Get to know Mario Hezonja: The Croatian J.R. Smith
Latvian big man Kristaps Porzingis isn't the only European prospect expected to be a lottery pick in Thursday's NBA draft. Croatian shooting guard Mario Hezonja should be the second international player taken.
Like Porzingis, Hezonja has spent the last three seasons playing Spain, widely considered the world's second-best professional league. He struggled to crack the rotation for FC Barcelona but made the most of his limited playing time.
In February, Hezonja went 8 for 8 from three-point range in a blowout win over Manresa. Last week, Hezonja scored 18 of Barcelona's 72 points in a championship game against Real Madrid, becoming the youngest player in Spanish history to score 18 or more points in a league final.
Though he's only 20 years old, Hezonja is already brimming with confidence. In February, when asked if he had seen superstar Lionel Messi play for Barcelona's soccer team, Hezonja replied, “Why isn't he coming to watch me?”
Hezonja would be the third active Croatian NBA player, joining Bojan Bogdanovic and Damjan Rudez. Other notable Croatian players include Toni Kukoc and Drazen Petrovic.
- Dan Gartland