|Team: NON-NBA College Team: AEK Athens|
H: 6' 5"|
W: 183 lbs
(32 Years Old)
|Agent: Marc Cornstein ||
Hometown: Split, Croatia
Drafted: Pick 41 in 2005 by Raptors
Best Case: No Valid Comparison Was Found
Worst Case: Igor Rakocevic
Flashes of brilliance, perhaps more intense and numerous than usual, highlighted Ukicís performance for Winterthur F.C.Barcelona as he helped his team conquer the Cup. Still, the Croatian point guard couldnít get rid of some of the bad habits that have been hurting his playing level at the top ranks of European basketball. Rokoís skill level is simply jaw-dropping in many departments. The way he quickly slashes towards the basket, the quality of his reverse moves, how he get rids of his opponent in one-on-one situations...itís all a thing of beauty. Ukic provided valuable points for Barcelona, taking advantage of his penetrations in the first two games and knocking down a couple of three pointers in the final. The wild three he netted at the buzzer to close the third quarter and bring Barcelonaís lead back over the 10-point mark again was particularly important. Roko shined as well in the defensive department, taking full advantage of his physical gifts, such as his wingspan and lateral quickness.
However, we canít ignore how he struggles distributing the ball. Sometimes it takes him too much time bringing the ball up-court, which puts pressure on the set offense. Other times, itís just that he overdribbles incessantly before passing it. A good point-guard doesnít allow the ball to stop, and if heís not going to create the advantage by himself, he looks to create the best possible offensive flow, and that means to free the ball up as quick as possible and in the best conditions. That first pass to the wing guy (in case itís the desired option) should be automatic. This doesnít happen with Ukic, and too often heís just forced to play one-on-one or two-on-two to solve the possession as the shot clock is running out and he still hasnít found a good option. Besides, he stays a bit static whenever heís off the ball, so he rarely contributes to the fluidity of the offensive game. However, these are flaws he should be able to fix with experience and maturity.
Anyway, his more individual-oriented playmaking approach perhaps suits better with the NBA game than the European, even if improving in this regard will certainly help him wherever he plays. Still, the EuroRaptors are not precisely your typical NBA team, and itís not clear they are interested in bringing him over at this point.
For the most part this was a disappointing season for Roko, but his performance in Prague was actually quite promising. In two games, Ukic played 35 minutes combined, logging 17 points and 5 assists. He was especially impressive in the 2nd half of the consolation game against Barcelona, making some nice baskets in critical situations for Tau Ceramica.
Ukic was better on the defensive end, looking more focused and bothering opponents with his length and quick hands. He is also making some strides as a distributor, playing better off the ball and looking to pass more. Roko Leni proved once again that is very hard to keep him out of the lane, as most of his points came from slashing all the way to the basket or pulling up for a reliable floater.
Shooting is still his biggest weakness; this was evident during the weekend where he hit only one three-pointer out of 7 attempts. Ukic explains his shooting struggles by saying that he was only shooting off the dribble when playing in Split and doesnít feel comfortable as a set-shooter when he gets passes from teammates, although he is working on it every day by shooting 200 - 300 attempts.
After the mid-season signing of former Clipper guard Lionel Chalmers, Ukicís short-term situation at Tau didnít look bright. Eventually, though, he was able to surpass the American in the rotation and with this performance should earn more trust and court time from his coach as the season continues. While he definitely didnít reach the expectations of Tauís board, media and fans, long-term Ukic still looks like steal for the Toronto Raptors. His herky-jerky style of play is more suited for the NBA than Europe, and he should be ready to contribute in 2007 when he has an opt-out clause for the NBA in his contract.
Completely overshadowed by Pablo Prigioni, this has been the story for the young Croatian talent all season long. Comparisons are usually painful, and this one was even more. The biggest flaw that Ukic displays right now is precisely the strongest part of Prigioniís game: distributing the ball. Curiously, the only game so far this season where Pablo didnít play one minute meant a 27-point exhibition by Roko.
It looks as if these last two seasons being the one-and-only star in Split have made him forget everything about the collective approach of the game (he seemed a better distributor back in the junior stage than he does now), as Roko has been incapable of giving fluidity to Tauís offense. Every time he steps on the court, the ball movement suffers a significant setback. Not only does he lack the ability, precision, timing and willingness to share the ball as Prigioni does, but his teammates, perhaps thinking that their effort moving without the ball wonít be as well rewarded as when Prigioni leads the team, slow down their activity and the offense becomes much more stagnant. Although not as dramatically as in other occasions, this also happened in the Kingís Cup to a certain extent.
