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Blaz Mahkovic–the late bloomer from Slovenia

November 7th, 2010 · No Comments

(by Luka Bassin) – When Blaž Mahkovic scored 23 points in just 23 minutes on the court in 2nd round of Slovenian Telemach league against Helios Domžale two weeks ago and put some attention on himself, many experts did not believe that there is a player in Slovenia who is 20-year-old and it is not well known. All attention in 1990 generation, which is not one of the strongest in Slovenian history, goes to Dino Murić, Marko Vranjkovič and Luka Dimec. We can say that Blaž Mahkovic is a late bloomer, even he already played two 1b division seasons and he is currently in his second 1a Telemach league and he was member of u-20 national team twice. For me, he is the top Slovenian prospect in his 1990 generation.

Blaž Mahkovic is 20-year-old small forward (2m00) who can play also power forward position from time to time. He started his basketball career in Kranj, a small city 25 kilometers from the capital Ljubljana, in KK Triglav; the team has great tradition in Slovenian basketball but the team also struggled lately.

Roman Horvat, Union Olimpija’s sharp-shooter 15-20 years ago, Gregor Hafnar, Union Olimpija’s guard 15 years ago and Marko Milič, Union Olimpija’s legend are players who come from KK Triglav Kranj. Maybe Blaž Mahkovic is next one who can make an impact on Slovenian basketball (alongside with Jaka Blažič, also player from Kranj, who plays for Geoplin Slovan currently).

Mahkovic played for all youth teams of Triglav and moved to 1st division team LTH Cast from Škofja Loka before 2009-10 season. His statistical parameters show his progress over last 4 years:

  • 2007-08 he played for Triglav in 1b division, averaging 4.0ppg, 2.2rpg, 0.5 apg and 2.3rkg in 12.3 minutes on the court.
  • 2008-09 he played for Triglav in 1b division, averaging 10.3ppg, 3.2rpg, 0.6apg and 9.1rkg in almost 21 minutes on the court.
  • 2009-10 he played for LTH Cast in Telemach league, averaging 7.4ppg, 2.7rpg, 0.4apg and 6.9rkg in 21 minutes on the court.
  • 2010-11 he plays for LTH Cast in Telemach league, currently averaging 15.0ppg, 2.3rpg, 0.7apg and 7.3rkg in almost 30 minutes on the court.

In meantime he was member of u-20 Slovenia national team twice:

  • 2009 EC u-20 in Greece: 5.5ppg, 2.8rpg and 0.7apg in 16 minutes on the court.
  • 2010 EC u-20 in Croatia: 5.0ppg and 1.3rpg in 15 minutes on the court.

Let’s start with some general things. In very young age Mahkovic was power forward or even center because of his height, but coaches in his native Triglav Kranj soon discovered that he can developed into a good small forward. His character is not the best one to become superstar since he is not »killer« and sometimes he lacks some confidence and aggressiveness but I’m sure that in future, with experience and good games, with help of the coaches, he can overcome this and become self-confident and brave.

He has nice height for his position and wingspan is also good. He has a lot of place for physical improvement considering muscles. He is fast enough and his explosiveness is ok, but he does not use these attributes as often as he could. He has nice and quick lateral movement and fast first step.

Blaž Mahkovic is tactically good but he will learn even more in years to come because he is intelligent and he knows what he wants in world of basketball. His passing skills are ok, his shot is good, but his ball handling and dribbling skills are the things which need to be work on a lot. I can say that he could have some problems with bringing ball to offensive end against aggressive defenses.

HIS OFFENSIVE SKILLS:

Fastbreak: He can run really good as wing player or trailer and has very good and strong finishes. He is not so good in transition as ball handler.

Penetration: Mahkovic has a quick first step and he can use it very often. He receives a ball in triple-threat position and he can make an advantage with nice shot fake or penetration fake. Since his ball handling is not perfect he is not so dangerous when it comes to play 1:1 with dribbling. He prefers to drive baseline from both sides but he can drive also in the middle from left side.

Shot: His shot selection is better every day. He is good shooter from spot-up situation, he can use screens and release the ball very quick and he can also shoot after fakes and one dribble. He is using three-point shot very often lately (maybe too often) and his percentage is higher every season.

Free throws: He was really bad free throw shooter couple of seasons ago, but he made extreme progress and now he is regular or even excellent free throw shooter.

Back to the basket: Since he played at PF or even C position he has skills to play back to the basket. He has good technique of back to the basket moves so he could play even more at low post position when it comes to miss-matches.

Pick’n’roll (pop) game: He is not really a player who can play pick’n’roll as ball handler. He should develop this element if he wants to become complete player. But he can be real dangerous if he is playing pick’n’pop as pop man or he can roll and play back to the basket when it comes to switching and miss-matches.

Spacing, following: Mahkovic has nice feeling to put himself on the right place. His spacing is ok, he is patient when it comes to following pick’n’roll situation or 1:1 play of his teammates and he can execute good passes.

Passing skills: Passing skills in general are good but he needs to work on decision making.

Offensive rebound: He should use his skills more in offensive rebounding. He can definitely grab a rebound if he goes for it. So he has to be more aggressive and focused on it because he can finish his offensive rebound with nice tip-ins or even tip-dunks.

HIS DEFENSIVE SKILLS:

Transition to defense: Sometimes he just stays somewhere between, so he is not going for rebound and he is not sprinting back. He definitely has skills to sprint back at right time – it is just the matter of focus.

Rebound: He can box-out really good but number of his rebounds is not good. He should have more rebounds, he should go for a ball many more times since his height and explosive power are very good. He is not patient when it comes to rebound and he just runs in fast break too soon.

1:1 defensive skills: He is pretty good one-on-one defensive player but he could be even better. He has some problems with faster opponents but he uses his hands good and solves problems. He can also play full-court defense but we have to be ready to help and recover.

1:1 back to the basket: He should not have problems since he was power forward in the past, but lack of aggressiveness made him troubles.

Pick defense: He can switch almost all screens. Other than that he is a little late and not very aggressive when he is defending ball handler.

Comparisons: Vladimir Dašić (Virtus Roma) or Victor Claver (PE Valencia)

He is hard working player and he likes to learn. I’m sure that this season will be his break-out season and he will have many options and offers at the end of the year. He has to develop physically. With that he can become more aggressive and self-confident and he can achieve his goal-to play on very high level of basketball.

At the moment Blaž Mahkovic is no.1 offensive option for LTH Cast Mercator in Slovenian Telemach league and prospect who made the biggest progress in last 4-5 months. He is definitely player to follow.

written by Luka Bassin

Luka Bassin played professional basketball in Slovenia and finished Faculty of sports on University Ljubljana. He worked as head coach of High school Gimnazija Bežigrad (Jan Vesely, Bostjan Nachbar, Erazem Lorbek… were students at Gimnazija Bežigrad) and won ISF World championship of High Achools 2001 in Turkey. Made junior Final 8 (NIJT Euroleague) in 2009 and 2010 with Olimpija Ljubljana. Worked with U20 national team as assistant coach and won bronze medal in 2006 in Turkey. Worked with Goran Dragic, Gasper Vidmar, Jaka Klobucar, Emir Preldzic, Mirza Begic… in national teams.

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