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Dario Saric earns the NIJT Trophy with a Triple-double

May 8th, 2011 · 2 Comments

The Croats from KK Zagreb won the Nike International Junior Tournament 2011 behind a great performance of their star trio during the days in Barcelona. Built around a core of three very different players and a key workhorse in the paint, Zagreb has only limited support coming from the bench but it was enough to overcome a more team-oriented Lithuanian team in the Finals. So let’s check the head of their trident of talent, the amazing Dario Saric.

The first player to mention and the MVP of the tournament is of course Dario Saric. The 2m05 tall and 1994 born forward from Croatia was hands-down the best player of the tournament showing a great feel for the game, an amazing eye for the passes to his team mates and an emotional attitude that makes him a crowd favorite right from the start. Saric averaged 20.3ppg, 12.3rpg and 6.3apg that give him a 29.3rkg over the four games of the tournament. Already by these numbers, you can recognize what type of player we have here, a prospect that is still a year younger than the competition and who can theoretically come back next season for the confirmation of the title.

The Croatian forward is a do-it-all guy. He can play any position on the court both on offense and on defense. He really likes to have the ball in his hands, create something out of the dribble. Depending on the defender he has against him, he either plays him from the top or goes down low in the post. When attacking from outside, Saric mostly goes for a multitude of cross-over dribbles trying to put his defender out of balance. He can attack the basket with long steps to surround the help defense but he is best when seeing the help come and making the pass to his team mates. Saric has nearly an all-around view as he does not only connect with the cutters that come to the basket but he can also go for the kick out to the players being on the wing, even on three-quarters behind him.

On the downside, Saric sometimes wants to go for his own shot out of his cross-over dribbles but he is a lot less effective in these situations coming up with a short jumper on multiple occasions. His decision making in these situations is still a bit questionable as he sometimes looks a bit too much for this shot, even when being defended by a slower player on defense. His shot is perfectible when it comes to mechanics and fluidity which can be seen in theses situations. When receiving the ball in a kick-out or Pick and Pop situation, he can nail the long-distance attempt but the jump shot out of the dribble is one of the parts of his game that he still has to improve. As mentioned before, when Saric is defended by a smaller player, he also likes to go to the low post where he uses his length to create good opportunities for himself. He barely ever tries to use a fade-away jump shot but prefers to play with his back to the basket and fake the defenders to get the open lay-ups. Here again, he is doing his best to recognize the double team and the cutters or open shooters and connect them to get the easy baskets.

Next to his passing skills, Saric has of course excellent hands. When he is in the range of 2-3 meters from the basket, he can net nearly everything with some short floaters or hooks. He does not use a real jump-shot from close range even if it would be possible and prefers these short and quick scores with one hand. Due to his great length, he is rarely put in trouble by the defense despite not being a great athlete. When he attacks the basket, he is rarely losing the control of his body and displays excellent speed in his spin moves as well. He can finish against the big guys with either hand and often even draws the And-1 foul call because of his ability to put his body where it counts. He is not afraid to go for the additional dive to impress the referees and he is in general not keen of going where it hurts and make the hustle plays. Unfortunately, he is not the greatest foul shooter (around 70%) and lets some points trailing here and there because of that. This might though be a concentration issue or just improving as well in the next years with working more on his shot.

An area of the game where Saric is great as well is the open court. Due to his strong presence in the defensive rebound (more than 10 per game), he can immediately launch the fast break. When putting the ball on the floor, he comes with excellent speed for a 2m05 tall player and has of course the peripheral view to find the team mates running on the wings. He likes to add the small no-look dish when being sure of the lanes of his team mates and has also the precision to go for middle line alley-oop passes out of the run. When the defense is sacking, he can also continue his drive and finish the break with the foul but rarely with a dunk.

On the defensive end, Saric is currently not really a factor as he has to play lots of minutes and takes sometimes a breather in his own half. He has though some potential as he seems to be quite quick on lateral movements and knows already like a veteran how to draw the charge. Often used as a middle-man in a 2-3 zone, Saric is in foul trouble nearly every game because he plays like the final rampart of his team. This pushes him to make some fouls on the opposing drivers that are not looking like they are intimidated by his presence and often go hard at him. He earns several calls in these situations for lowering his arms when standing straight on the floor. It will be interesting to see how he develops in this part of the game as he will not be able to play like that on defense on the professional level. He will most likely struggle when defending against faster or more athletic wing players and he also needs to muscle up a bit in the next years.

Another question mark on Saric is his attitude. Always fully emotional, he complains already in true Euroleague style on every (non-)call by the referees and gets barely ever advised to calm down by the officiating trio. Additionally, he is going really hard on his team mates if they have made bad choices. However, he is also a great motivator and will do everything to win and rarely forcing his own shots over giving the pass for his team mate. His trophy collection is already impressive with a U16 European Championship Gold Medal and now a Nike International Junior Tournament which shows that he really is a Winner. He seems to enjoy the game a lot and he is certainly one of the players the most fun to watch. You always have the impression that the Croatian kid can break out in tears of emotion in the next moment. Being driven by an at least as emotional father, who was a former professional player as well, the ceiling is extremely high for Dario Saric. It is now in his hands to make the next step as he is already putting on great numbers on the Senior level as well. The rumors have him signing with a major powerhouse this summer but right now, it might be a bit too early and it would be better to go first for a strong season in the Adriatic League with his home team in 2011/2012. After that, he is still only 18 years old and can move abroad to take the Euroleague in storm.

We will cover his team mates in the next article and also have a report on the best of the rest later this week.

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 carlo // May 8, 2011 at 4:25 pm

    Dario Saric is the best player of his age in Europe (at least).

  • 2 NIJT Final 8: the other prospects // May 18, 2011 at 11:40 pm

    […] Junior Tournament has been played already several days ago. After having analyzed the game of the MVP of the tournament Dario Saric as well as the other prospects in his team KK Zagreb, we are taking a look today at […]

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