Of course, Ukic still amazes with his skill set. He is one of the best one-on-one point guards in the ACB League and enjoys an awesome ability to score off the dribble. He showed it in this Cup, getting a fair scoring production considering his limited action, although settling for one lonely assist.
Still, this complicated season in Vitoria is a necessary adjustment process that should reap him great benefits in the near future. However, one shadow has emerged in the last few weeks, as Tau has signed point guard Lionel Chalmers (formerly of the Timberwolves and Clippers), apparently only for Euroleague competition. We will have to wait and see what is Rokoís new role for the remainder of the season.
Ukic is a tall and lanky point guard, who has improved much during the past couple of seasons. Already known by many NBA fans from his decision not sign with the Toronto Raptors, but, instead, look for job in Euroleague Powerhouse Tau Ceramica, Ukic has looked a few seasons away from being dominant still in the preparation games so far, or at least consistent enough on both ends of the floor to warrant being a major factor at the highest levels of basketball so far.
Playing for a club which includes no other major talents but him until this summer, Ukic has learnt to do everything on the floor well enough, aided greatly by his superior physical skills. He is a very good, naturally born PG, smart enough to organize the game for his teammates while still finding enough room to get off his shot. His penetration skills are much above average, while his outside shooting has deep, although inconsistent range. His passing is excellent and he really shows flashes of becoming a great PG in the making at times. He can find the open shooters and cutters on his team (with Gordan Giricek being his best weapon lately) and in general his passes are most of the time accurate and his game often makes his teammates shoot confidently.
What he seriously lacks and should become more than obvious in this Eurobasket, his first major career competition, is consistency and mental strength. He simply doesn't seem experienced enough in knowing how to run a team and make good decisions with many different options available offensively at this point, especially a team that needs to play every possession as if it was its last.. Heíll make an unbelievable play one moment and then, the next minute make a terrible mistake that easily could have been avoided.
Defensively, Ukic has shown great potential. Although he lacks bulk and experience on this end of the floor, his smarts and mobility help him become a nice defensive contributor and he can do a very good job staying in front of his man. But, once again, one can easily notice that, whenever he gets caught off guard, an opponent can outsmart him easily. In general, a player like him seems destined to succeed in the long-term, but isn't mature enough to lead a contending team right now.
Ukic will stay in the court long enough in this Eurobasket and will probably share time with the older and more mature Zoran Planinic of the New Jersey Nets, who will probably start at the point. Because of the unfortunate injury to sharpshooting guard Marino Bazdaric, Ukic will see even more minutes at either the 1 or the 2 for Croatia. Heís definitely one of the more interesting prospects to look out for here. Tau Vitoria will certainly be keeping a watchful eye.
Last year he was the best player in the camp, above top prospects like Nemanja Aleksandrov or Martynas Andriuskevicius. After a great season playing for KK Split, he came back to Treviso. Roko has great size and the athleticism, along with the quickness and the skills for the point guard position, as you already know from our ongoing coverage of him all season long. He's at his best in the open court, while in the half court game he sometimes dominates the ball too much and his shot is decent but not deadly. He can drive and dish, even if his ability of beating his man off the dribble still needs to be tested at a higher level, just like his ability to finish around the basket considering the fact that his body still needs to fill out. He proved last year that he can defend smaller PGs, while being a threat in the passing lanes. This year he didn't look as focused as he was last year on defense, but his talent was there to see even though he was apparently fighting the flue. He's projected as a mid-first rounder if he stays in the draft.[Read Full Article]
Despite his height, it only takes a few seconds to realize that this kid is about as pure of a PG as they come. His ball-handling is outstanding and he has the natural instincts needed to run a team and get everyone involved. This kid is a special talent, an extremely unique prospect in this draft with an outstanding feel for the game. Watching him play, it's hard not to be impressed by how well he combines the European mentality of playing team ball with an American flair for making things happen on an individual basis. He has the quickness needed to play his position in the NBA, not being overly explosive like a Chris Paul or Raymond Felton, but at his size it's hard to ask for much more. He really knows how to get into the lane but is better at pulling up for the mid-range jumpshot or driving and dishing creatively than finishing the play himself.
From the tapes I saw (including an Olympics warmup game between Croatia and Spain) and the workouts I went to last year in Chicago, his three point shot looked pretty damn good, but when you look up his stats on the year, they are far from impressive. He's got great lift on his shot and very deep range, but apparently his shot selection is poor at this point and he's very streaky from outside.
Defensively, he looked pretty solid in Chicago last year, but in the tapes I saw he lacks intensity. Offensively, he sometimes tries to do a bit too much, causing some unnecessary turnovers (even unforced ones) with his wild style of play.
