multiple Euroleague champion Vasilis Spanoulis.
The youngster hit his only field goal attempt as well as his two free throw attempts for four points. He also grabbed one offensive rebound while turning the ball over once and committing two personal fouls.
Musa did not play the rest of the game. But he got his first taste of Euroleague basketball.
"He started because coach [Veljko Mrsic] wanted to put him in the beginning on Spanoulis. He wanted to see energy from him and wanted to show him that the club is behind him," Cedevita Sports Director Matej Mamic told Eye on the Future.
That's one heck of an assignment for a youngster - regardless of his talent level. But the club is clearly ready to support - and push - Musa, who joined the Croatian side on a long-term deal late in 2014 from small Bosnian outfit Kos Moster.
"I'm happy and he deserves that for what he did this summer," said Mamic referring to Musa helping Bosnia and Herzegovina win the 2015 U16 European Championship and qualify for the 2016 FIBA U17 World Championship - the first time the Bosnians will ever play at a global FIBA event.
"He has more confidence, a little bit better shot and a better understanding of using his minutes on the floor," Mamic said.
"Now he is playing better defense, understanding why defense is important. He has experience with senior players. And he is making better passing decisions - all the things you can't learn in youth games."
Mamic explained that Musa will be practicing with the senior team and the coach will see where he can get his talented guard some minutes. At the same time, he was non-committal at this point whether Musa would play for the Zagreb club in the U18 Adidas Next Generation Tournament.
Of course Musa starting his Euroleague career at such an early age is a great thing as he will be exposed to great players and great opponents while he can still adjust and change his game in so many ways.
But it doesn't promise a great career - as one could see by looking at some of the names on the list of the youngest players in a Euroleague debut.
Aleksandar Ugrinoski was the youngest player ever in Euroleague, making his debut for Cibona in 2003 at 15 years 8 months 22 days. The Croatian finished his Euroleague with four appearances.
The second-youngest player Can Maxi Mutaf of Turkey - 15 years 10 months 14 days - played in seven games over four Euroleague seasons from 2006 to 2011 for Fenerbahce, scoring four points in those contests.
The fourth-youngest Euroleague player was Italian 2.19m giant Gina Cuccarolo (16 years 0 months 0 days), who got in one game in 2003 and his second - and only other one - in 2007 for Benetton. He did not score a point or grab a rebound.
Ioannis Karamalegkos meanwhile played his first Euroleague game for Panathinaikos in 2010 at 16 years 1 month 23 days. The Greek guard has yet to make a second appearance in the league.
Fear not, Musa, Bosnia and Cedevita fans, the others on the Euroleague list have had a fair share of success - No. 3 Manuchar Markoishvili (Benetton Treviso - 15 years 10 months 23 days), No. 5 Ricky Rubio (DKV Joventut - 16 years 0 months 3 days), No. 6 Uros Tripkovic (Partizan - 16 years 0 months 28 days) and No. 7 Damir Markota (Cibona - 16 years 1 month 11 days).
Even though Musa had already played two games in the Adriatic League - scoring three points in nine minutes - it was still unexpected that European basketball fans would get a glimpse of the Bosnian star so early in the Euroleague season.
It would not be a surprise if Musa turns out to be more of a Markoishvili or Rubio on the list and less of a Ugrinoski or Karamalegkos.
When asked what he thinks long-term about Musa, Mamic said: "My opinion is that he will be a star if he works as much as he's working now. He must be patient and everything will come. I like his mentality, and I’m behind this kid 100 percent."
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