Three-time reigning Croatian champion Cedevita Zagreb has become a home for some of the top young players in the region and one of the players making himself heard this season is a power forward Karlo Zganec, who has taken a step forward after having a great career at the junior level during which he secured a collection of medals. Now, in his third season with Cedevita, the 21-year old has already set or matched his personal career-highs in the 7DAYS EuroCup in all major statistical categories this season, but has made the biggest impact on the glass.
Zganec will not be mistaken for a high-flying forward, but during the EuroCup Regular Season Zganec was one of the top offensive rebounders in the competition. Zganec ranked sixth in offensive rebounds per game (2.5) and fourth on a per-minute basis (5.5 prorated over 40-minutes). His contributions at the power forward position played a significant role in Cedevita’s six-game winning streak that propelled the club into second place in their regular season group with wins over Herbalife Gran Canaria Las Palmas, Lietkabelis Panevezys and two-game sweeps of Nizhny Novgorod and MZT Skopje. At first look, Zganec’s numbers, which currently stand at 5.4 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 0.8 steals for a performance index rating of 9.4, do not stand out, but the intangibles he brings to the court make his impact go far beyond what appears on the stat sheets at the end of games.
With his 2.06-meter frame getting bigger from one season to another, in addition to his rebounding and a great deal of toughness he displays in the paint, Zganec also puts on display his playmaking ability at the power forward position. His vision, basketball IQ and understanding of the game might not always result in assists, but give an important boost to the team’s ball movement. Some might call it sort of traditional in Zganec's native Croatia, which has given the basketball world some great passing big men in recent decades, including former EuroLeague champion Nikola Vujcic and recent three-time All-EuroLeague center Ante Tomic. However, Zganec's feel for the game is something that he developed at a very young age, under the tutelage of his father Kreso, and playing along his twin brother Bruno.
The twin brothers grew up practicing with their father, a former local player-turned-coach, who has helped many current local pros in their hometown of Zagreb take their first basketball steps. Kreso has always made sure the kids he teaches basketball to learn the fundamentals of the game, and he did the same with Karlo and Bruno while together they helped put their junior club, Fenix Zagreb, on the international map. Interestingly, the brothers developed into different-profile players. A few centimeters shorter, Bruno has become a point guard, while Karlo grew into a power forward. The twins had a lot of success at the junior level, but Karlo had bigger roles on the teams they played for and has for years been considered one of Croatia’s best up-and-coming players.
His success with national team youth categories includes winning gold medals at the U16 European championships in 2011 and at the U18 European championship in 2012. He also helped Croatia win a bronze medal at the U17 World Championships that same year and silver at the U18 European championships in 2013. In each of those competitions he was one of his team’s top scorers and the competitions’ best rebounders. By the time he won his fourth junior medal, Zganec has already played two seasons at the senior level. As a 16-year old, he suited up for a second division side, Bosco Zagreb, before opting to sign with first-division KK Zagreb in 2012. Despite offers from some more prominent European clubs, Karlo chose to play for a team where he would get more minutes.
It did not take him long to grab a big role among the big boys, and by his second season with Zagreb, the then 18-year old was the Croatian League regular season MVP after posting 13.7 points, 7.9 rebounds and 3.7 assists pet night. He also helped his team reach the Cup final that season, however, he left the club ahead of the second stage of the league championship only to make the next big step in his career in the summer of 2014 by joining city rival Cedevita. From the time he put on a Cedevita uniform, Zganec has helped the team to a pair of Croatian League and Cup doubles and has also played a role in its club's historic success when Cedevita reached EuroLeague Top 16 last season.
This season he has made his way into Cedevita’s starting lineup and kept his place there for the majority of the season so far. With growing confidence on a team that is willing to give young talents a chance, Karlo Zganec is making progress one step at the time, which should soon result in a more prominent role, one he got used to while conquering continental tournaments at the junior level.