He will certainly have to play in the right system under the right coach to really be effective in the NBA. He's not the type of player that everyone will like or want running their offense, so it will be very important for him to go to a team that's committed to utilizing his strengths. From what I've seen of him, he looks like he deserves consideration from 10-20 in any normal draft, but the glut of talented PG's this year might push that range back a little.
Kristian Hohnjec (May 2005):
Ukic is a talented player with all tools needed to become one of the best European point guards for years to come. He's one of the most attractive players in Europe in terms of his style of play and is always a pleasure to watch.
Roko possesses good athleticism for the PG position. At 6-5 he has great size for the PG spot and he combines that with good quickness. Ukic has a very quick first step, which makes him one of the best slashers at this level. His wingspan (reportedly 6-9) is also above average and helps him a lot on the defensive end to get in the passing lanes and come up steals.
Ukic is a very complete offensive player who can score in many different ways. As already mentioned, there are very few players in Europe who better than him when it comes to slashing to the hoop. He beats defenders off the dribble on a regular basis, because of his quick first step and excellent ball-handling. He handles the ball equally well with either hand and can go either left or right when driving to the basket. He has a very nice crossover in his arsenal, to go with all sorts of other flashy ball-handing moves which he developed while playing streetball in Croatia. Ukic is very unpredictable while driving to the basket. He can go all the way to the basket for a lay-up, pull up and hit the jumper, or pass the ball very well to the open man. He is skinny, but has no problem finishing with contact and is a master when is comes to drawing fouls. This season he has become more aggressive in taking his defender of the dribble then in previous seasons.
Ukic has great range on his jumper and shouldn't have any problems adjusting to the NBA 3 point line. He has a high and quick release and has shown a good ability to catch and shoot on some occasions, but that is not his main role. He doesn't need much space to release his jumper and is capable of shooting with a defender's hand in his face; becoming a specialist this year at making extremely tough off-balance shots. Shooting off the dribble is where he particularly shines, and he is indeed an accurate shooter from mid-range. He gets to the foul line often and is an excellent shooter once he gets there; converting 86% of his FT's this season.
While at 6-5 he has many characteristics that you would like to see from a good shooting guard, there is no doubt that he is a pure PG. Roko has good natural playmaking instincts and exceptional court vision, knowing how to create high-percentage shots for his teammates. Based on the flashy no-look and behind the back type passes he has in his repertoire you could say that he is pretty creative with the ball in his hands. He is also a good decision maker who excels in transition. In the half court set he has improved and now has become better at getting all of his teammates involved. Because of his size he can see over the top of most defenders and occasionally shows some post up skills against smaller guards.
Defensively, he reads passing lanes very well and thanks to that skill and his wingspan he gets a few steals every game. He is capable of playing good defense like he showed last year, by giving Sebastian Telfair a hard time during the Nike Hoop Summit game. He also reportedly guarded Devin Harris very well during private workouts. Recently he is being used more often at home to guard SG's and is doing quite well, for example he guarded fellow highly-rated Croatian prospect Marko Tomas recently, holding him scoreless in the first 20 minutes of their battle. Even right now he shouldn't be a defensive liability in the NBA and could eventually become good a defender if and when he adds some bulk. Ukic is an above average rebounder for a point guard, especially on the offensive end, where he shows good anticipation skills.
Ukic is a player who takes responsibility when the game is on the line and usually performs very well under pressure. He is a leader and has a good demeanor on the court. He is considered a mentally strong player and has plenty of confidence in his abilities even when he is having an off-night.
Ukic is a very exciting player to watch and you don't have to be an expert to realize his special talent while watching him play. He possesses a high basketball IQ, a terrific work ethic and a great knowledge of the game. He works very hard on the small details, usually spending some hours in the gym even when practice is over. He lives for basketball, and is the biggest expert on everything related to the NBA amongst players in this area. He surely knows what it takes to succeed in the NBA.
Luis FernŠndez (February 2004):
Roko-Leni Ukic is a true talent. From the first time you see him you notice a special elegance in his game, in his movements, and the kind of excitement that only a 6-5 (perhaps still growing) highly skilled and fundamentally sound playmaker is able to produce.
He combines a high level of offensive savvy with excellent distributing abilities. Being quite a fast player, knowing where to place his feet, and having great handles with both hands, he's able to penetrate easily even in traffic to finish himself, dish off to a teammate or get to the line.
Ukic is a good shooter anywhere on the court. He can shoot it stationary, off the dribble, in motion from the mid-range area and even off-balance as well. He can create his own shot by faking a move and dribbling, and then using his quick release to get off his shot. He is really difficult to stop when hot, and never avoids responsabilities when the game is on the line.
