Credit: Reuters, Imago Images - Scanpix/Getty Images
Credit Reuters, Imago Images - Scanpix/Getty Images

3-pointers this season

Points made: 8,8
Accuracy: 35,4%
Place in standings: 6
Record max: 15
Record min: 5
Most made 3FGs: Isaiah Canaan

Mario Hezonja is one of the most-exciting players European basketball has ever produced and the UNICS Kazan swingman shares freely about his development, his career and his thoughts on basketball on both sides of the Atlantic in the second podcast of the season on The Crossover with Joe Arlauckas.

A native of Dubrovnik, a seaside town in the south of Croatia, Hezonja’s talent was evident from a very young age. By 14, he needed to move to the Croatian capital to continue his basketball growth and there, playing against guys who were two and three years older than him, Hezonja learned many lessons about what it takes to be a professional in both basketball and life.

“In the 92-93 generations in Croatia, we have ballers, not players. Ballers… Those guys at that time, I was a kid so I’m looking up to them. These guys are very, very good. I had to get better even get to play with them. Not to be better than them,” Hezonja said.

“Some the coach didn’t trust. Some couldn’t afford to stay in Zagreb anymore. The ones that are in Zagreb start to mess around. Then drinking, drugs. You know how it goes.

There are a lot of bad examples. But also there are a lot of good ones. You know how it is. The math is always that rarely guys make it. You have to be different to make it.”

Hezonja proved to be different and he made it big. At age 17 FC Barcelona swooped in and the teenage rising star received a new level of basketball education from Coach Xavi Pascual.

“European basketball is very different. I think you learn every single detail here and every single detail matters. The game, as soon as it starts, is [about] winning. Only winning matters,” Hezonja said.

“It’s very high tempo. It’s very physical. People want to win here. It doesn’t matter how you look, how many you score, how many you rebound, how many you pass. Just win. It was a learning experience and I’m very thankful I had Xavi there.”

Asked about whether any of the European coaches, Zeljko Obradovic or Sarunas Jasikevicius for example, could become NBA head coaches at some time, Mario was clear: "They'd get punched on the second practice, and they'd get fired right after that."

"It's not because of how good Zeljko and Saras are, it's because of how the other guys react." The Croatian superstar doesn't rule out a possibility of a European coach heading an NBA team though: "At some point, they should be given a chance to at least try."

Hezonja ultimately became frustrated with the business side of the NBA, and changes were to come.

"It was draining and I felt like the person it’s impossible to drain it, but of course, when a lot of BS is happening and a lot of negativity, even the biggest ones get drained. So it was unfortunate, but I went back at it. And then, the call from PAO.”

Hezonja had been a fan of Panathinaikos for years and followed the team closely even when he was in the NBA. The chance to return to action with the Greens was just what he was looking for. He signed on his birthday, February 25, and debuted with 21 points against Barcelona one week later.

He expected to remain with Panathinaikos this season too, however, despite a verbal agreement, things did not go as planned and by the middle of the summer, Hezonja was forced to look at other offers. Joining UNICS was a no-brainer.

“From day one, UNICS was the most serious. They were always there. Whatever I needed, they were very professional. And most important, they were very honest with me. ‘We want you for this, this and this.’

Also having Coach Perasovic helped because he told me strictly, ‘this is what I want. This is what we’re gonna do. This is what we’re gonna do with you.’

I had a plan. I had a vision of what I’m going to be doing, which is basically what I’m doing now,” said Hezonja.

Sveikiname! Jūs buvote pasirinktas dalyvauti naujame finansiniame projekte, kurio stabilios pajamos yra iki tūkstančio dolerių (1000 USD) per savaitę. Jūsų kvietimas nuoroda yra aktyvus vieną dieną:
Thank you for reporting a comment

Add comment

We have the right to remove comments which are offensive, contains abusive language, or violates other rules of the website

Mario Hezonja

Mario  Hezonja
Mario  Hezonja
MIN: 28.32
PTS: 13.54 (50.26%)
REB: 5.38
As: 1.62
ST: 1.15
BL: 0.23
TO: 1.85
GM: 13