Ivisic bring ‘much to the table’ – if he is cleared

Published 3:00 pm Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Kentucky fans have patiently waited for two months to see 7-foot-2 Zvonimir Ivisic play. However, the wait is going to be a bit longer.

However, once the NCAA clears Ivisic to play — and Kentucky coach John Calipari continues to emphasize he’s “confident” Ivisic will be ruled eligible — what can UK fans expect to see from the 20-year-old freshman?

“He brings so much to the table. He is a smart player. He has played in leagues overseas, so he knows how to play defense,” Kentucky freshman point guard Rob Dillingham said. “He knows where to be in certain spots.

“He can also pass and really shoot. He can literally do everything. Playing with him is a big advantage and he really stretches the floor. He can basically do everything and that’s going to help us in so many ways.”

SEC Network/ESPN announcer Tom Hart got to watch Ivisic practice when he was in Lexington for Big Blue Madness. He’s confident the NCAA will clear him to play also.

“I know the program had to put a lot of manpower into getting him to campus and enrolled in school,” Hart said. “That was a huge effort at a time where the coaching staff’s effort is generally going toward other things.

“I don’t think there will be any big hurdle getting him cleared (by the NCAA). I do not think they would have put that effort into getting him if they were not confident the NCAA would clear him.”

Hart is just as curious as UK fans about how coach John Calipari will use Ivisic offensively when he can play.

“At the practice, I saw he had just arrived on campus. He was in the coach’s office eating steak already to start beefing him up,” Hart said. “He will be really unique on offense. He will be a face-the-basket 7-2 player and there are not many of those around.

“Defensively is where he can make a true impact as a rim protector that Kentucky really needs. He may have his hands full if has to bang with big body centers in the SEC, but with his length, he will do a good job protecting the rim.”

The San Antonio Spurs made 7-foot-3 Victor Wembanyama of France the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NBA draft. Hart said he was the “next generation” type of player.

“He is a tall 7-footer who can run point guard if you need him to do that,” Hart said. “He has already shown he’s going to be an NBA superstar. Could Ivisic be the college version of Victor? Probably not, but if he plays anywhere near that with his size and skills, he could be really special for Kentucky.”

Ivisic put his name into the last two NBA drafts before withdrawing, but NBA draft analyst Jonathan Givony calls Ivisic “one of the top European prospects” in his age group. He averaged 11.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 3.4 blocks while shooting 34.4 percent from 3-point range for Croatia at the FIBA U20 European Championships in Greece in July.

“Zvonimir is a unique player that can play a couple positions. He is very skilled and mobile and has a great motor with incredible length, which allows him to be a great rim protector,” Kentucky assistant coach Orlando Antigua said.