Slovenian Luka Doncic already a big name at just 16
MADRID (David Hein's Eye on the Future) - Real Madrid will be shooting for their first Adidas Next Generation Tournament (ANGT) title in three weeks at the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Final Four. And the uber-talented Luka Doncic will play a major role in the host team's chances.
There has been no lack of superlatives being thrown around about the young Slovenian, who just turned 16 years on February 28. But there are a couple of questions still to be answered about Doncic.
How soon will he make his professional debut with Real Madrid's top team? How great will he be? And the more controversial one, could Doncic actually not play for Slovenia but for Spain instead?
Looking around on the internet = with the help of a program such as Google Translate or the like - there is no shortage of tales of greatness about Doncic, the son of former two-time Slovenian league champion Sasa Doncic.
And here a sampling of Luka's accomplishments thus far.
He collected four points, three rebounds and one assist in 20 minutes for the Real Madrid senior team during an October pre-season game before the 2014-15 season.
Doncic was included in Madrid's professional roster for their Round 6 Liga Endesa game against Fuenlabrada on November 11, though he did not get into the game.
In a friendly tournament with the Slovenian U16 team in December 2014 in Szekesfehervar, Hungary, Doncic dominated against Romania, Czech Republic and Poland, averaging 35.3 points, 7.6 rebounds while shooting 81 percent from two-point range and 57 percent on three-pointers. Against Romania, he collected 34 points and nine rebounds in just 15 minutes of action and then had 27 points against the Czechs and finished off with 45 points against Poland.
Doncic followed that up in early January by helping Real Madrid to win the ANGT qualifyier in L'Hospitalet. Despite being two years younger than the age group, Doncic was named to the All-Tournament Team as he averaged 13 points, 7.2 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 1.8 steals. He collected 13 points, 13 rebounds, four assists and four steals against his former team Union Olimipija - and against fellow top Slovenian talent, Blaz Mesicek, who was named as the MVP of the L'Hospitalet tournament.
Doncic has been playing this season in Spain's fourth division EBA and averaged 15.2 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.1 steals in 19 games, including two double-doubles playing alongside top level European talents such as Santiago Yusta, Emanuel Cate and Jonathan Barreiro.
Doncic also collected a title with Real Madrid, beating Torrelodones to win the Madrid community U18 Final Four. The Slovenian grabbed MVP honors with 20 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in the final.
Doncic’s tweet after winning the title is one of the few things the basketball world has heard from the star talent. That is not really a surprise since Real Madrid - like many of the top Spanish clubs - do not allow their young players to talk to the media until after they turn 18 years old. Doncic also does not make a lot of statements on Twitter.
Twitter and the internet is full of praise for Doncic, calling him the next big thing for Real Madrid.
To get some response about his talent, Eye on the Future asked the Slovenian Basketball Federation about Doncic.
"We believe he is a great prospect for the future of Slovenian basketball," Ante Blazic from the KZS said.
"We all [federation, club, parents] have to give him good conditions and guide him through his career in all areas carefully so he would become a good player in the absolute category."
Going back to the aforementioned question about Doncic playing for Slovenia. He was due to play at the U16 European Championship last summer but had to withdraw with a knee injury. He did play in the friendly tournament in Hungary, but he has yet to play at an official tournament. That has some Spanish media speculating that Doncic could instead decide to play for Spain.
That actually seems quite unlikely, especially since he stated he was glad to play for Slovenia in December.
I am glad to play with Slovenia national team this December, Go Slovenia!— Luka Doncic (@luka7doncic) December 8, 2014
But there is a question about this summer. Both of Slovenia's U18 and U16 national teams are playing at the Europan Championship Division B level. If he plays with the U18s from 23 July-2 August, he would likely play with Mesicek. Doncic could even play both as the U16 Division Division B will take place 6-16 August.
It would be good for Slovenian basketball if both teams were back at the Division A level, something that a player of Doncic's quality could do with just a little bit of help.
Doncic could even be called in the Slovenian senior team training camp to get introduced to the country's top players.
"There are several options, which we are thinking of. We will decide upon what is best for the development of his career and health," Blazic said.
Doncic still has so much basketball ahead of him. Let's first enjoy him at the ANGT Finals at the Euroleague Final Four.
FIBA's columnists write on a wide range of topics relating to basketball that are of interest to them. The opinions they express are their own and in no way reflect those of FIBA.
FIBA takes no responsibility and gives no guarantees, warranties or representations, implied or otherwise, for the content or accuracy of the content and opinion expressed in the above article.