PRO TEAM: Cibona Zagreb
VITALS: 6'10", 210 lbs.
YEAR DRAFTED: 2012 by Toronto (Round 2, Pick 56)
RIGHTS HELD BY: Oklahoma City Thunder
Yesterday I told you the tale of Janis Timma, the Latvian who was the first man traded for Luke Ridnour last week. Now after trades for Matt Barnes and Jeremy Lamb in the interim, we get to Toronto's Tomislav Zubcic. The Croatian big man became the latest (I don't want to say last as Luke could move yet again) person traded for Ridnour as his rights now belong to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Now why trade for a guy who will probably never come over to the NBA? Because trading for Luke Ridnour is fun! He may never be Russell Westbrook's teammate in OKC, but let's look at the career of Tomislav Zubcic anyway.
Zubcic began his basketball career much like Timma with a stint on the Croatian U-16 National Team. Croatia placed fourth in the 2006 U-16 European Championships A-Bracket and Zubcic averaged 12 points and 8 rebounds a game. He fouled out however in Croatia's semi-final loss to eventual champion Spain. Now-Timberwolves' guard Ricky Rubio put up a quadruple double in that contest. Tomislav returned to Croatia with cups of coffee on the cadet team of hometown KK Zadar and the junior squad of his eventual full time employers Cibona Zagreb.
He played his first full professional season on loan in the Croatian second division for KK Rudes Zagreb. He was immediately inserted into the team's starting five. He had some growing pains at first in the hectic Croatian atmosphere but showed enough poise for a recall to the Cibona junior team in line with his call-up to the senior squad for the 2008-09 season.
In the meantime, Zubcic continued to be selected for National Team duty. This time it was the U-18 European Championships. The Croatians would take the bronze medal this go around, again losing to the eventual champions (Greece) in the process. Zubcic at least put up a double-double (13 pts/11 reb) in the elimination game before again fouling out. His 11.8 points per and 8.8 rebounds per were third and second on the team respectively for the tournament.
2009 saw Zubcic's introduction into major European competition with Euroleague and Adriatic League appearances as part of Cibona Zagreb's senior squad. He was a bit player on those larger stages averaging just about 2 points and 2 rebounds per over both competitions. However, he did make a larger impact in the domestic league in his seven game stint. He shot 71% from the floor en route to 8.5 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. Cibona would win their first of four Croatian League titles in five seasons. They would also win their first Croatian Cup in seven years. They almost had a treble was but lost in the finals of the ABA NLB competition featuring top clubs from Serbia, Slovenia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Croatia.
2009 was a big year for Zubcic internationally as well. He made quite the showing at the Nike Hoops Summit, wowing scouts with his offensive repertoire. He also represented Croatia again, this time at the U-19 World Championships. Zubcic was the leading rebounder in the tournament even though, you guessed it, they lost to the eventual champions- the United States in the semifinals. Zubcic held his own against a team featuring future NBA stars Klay Thompson and Gordon Hayward. He posted 15 points and 8 rebounds and didn't foul out this time! He put up 16 and 6 (with 3 steals) against Matthew Dellavedova and Australia to win the bronze medal.
From there Zubcic began to regress. As his minutes increased at Cibona, his production started to dwindle. Cibona's success overshadowed his lack of development, especially on the defensive end of the floor. He would still get regular playing time for club and country, but the first real flaws in Zubcic's games were shining through. That did not stop the Croatian National Team from selecting him or the NBA scouts from flying halfway across the world to see him on the Euroleague stage.
Croatia would place fourth in the 2010 U-20 European Championships, but like with his club his production, and eventually his role, diminished significantly. His points and rebounds per game were cut in half from his last international appearance and barely saw the floor during the knockout stages of the competition.
Even as his stock overseas continued to fall, his raw ability caught the eyes of scouts heading into the 2011 NBA Draft. Tomislav originally entered his name as an early entry candidate, but would withdraw before the mandatory deadline. That would not be the case as he re-entered the 2012 Draft pool. He would be rewarded by being selected by the Raptors with the 56th overall selection, three spots ahead of DRR profile #9 Marcus Denmon.
Some scouts saw Zubcic as a potential point forward in the mold of the recently retired Andrei Kirilenko. Sadly though, Toronto (and now Oklahoma City) haven't given the American fan a chance to see him in the States even in a Summer League. Nevertheless, Zubcic continues to ply his trade in Croatia and continues to pile up the championships. After winning four with Cibona Zagreb, he's added two more to the trophy case with crosstown rivals Cedevita Zagreb. He played with current Nuggets center Jusuf Nurkic during the team's first title run. Now you may never see Zubcic's face on ESPN or TNT. Just know that this face will haunt your nightmares for the foreseeable future.
Thanks for reading the twenty-sixth installment of Draft Rights Retained right here on Bleeding Your Colors! I hope you enjoyed it and look forward to bringing you more wacky stories of players who the NBA has long since forgotten, but not their draft rights. Stay locked for a new profile until the list is exhausted. For more of me, check out my Twitter @TREVORutley and the official Bleeding Your Colors Twitter @B3WHYC3. For less of me, give your computer to the Stewmaker from the Blacklist.
Image Credits: Zubcic profile (espn.com), Zubcic Lecter (reddit.com)