Croatian scorer Mario Hezonja stood out among this June’s crop of top draft prospects for his extreme cockiness. The 20-year-old, who most recently suited up for Barcelona in Spain’s ACB League, plays with determined flair of any number of promising young wings, but his approach to the sport involves such daring acts as calling himself as watchable than Leo Messi and generally not shying away from being brash. The Orlando Magic thought highly enough of his skills to select him with the fifth pick in the draft, and watching Hezonja develop (and try to stay confident in the face of expected growing pains) figures to be one of the more interesting parts of the team’s season.
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For now, though, Hezonja is focused on leading Croatia during EuroBasket 2015, set to start in four cities around the continent on September 5. He and his teammates took on Bosnia and Herzegovina on Thursday, and Hezonja did not disappoint. Take a look at his highlights (via PBT):
Hezonja went for 24 points overall and scored 11 over a span of just three minutes, a sign of his ability to shoot from a variety of angles and get to the rim. He’s as explosive as any of his fellow rookies.
Naturally, there’s also the matter of his attitude. With the clock winding down in the fourth quarter and Croatia up 94-79, Hezonja launched a deep three near the Bosnia bench. Then, naturally, he stuck his hand out for dap from the opposing coach:
It’s easy enough to explain away Hezonja’s actions. The shot clock was winding down, so he had to give up the ball anyway, and it was late enough in the game that interacting with the other team’s coach could pretty easily serve as a sort of parting exchange. On the other hand, Hezonja’s reputation blurs what could be a pretty straightforward moment.
Regardless, this video shows everything that makes Hezonja so fascinating. He can score, he’s not shy, and he’s complicated enough to allow for plenty of debate. No matter how he performs for Orlando, Hezonja should make an impact on the league in his first NBA season.
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