As the Celtics get set to make a push for the number one seed and a deep playoff run in the Eastern Conference heading into the 2016-17 playoffs one of their shiniest assets can only watch from 5,164 miles away. Ante Zizic, the Celtics 3rd selection in last years draft (23rd overall), is stashed away in the Euroleague playing for Darussafaka Dogus - eagerly awaiting his opportunity to come to Boston and join his NBA squad. He won't have to wait much longer as Celtics director of player personnel Austin Ainge noted that Zizic will be coming to Boston the very moment free agency commences this summer. Via Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe:
“July 1 just has to roll over on the calendar, and we’ll sign him,” Ainge said. “He wants to be here, and we want him here.”
It's really no shock that Zizic will be heading stateside next season, as most assumed that would be the case. Ante tried to make a case for himself coming to the Celtics right away but now admits that playing in the Euroleague, the 2nd most competitive basketball league in the world, has definitely improved his game.
The Croatian born Zizic was playing in his home country when he was drafted by the Celtics, and midway through this season he made the jump to join the prestigious ABA club Darussafaka Dogus after being sought out by former Cavaliers coach David Blatt. Zizic made the transition to a superior level of play seemlessly, and Blatt thinks he'll be able to have an immediate impact in the NBA next year:
“Without question, Ante brings to the table a level of energy and intangibles that will allow him initially as a role player to contribute,” Blatt said, “because he’s going to rebound, he’s going to run, he’s going to go after loose balls, he’s going to be able to finish and he’s going to compete.”
An athletic big who hustles, can rebound, and run the floor - sounds like exactly what we need now! Zizic admits that it's frustrating to watch his team play from so far away, because he feels he can help in a lot of the areas the C's struggle in:
“I go on every rebound, so I think I can help on that, for sure I can,” Zizic said. “I can grab some bonus rebounds. I have a great work ethic and always will give my maximum.”
Although Ainge and the rest of the Celtics front office may have been intrigued to bring Zizic stateside midway through this season, it's for the best that he's playing a big role in highly competitive league overseas as far as his development goes. Had the Celtics brought him over in the middle of the season it would have taken a year off of his NBA clock in terms of his first rookie contract, and moving overseas and jumping into the NBA without a training camp with his new teammates under his belt would have been a difficult endeavor. Zizic is glad it worked out the way it did, as he sees this Celtics team only getting stronger in the years to come:
“I think the Celtics have a great opportunity next season to have big results,” Zizic said. “But the next few years they will still have a young team, and I think that in two or three seasons when the team takes our experience if we will play together, I think they are ready for some even bigger results.”
We'll get our first look at Zizic stateside in the summer league this offseason, and don't be surprised if he gets some action early next year playing up in Maine for the Red Claws. It sure sounds though that there's a good chance that the Celtics have big plans for Zizic going forward, and don't be surprised if he's making a big impact next season for the big club.
Photo Credit - DANIEL DAL ZENNARO/EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY
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