Monday, 30 May 2022

TCN 1-On-1: American Basketball Player Shannon Shorter Talks ABA League & Life in Croatia

May 30, 2022 - Shannon Shorter joined KK Split for the second half of the season in December. On Friday night, the team was eliminated by KK Zadar in the semi-finals of the Croatian league. However, the Yellows managed to make a run to stay in the ABA League by reaching the relegation spot and ended up not even needing to play relegation. The American guard sat down with Burak Canboy for this exclusive interview. 

Thank you very much for taking the time for this interview. Let me congratulate you on receiving the ABA League Top Scorer Award this year. You won the Korean Basketball League Championship in 2019, but apart from the Israel All-Star Game MVP in 2014, this was only your second individual international award. How do you feel?

I did win a league's top scorer title in Israel before, but it was not celebrated officially like this one. It surely wasn't my goal to become the league's top scorer when I signed. I was only looking to compete in a new league that I had heard about. I thought that I could have done better but also felt I was able to improve my game a bit during this time. It is surely a blessing being able to compete at this level.

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Why basketball?

As a kid and young man, I tried different sports. Did football, baseball, etc. but at some point, I saw my brother's success in basketball and spent a lot of time and tried to follow in his footsteps.

I told my Mom I wanted to be in the NBA one day. I want to be a professional basketball player. I managed to become a professional, and the NBA is still on the horizon [laughs].

What did you know about KK Split and Jugoplastika before coming here, and what have you learned since then?

I had heard of the club and knew about Croatian legends. I read up a little online about Toni Kukoč being from here and about the 3 Euroleague titles.

The biggest thing to take away as an experience since coming here is seeing the fans and how they supported the team and me. I came here to win the title and am very disappointed about not having been able to do that for the fans and the club. 

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How would you describe the five months you have been with the team? Namely, your experiences with the management, coaches, players, and fans?

I have nothing but good things to say about all of them.

KK Split is the 20th club in a 10-year career (2x Hebei Xianglan, China, and 2x Ostioneros de Guaymas, Mexico). You probably get this quite often, but how come you have changed clubs and countries so much?

Well, it wasn't planned. I did not want to go back home. If you know what I mean. I felt discomfort at home. Especially financially, so I tried being more comfortable. I tried doing something I loved and was able to get paid for it. Then after some time playing in Mexico and South America, I looked for an agent and asked him to give me the best opportunity to move my career forward.

Every step since then felt like moving forward.

USA, Mexico, Argentina, Israel, Japan, China, Turkey, France, Australia, Lebanon, Korea, Greece, and Croatia. That is 13 countries in which you have played basketball so far. Which was your favorite country to live in, and where you have enjoyed the level of competition the most?

Israel and Australia to live in. It was a very relaxed feeling. Competition was Turkey and Australia, apart from ABA League now, which is also very competitive.

Is there any country or league still on your "bucket list"?

Spain! 

That was a very fast answer! Why?

I'd say that apart from the NBA, it is one of the top 2 competitive leagues in the world, along with Turkey. It would be great to get a chance to compete on that level. 

I would like to ask you a few rather lifestyle and political questions. Most of our readers are either Croats abroad or expats in Croatia. I am sure they would like to hear how it feels for you to work and live as a foreigner in Croatia? How does Croatia relate to the other places you have played?

Croatia is surely up there with one of the top places. Split is a nice place, not too big,  no need to drive; things are close enough that you can walk to places with a lot of tourist attractions. I especially like spending time by the Riva.

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You are originally from Houston, Texas. What do you love about Split, what do you like doing here, and what do you think is missing?

The people are really nice. I just love to go for walks; the experiences here are wonderful. 

What are you missing?

My wife. 

That's something we cannot change. But what would you say Split could change to be even better?

I really don't know. It is a very unique city. Maybe the stores could be open a bit longer.

If you do not wish to answer this one, I can understand, but what are your experiences regarding racism in sports, and how do they differ here in Croatia from other countries you have played in?

Growing up, I either didn't experience racism much, or maybe I wasn't aware of it yet. I would say that I didn't experience it as a professional player. Neither elsewhere nor here. Then again, I must say that the Zadar fans have been very disrespectful. I wouldn't say that was racism. I appreciate supporters trying all to get the opponent's players off their game, but in Zadar, it was too much. 

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Anywhere else you have experienced that?

[Laughs]. Yeah. The fans in Lebanon were even tougher. 

Do you wish to comment on the gun shooting in Uvalde, Texas? I hope your family and friends are safe. 

It is very unfortunate, very sad. It is very distasteful and I don't have the words; I still don't have them. I don't know what to say to the families; I don't know what an individual may be thinking to do that. It must have been some very deep insecurity within himself. Something must have hurt him very deeply. 

I believe that usually, such things come from the heart. Like premeditated murder, you have to think about things first. It must come from the heart. Or rape or anything you would say is abnormal. Such things always come from inside.

I pray for the hearts of everyone on earth to get rid of that darkness in their hearts and be able to find love.

This is the 2nd mass shooting in only two weeks. Lawmakers need to make changes. It shouldn't be possible to put guns into everyone's hands. Things have to change.

