19-year old Jusuf Nurkic is one of the biggest surprises of the early season in Europe, currently ranking as the most productive player in the Adriatic League on a per-minute basis.
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Nurkic only plays 16 minutes per game at the moment due to foul trouble, youth, conditioning issues and his team's style of play, but is making the most of his playing time in a major way, posting 13 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 0.8 blocks in that span, shooting 63% from 2-point range. His per-40 minute production has been outrageous in turn, at 33 points, 14 rebounds, 4.1 steals, 1.9 blocks and 11.7 free throw attempts—helping him lead the Adriatic League in PER by a wide margin at 44.5 in the early going.
His Cedevita team is tied for first place in the Adriatic and looks to be in good position to advance to the next round of the EuroCup, led by a highly respected and experienced coach in Jasmin Repesa, who has the team playing a much more aggressive blend of basketball.
Nurkic's performance at both the Adriatic League and EuroCup levels thus far has given us a chance to take a detailed look at his strengths and weaknesses at this stage of his development in this video scouting report by Mike Schmitz:
Nurkic is just making his first steps in professional basketball at the tender age of 19, after only having started playing in organized settings in 2009. Like many Bosnians before him, he was brought to Slovenia at a young age, in a failed attempt to naturalize him for their national team. Nurkic started his career in Zlatorog Lasko, and spent two seasons there as a teenager, but was also loaned out to another Slovenian team, Olimpija Ljubljana, for a short period as well, having a very strong showing at the NIJT Belgrade which put him on the radar screen of NBA scouts.
A tug of war ensued shortly after when Croatian side Cedevita Zagreb, which was at the time led by Bosnian senior national team head coach Aco Petrovic, recruited him away from the Slovenians and signed him to his own squad in the spring of 2012, a dispute which was only resolved approximately six months later after FIBA ruled that Cedevita must compensate Lasko for the time they invested in him.
Nurkic was in turn invited by Petrovic to compete for the Bosnian U18 and senior national team squads in the summer of 2012, and represented both, being named the MVP of the U18 European Championship Division B after helping Bosnia get promoted to the A Division with his strong play.
The 2012-2013 season got off to a rocky start for Nurkic, as the prolonged dispute between Cedevita and Lasko over his rights prevented him from becoming an official part of their roster until the season was already underway. Nurkic did not make his first Adriatic League appearance for Cedevita until the sixth round of the season, and it quickly became clear that there would be little room for him on the roster, which prompted the team to loan him to fellow Croatian side KK Zadar in January.
Nurkic was a late invite to the adidas EuroCamp last June and represented himself well there, which undoubtedly put him in the scouting notebooks of NBA teams that were present. Despite being snubbed from the Bosnian senior national team squad at the Eurobasket this summer, his strong showing in Treviso has certainly carried over to the season thus far, and Nurkic is already dropping hints that he will test the 2014 NBA Draft waters as an early-entrant prospect. The fact that he has no buyout complications with his contract for the NBA certainly helps. Playing in the same city as fellow international prospect Dario Saric certainly will improve his visibility as the year goes on and should Zagreb an even more popular scouting destination.
We'll have to see if he's able to continue to produce as prolifically as he has thus far this season as the amount of attention he garners on and off the court increases, but he's certainly made a name for himself in the early going, which only adds more depth to what is shaping up to be a historic 2014 NBA Draft class.