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Celtics pleased with Ante Zizic’s development at Cibona

Boston believes 2016 1st round pick is at the right stage in his developmental process

NBA: NBA Draft Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Webster’s definition of stash - to store in a usually secret place for future use

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ZAGREB - The Boston Celtics are using the draft-and-stash method of development for 2016 first round draft pick Ante Zizic. Given the literal definition of the word stash, the Croatian big man isn’t doing a very good job. His loud numbers are anything but a secret.

And that is probably exactly what Celtics management and Boston fans want to see.

How many times have NBA fans looked at the stats of a European player drafted by their team and say: What? We picked this guy? He can’t even put up numbers in Europe how is he supposed to do anything in the NBA?

Well, Celtics fans … get ready for some big numbers for Boston’s No. 23 draft pick, who is starring for Croatian club Cibona Zagreb.

The 19-year-old is averaging 21.2 points in the Adriatic ABA League on 69 percent shooting from the field and 80 percent from the free throw stripe while grabbing 9.5 blocks, blocking 1.4 shots a game and dishing out 1.5 assists. The loudest showing was his 37 points, 20 rebounds and 3 blocks in 46 minutes of a double overtime win over MZT Skopje.

And his most recent outing came against Serbian club Mega Leks - which is a talent production factory - with Zizic unimpressed as he scored 35 points in 30 minutes and grabbed 12 rebounds.

His numbers in the Basketball Champions League are nearly as strong with 16.4 points on 59 percent shooting and 73 percent on free throws to go with 5.0 rebounds and 1.6 blocks.

And the Celtics are definitely keeping an eye on Zizic, who turns 20 years old next January 4.

"We think he's playing really well and having a big impact on Cibona's season,” Celtics international scout Benas Matkevicius told Ridiculous Upside. “Cibona really cares about him and the future and want him to succeed just as much as we do.”

One big positive for Zizic being with Cibona is his playing time. He is averaging 31 minutes per 40-minute game in the ABA and 27 minutes in the Basketball Champions League.

“He's in the right place at this stage of his career and continues to improve while playing plenty of minutes,” Matkevicius added.

Zizic is showing his whole arsenal of skills with Cibona. He has a number of power moves going to the basket and also has a face-up jumper. The Split native has great hands - catching a lot of average quality passes into the post - and a great feel and touch around the basket - also going to the reverse side of the rim to score.

Zizic has a great motor and possesses good footwork and goes up quickly when he gets the ball without bringing the ball down. He also can finish at the rim with both his right and left hand and blocks shots with both hands as well.

Former Boston great Dino Radja - himself from Split - said he is impressed with Zizic’s skill set.

“He's young, but he's got some good stuff. He's a guy who never stops; he doesn't have a second of time out. He's always active; he's always on the ball. He might not grab every rebound, but he's always there,” Radja told the Celtics’ website.

“He's young, so he's very raw. There are a lot of areas where he can improve, but he's a good, good talent. … What I've seen so far is that he can become a really good player.”

Playing in Europe against veteran players is a huge benefit for Zizic and his development - such as games against 33-year-old Shawn James with Montenegro club Buducnost.

Zizic, for his part, knows he still has plenty to do.

“I can improve in every segment of the game. I literally work on everything … every fundamental aspect and I think you can see my improvement in every game,” Zizic said in an interview with the ABA.

The 6-11 big man doesn’t plan on staying in Europe long.

“My plan is to join (the Celtics) next year when I am 20. I want to stay there. I don’t want to be the guy who waves the towel for two seasons and then goes back to Europe,” he said.

“I think there is time to improve and I think I can improve throughout this season and throughout the summer. That’s why I decided not to leave before next season.”

One thing is sure, Ante Zizic is making sure everybody in Europe takes notice of him. Not exactly what is meant by the word stash, but Europeans are happy to have him one more year.