Ukic displays the court vision and passing abilities that a good point guard is supposed to possess. He fills the bill whether in a transition game or in the set offense, and he usually makes the right decisions. Besides, he doesn't abuse his ball-handling, and he understands the importance of moving the ball around and even enjoys doing so. He knows how to improvise and find a good option when he hits a dead end. He has a high basketball IQ and shows a lot of confidence.
Defensively, he reads the passing lanes pretty well. He also has really quick hands which he often uses to steal the ball from his match-up, on help defense or just by anticipating a pass before his matchup makes it.
Kristian Hohnjec (May 2005):
His most noticeable weakness on first glance and probably his biggest overall is currently his body. He is skinny and has a slight build. It looks like he might never be able to put on a huge amount of muscle to his frame. Because of this lack of strength he gets pushed around and has trouble fighting through screens defensively, although his quickness helps him here to some degree. Although he is an athletic player, he has yet to fully learn how to use this attribute to finish strong at the basket. This should also hopefully improve when he increases his strength.
While he can score from anywhere on the floor, he is not yet a great shooter from behind the arc. He is streaky from downtown and although he has improved a bit in this department during the season, he still has a ways to go. That would not be such a problem if he did not fall in love with his 3 point shot in many games. He hits close to 2 three-pointers per game and his shooting average is around 30 percent. This percentage would be a little higher if he did not take so many shots from mid-court at the end of the quarters, but he still needs to become more consistent here. He has an somewhat odd rotation on his 3 point jumper, especially when shooting it stationary. Somehow he is more accurate shooting a jumper on the run than shooting it from a static position.
Ukic is certainly capable of playing good defense, but it seems like he is often not motivated enough on the defensive end of the floor. His defensive intensity is often not as high as you would like it to be, although the huge offensive load he is expected to carry for his team might have something to do with that. Roko's lateral defensive movement is barely above average and he may suffer against quicker players in the NBA over the long run.
Sometimes he has the tendency to over-handle the basketball and force the issue a bit. His movement without the ball could also stand to improve. Ukic has been the star of every team he has played for in his career so far and it is questionable how he will react in a different environment. He will have a perfect chance at the European Championships this summer to prove that he can be effective when he is not the only offensive reference on his team.
He is a good decision maker, but often chooses the flashy pass over the efficient one. He is averaging nearly 3 turnovers a game, which tells you that he still has to learn how to take care of the ball. One of things that he improved most this season is his shot selection, but he still forces some bad shots at times, which isn't surprising since his is clearly the best offensive option on his team.
Luis FernŠndez (February 2004):
Ukic is still a raw player from a physical point of view. He's really skinny and even his face denotes that he's still yet to mature. He has grown a few inches in the last couple of years and he's still in the process of adjusting to that. He doesn't always play under control, basically shooting too much sometimes and out of position, so you could say that his shot selection could be improved, but it's nothing serious enough to worry about at this point. He's a bit of a streaky shooter as well. He needs to improve his defense. He's not always as focused as would be desirable. He looks very often for the steal and sometimes excessively risks his defensive positioning. Not only that, he may suffer against quick guards, as his lateral defensive movement is just average, although his wingspan makes up for it. I think he could eventually be a little more agressive and intense in his game, especially in the defensive department.
Kristian Hohnjec (May 2005):
Ukic started playing basketball in his hometown and he still plays there. His club KK Split were European champions three times in the early 90's, but in the last couple of years they are facing financial problems and the core of the team is now from their well-known school of basketball, which produced NBA stars like Toni Kukoc and Dino Radja. Ukic is the best player on this very young team that finished in 15th place in this year's Adriatic League. Ukic was one of the best players in the same competition with averages of around 19 points (3rd best scorer in the league), 3 rebounds and 4.5 assists (1st). He is now playing in the Croatian league with averages of around 24 points and 7 assists per game.
Ukic had a very successful junior career with the Croatian National team. Thanks to his 25 point, 9 rebound, 6 assist performance, Croatia beat Slovenia in the finals of the 2002 Under-18 European Championship. He was later named to the 1st team of the Championship. Next year he played at the Under-20 World championship in Greece, where Croatia was 4th. Roko Leni was again elected to the 1st team of the Championship here and was 2nd in the MVP ranking behind Andrew Bogut.
Two seasons ago he won the Croatian League championship with Split's team that included legendary players like Dino Radja and Jure Zdovc. Roko was in the starting 5 and was averaging around 10 ppg. Last year he added his latest trophy, the Croatian Cup. In a sensational win against Zadar in their hall, Ukic scored 14 points, including the game-winning lay-up in the last second.
