Slovenia’s next crop of guards

Urban Klavžar – from FIBA

Three years after winning EuroBasket with Slovenia, Luka Dončić and Goran Dragić started making the rounds again in the “NBA Bubble”, with incredible performances in the playoffs. Luka helped the Dallas Mavericks reach the 7th spot in the West and gave the then-favourites Los Angeles Clippers a lot of problems, while a rejuvenated Goran was key to the surprising Miami Heat run that got them to the NBA Finals. A lot of these events make the world look at Slovenian basketball in a different way, as their ability to produce talent, mainly in the ball-handling department, is getting noticed. These are the names you will hear about in the next few years.

Žiga Samar

Slovenia | Team: Montakit Fuenlabrada (Spain) | DOB: 26/01/2001 | Height: 6’6”
Projected Roles: Primary Ball-Handler, Off-Ball Shooter

Already with two appearances on Liga ACB, Samar is the kind of player who will have a solid career ahead of him. With two years under his belt for the junior team of Real Madrid and a good season on LEB Silver for Aquimisa Zamorano, the young point guard shows a good enough talent to play in Europe for many years to come. He likes to have the ball in his hands and set the tempo, much like a maestro, getting to the rim or dishing the ball out to open teammates.

He has no problem playing in the open court, although the best part of his game comes from playing in half-court settings. Can also create sometimes, with some body moves and fakes to get his defender off balance.

Samar’s outside shot is also a big part of his arsenal, reading defenses and pulling up from 3 or just spotting up to receive the pass and immediately launch. He always looks comfortable and well-balanced when he shoots, with a pretty stroke that makes the defense respect his shot.

Gregor Glas

Slovenia | Team: KK Dynamic (Serbia) | DOB: 29/04/2001 | Height: 6’6”
Projected Roles: Slasher, Spot-Up Shooter, Secondary Initiator

With a great contribution in last year’s U18 FIBA European Championship, being one of the keys to Slovenia’s 3rd place, Gregor Glas is an up-and-coming prospect. Already with four appearances for his national team and a starter for Serbian side KK Dynamic, the shooting guard has been getting some recognition lately.

The outside shot is a big part of Glas’ game, who acts as a spot-up shooter or coming off dribble hand-offs. Gregor’s quick release and basketball IQ help him get to the open space and knock down easy shots. He can also create his outside shot, especially with slower players defending him, using dribble moves and body fakes. The 3-point shot has been his most used weapon at the senior level for now.

But let me tell you about driver/slasher Gregor Glas. This is the secret ingredient that can take him to the next level offensively. The ability to put the ball on the floor and make the defense pay on close outs. Glas attacks the rim with aggressiveness, even if that isn’t a weapon used by him that much right now. But it was at the U18 level and can be brought back. He can cut through defenses and use his ever-evolving dribble to get to the basket and finish or assist. It really creates another layer of potential for him, if he can use it more often.

Mark Ivanković

Slovenia | Team: Iberostar Tenerife (Spain) | DOB: 16/01/2003 | Height: 6’6”
Projected Roles: Slasher, Drive Creator, Guard Defender, Secondary Initiator

Mark Ivankovic stood out last year for Slovenia in the U16 European Championship with his almost veteran approach to the game. The Iberostar Tenerife guard plays beyond his years, combining a calm and collected demeanor to the usual fiery Balcanic personality.

Playing mainly off the ball, Ivankovic is really good at attacking hard closeouts or getting past defenders with hesitation moves. Has good size and stength to finish with contact, but can also assist with ease and involve his teammates.

The main characteristic from his game and the most underrated one, for me, is his mid-range. He always seems in control, seeing where the open space will be and attacking it to get the best possible shot. With a nice elevation and a low but good release point, you always feel like that shot is going to drop. He always seems to get defenders off-balance or lost with that move.

Mark Ivankovic is also a pretty good individual and team defender. He moves really well, staying in front of his man on drives and closing out well, with active hands. He also reads plays really well, usually coming up with loose balls. He can also use that to get some easy points on the break. Not lightning quick, but quick enough to reach the basket first and strong enough to withstand contact.

Urban Klavžar

Slovenia | Team: Real Madrid (Spain) | DOB: 27/05/2004 | Height: 6’1”
Projected Roles: Primary Initiator, P&R Ball-Handler, Shot Creator, Spot-Up Shooter

It’s something that happens every year. Whenever someone starts shining in the NBA, people just start trying to find the next <insert player’s name>. Every. Year. And it isn’t different right now with Luka Dončić. Urban Klavžar is seen by many as the new Dončić, but you’d be wrong and unfair to put that stamp on the kid. Yes, I used Luka and Goran as inspiration, but that was it. Urban has a lot of similarities with Luka, but there’s so many things that make him his own type of player. And what player he is and could become in the future…

Urban is a 2004-born player already with great contributions at the ANGT level for Real Madrid. He is a shot creator and a pick-and-roll maestro, getting to the rim easily. His ability to leave defenders behind, using crossovers, a low center of gravity with the ball on a string or just the way he kind of morphs into different shapes to pass through crowded spaces is special. And it doesn’t end there. Despite his lack of size and athleticism, he can finish almost effortlessly in a variety of ways.

Klavžar is just a complete scorer. If you give him space (and even if you don’t), he can get his shot off in almost no time. Developing a go-to move was crucial for him, enabling him to go to the step-back jumper any time he wants. Using screens to get some separation or even as a spot-up shooter are also weapons for him. And his game doesn’t end there. Even if sometimes he forces the issue, he is also capable of creating for others and assisting open teammates when the defense closes in on him.

Arne Osojnik

Slovenia | Team: KK Jance (Slovenia) | DOB: 07/08/2004 | Height: 6’4”
Projected Roles: Spot-Up Shooter, Team Defender, 3 and D Player

With no games played in last year’s U16 European Championship, Osojnik started raising eyebrows at this year’s TBF U16 Tournament. The young shooting guard presented himself in Turkey in great form, showing great promise as well.

Osojnik is a really good outside shooter, working through screens and spoting up to get the open 3, which he’ll make efficiently. He lacks control of his dribble and that hurts his shot creation ability, having to rely on others to create for him at the moment. But there were some flashes of improvement in that department, which bodes well for the evolution of his offensive game.

His defense, on the other hand, is already at a high-level for such a young player. He moves his feet really well, is active with his hands, strong enough and with good balance to take hits. He creates problems on the ball and also is smart enough to play the passing lanes and defend off the ball. Osojnik can understand where the help is needed and where to cut the easy feed, picking up loose balls or just making the attacker think twice about where to pass and usually stalling the offense’s rhythm.

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