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Let me get back to the sports-related questions. Last year Zadar won the championship after five games against Split. This year you played a lot of derbies with Zadar both in the ABA League and in the Premijer Liga. Why do you think they could pull off those important games, and why did Split fall short when it counted?

I won championships and am used to playing in the finals over the years. When you play for titles, you understand what things you need to do and what things you cannot do when games are on the edge.

For example, on Friday, we had the momentum when we were up by 10 points. Then you get called with an intentional and a technical foul. They score all free throws and get points off the inbound. Your energy, lead, and momentum are gone.

So I can say they were more mature mentally to know how to win these games where every possession matters. We just aren't there yet.

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In the second quarter against Zadar, you had a few successful back-to-back pick and roll plays with Shawn Jones. Why didn't we see these kinds of plays during the fourth quarter and regularly earlier in the season?

The play had just come to play approximately two weeks ago. That's why we hadn't used it much before. Later in the game, I agree that we could have used it more often, but other plays were also working well with Vuko and Roko. 

Your coach Srđan Subotić had his first year as a head coach. How do you think he did in general? What are his strengths, and what do you think he could improve in the future?

I have a lot of respect for him. He had a lot of pressure on him the entire time, but you could not tell. He did very well to have the team focus on what's ahead, not what's behind. I think he could push players more out of their comfort zone to challenge everyone to deliver greatness all the time. 

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You are now almost 33. Coach Srđan played until he was 37. Michael Jordan came back out of retirement at your age and won three more titles before retiring at 40. How do you feel about your body, and how many more seasons do you think you have in you?

I always said that I would love to play until I am 40. In the meantime, I got married, which shifts focus. Luckily I had no serious injuries, so my body still feels good. I surely have 3 to 5 more years in me.

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How much time do you spend thinking about the future, and what are your plans after retiring as a professional player?

I am thinking about the future a lot already and have a foundation back home where I do community work and try to give something back with scholarships and back-to-school drives. That's something I would do more. I also would love to do news and analytical work. I am looking for opportunities to do that in the summer. Other than that, I am meditating to help me stay present in the moment and enjoy what I have now.

Are we going to see you playing for KK Split again next season?

That's a good question. It is a possibility. I don't want to rule it out. I told the team and the management that a mutual benefit would need to be reached. I know my value and timing made it possible this year. So many talks will be needed, and we will see where it goes from there.

Once more, thank you for taking the time, and I must say that I would personally very much enjoy bumping into you again under the baskets of Gripe next season. However, even if not, I wish you and your family a safe future on your journey around the basketball courts of the world. 

Thanks, I appreciate it. 

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated sports section

Sunday, 13 March 2022

Legendary Croatia Olympian Water Polo Player Damir Burić Switches to Basketball

March 13, 2022 - Legendary former Croatia water polo player Damir Burić played an official game for Pula's KK Stoja against Rijeka's Kvarner Junior in the 16th round of the Second League - West on Saturday night.  The 41-year-old talks about why he swapped the pool for the court. 

It was a historic Saturday for Pula sports and Stoja basketball, as the famous Pula water polo player Damir Burić joined them on the Stoja primary school court.

Burić was a significant part of Pula water polo history back when the city was without a pool. He won everything possible with the Croatia national team - Olympic, world, and European gold, while the same goes for the club level, as there is no trophy he did not win, reports Jutarnji List.

Here is a breakdown

Olympic games

- Gold (London 2012)

- silver (Rio de Janeiro 2016)

World Championships

- Gold (Melbourne 2007)

- silver (Kazan 2015)

- bronze (Rome 2009 and Shanghai 2011)

European Championships

- gold (Zagreb 2010)

- silver (Kranj 2003)

Champions League

- gold (Pro Recco 2010 and 2012)

Thus, Burić made his debut in the yellow and blue jersey in a significant victory against Rijeka - 119:66.

Buric participated in the victory with 10 points, 13 rebounds, and several attractive "water polo" assists, and he played for two quarters.

"Ha, ha, it turned out to be a much bigger story than I thought... It's true, but I just started training," said Damir Burić. Although the rhythm of training suggests it is more serious.

"Monday to Friday, once a day, 8 to 10 pm. Listen, after water polo, where you have two workouts a day for two and a half hours each, this is nothing, haha. In essence, I decided to train for myself, to clear my head and body. It would not be good to relax."

His connection to basketball is not surprising.

"If we look purely at height, yes, I have some prerequisites." Burić is 205 cm, after all. 

"For athletes, it's hard to separate yourself from sports just like that. I've been playing basketball since high school. When I got serious about water polo, I couldn't practice regularly anymore. But even then, when I had some free weeks, I'd play."

Can he dunk?

"I could, but now I'm not even trying, haha. I'm taking care of my spine. I train with young guys, 16-18 years old, a few 25-26 year olds, one is 33, and I am 41. So be careful. I run, I wear out, but I still avoid some things. I mean, I can dunk it in, it's not a big success, but I save myself."

How does he shoot?

"Haha, I have to admit that when I was younger, I shot better. However, it’s good and getting better."

He plays on the wing.