Roko participated in last year's Nike Hoop Summit game, where he left a solid impression with 9 points and 4 assists, along with helping to hold Sebastian Telfair to 0-10 shooting from the field. This year he was elected the MVP of the Croatian All-star game.
Ukic is expected to play at the European Championship (Eurobasket) this summer in Belgrade. It seems like National coach Neven Spahija will put Ukic in the starting lineup in front of Nets guard Zoran Planinic and one of the best young guards in the Euroleague, Marko Popovic.
Luis FernŠndez (February 2004):
Ukic has been playing with Split's first team since the age of 16. Right now he's one of the key players on his team, although they are very young and definitely not an elite team anymore. Very distant is the glorious age of Kukoc, Radja and co. winning European titles with Split. In the international competition, Ukic has shined brightly with the Croatian National Junior Team. He led his country to win the European Junior Championships of 2002, getting 25 points, 9 rebounds and 6 assists in the final.
Kristian Hohnjec (May 2005):
Ukic already declared himself eligible for this year's draft. It is not clear if he will stay in, since he has a 1 million dollar buyout clause and needs to be guaranteed of being drafted in the top 20 to pay off this amount and still make it worthwhile for him. As of right now it looks like there is a very good chance of that happening, but the deadline for other underclassmen to enter still hasn't passed. He declared last year for the draft as well, but later withdrew because he couldn't get that guarantee for the spot in the first round that he needed.
Ukic is certainly the most interesting non-U.S. Point Guard prospect available in this year's draft and has a good shot of becoming the highest drafted European PG ever. With good workouts like he had last year in Chicago (see links) he could go as high as the late lottery.
Roko Leni is one of most ready European prospects, but he could probably benefit from playing in the Euroleague for season or two. According to some sources Climamio Bologna and Real Madrid are very interested in him.
Luis FernŠndez (February 2004):
It's not likely that Ukic will declare this year. There's still a lot of room for him to improve his game, and with that his stock will rise accordingly. Another season of experience in Europe will help him. When declaring, his talent and height alone should place him in the first round.
Kristian Hohnjec (May 2005):
As you may have noticed, I have great confidence in Ukic's ability and work ethic. Of all the European prospects in this year's draft, I see him having the best career. His style of play would fit perfectly in the NBA and he should be capable of contributing right away next season. As of right now, NCAA standouts like Chris Paul, Ray Felton, Deron Williams and Jarret Jack are ranked higher than him, but I expect him to move his stock up with good performances in workouts.
Luis FernŠndez (February 2004):
I think Ukic can become really a special player. He has all the tools that a point guard needs, physically and especially skill-wise. He will make it to the NBA, but it's up to him and his devotion to the game the amount of success he will achieve.
Voted as one of the top five players in the tournament after his performances at both the World Junior Championships of 2003 and in the European Junior Championships of 2002.
Ukic broke the backboard 3 times during the past two seasons, cutting himself badly the last time and missing a few games (links).
Although Ukic didn't show as huge a development as Tomas did, his season was very good, even if his team won only 6 of its 30 games. Ukic led the Adriatic League in assists with 4.3 per game and was the 3rd best scorer in the competition. Playing for a very average Split team, Ukic was the only player who could create something and opponents were always paying a large amount of attention to him. Still, many teams just couldn't stop him, because he is one of the best 1 on 1 players in Europe, just a wonderful offensive player who can do things that nobody else in this league can. His 3pt shooting improved quite a bit, even if the statistics won't show you that. He is also more mature than he was last year, and his shot selection is more accurate. He seems to perform better under pressure, as his best games of the season came in Belgrade when Split was facing its toughest opponents. One thing that he didn't improve on is his body strength; he is still skinny and gets pushed around. Roko-Leni has already declared for the draft and said that he would stay if he is a first rounder. Right know that is a very likely scenario and with good workouts like he had last year he could go much higher. Just like Tomas, Ukic is probably going to be a very important player for Croatia at the European Championship that will be played in September in Serbia and Montenegro. Also like Tomas, he has buyout issues (a one million dollar buyout according to his agent David Bauman) and that was the main reason his name was removed from the NBA draft last year, as it was unclear whether he would be drafted high enough to pay off this amount and still make it worthwile for him. The situation this year isn't much different from what we've gathered so far. Another season in Europe playing for a top team like Real Madrid (who are very interested in his services) would probably not be such a bad thing. Ukic's agency SFX is being accused by his team (headed by former Celtic Dino Radja) of ruining Croatian basketball. Fellow teammate, SFX client and draft prospect Drago Pasalic already left the team in the middle of the season, despite being under contract, so obviously the situation here is not very good.[Read Full Article]