"Wing, center, sort of. I mean, it's the Second League. After all, we don't have a lot of tall players. Thank God it's like that because I wouldn't even bother if it was different."

How did he decide to join his hometown club, Pula's Stoja?

"In principle, I played all last summer, but not seriously training. The club president, Šime Vidulin, is a good friend of mine from school days, and he persuaded me to come to training. So I trained a little for myself because swimming and gym get a little boring when you're always alone. And then I came about a month and a half ago. I have been with them constantly ever since."

Stoja Basketball Club has certainly never had a more celebrated member! 

To read more about sport in Croatia, follow TCN’s dedicated page

Tuesday, 10 August 2021

Longtime KK Split Captain Srđan Subotić Becomes New First Team Coach

August 10, 2021 - Croatian basketball runner-up KK Split announced on Monday that Srđan Subotić (41) has been appointed the new coach of the first team.

The long-time captain of Split, who was a promising young player and had a unique game as a playmaker, immediately started working as a coach at the club after the end of his playing career.

In 2017,  Subotić started working as a coach in the club's youth team and then assisted the coaches of the first team, Ivica Skelina and Mile Karakaš. He will lead Split to a new season in which they will fight again in the 1st ABA League, but also the qualifications of the FIBA ​​Champions League.

"Thank you to the club's management for the trust in me, this is a great honor, but also an obligation. I know how this club breathes, I know its size and I am aware of all the challenges ahead. At the very beginning, it is not the time for some big statements, the most important thing is to equip ourselves as soon as possible and start working," said Subotić.

Subotić will replace Milo Karakas on the Split bench, who led the team at the end of last season and managed to stay in the regional ABA league, while in the Croatian championship playoffs they reached the final in which Zadar won 3-2. 

The key and the most urgent task facing the club is to put together a team as soon as possible for the demanding season ahead of them, given the numerous departures of players from last season's squad. Split was left without Luković, Đoković, Mesiček, and Vranković, but reinforcements are still expected. However, we are still unsure we know what the roster will look like in the new season.

Source: Sportklub

To follow the latest sports news in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

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Saturday, 22 May 2021

KK Split in Croatian Basketball Championship Finals after 13 Years!

May 22, 2021 - On Thursday, KK Split managed to stay in the ABA League. Less than 24 hours later, they qualified for the Croatian basketball championship finals. 

In the second game of the semifinals, Split defeated Cibona 93:71 in Zagreb and thus went 2-0 in the series. They will play against the winner of Zadar and Gorica which is currently 1-1.

After the first quarter, Cibona had a 28:27 advantage, but at halftime, KK Split was up by 7. Split's excellent game continued in the third quarter when they led by 19, and in the fourth, the advantage only grew to confirm a spot in the finals.

Roko-Leni Ukić scored 18 points as the most efficient KK Split player, and Marko Luković added 16 points. Darko Planinić led Cibona with 16 points.

After 13 years, Split entered the Croatian championship finals, and the Yellows recorded their seventh victory against Cibona this season.

In the first semifinal game, Split celebrated convincingly 95-80.

Because of the tight schedule and Split's ABA League relegation game on Thursday, there was tension between Cibona and Split. KK Split wanted to move the date of the second semifinal match against Cibona to May 22, to which the Croatian Basketball Federation agreed, but they also needed Cibona's consent. The Zagreb club ultimately refused. 

"I think two things were important in today's game. One is that we didn't give ourselves any excuse given what we've been going through the last few days and to realize that today was the biggest chance to win," the KK Split coach Mile Karakas said and added that Cibona did not surprise them with their game.

"After 6:0, the reality was that Cibona would come out as strong as possible at the beginning. When we rejected that first and second blow, we knew that they would fall and that our quality would come forward," added Karakas, who is thrilled to be in KK Split's first Croatian final after 13 long years.

KK Split was welcomed home to Gripe with a flare spectacle which you can see below. 

Source: HRT, Gol.hr

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Monday, 11 January 2021

Biggest Victory in Croatian Basketball History: KK Split Celebrated 125:59!

January 11, 2021 - An incredible result for KK Split, which celebrated thanks to a 66-point lead in their game against Hermes Analitica on Sunday, earning them a spot in Croatian basketball history.

Gol.hr reports that the day after they topped Podgorica team Buducnost with a three-pointer in the ABA league, the KK Split basketball team achieved an unreal result in the Croatian Championship.

In the 17th round match of the Hrvatski Telekom Premier League, Split defeated Zagreb's Hermes Analitica at Gripe with an incredible 125:59 result.

The 66-point difference is the biggest victory in the history of basketball competitions in independent Croatia. The previous record was held by Cibona when they defeated Dona 104:43.

Since the games were played one after another, i.e., KK Split had only 20 hours between the ABA league and HT Premier league, coach Ivica Skelin gave more minutes and a more significant role to talented young players from the Split basketball school and those who are not usually part of the strongest starting five. They certainly proved that they earned their spot among the best.

Roko Gizdavčić scored 19 points, and Ivan Perasović 13. The most effective for Split was Toni Perković with 24 points and Darko Bajo with 22.

Roko Leni Ukić, who returned to Split this week, still does not have the right to play in the domestic championship, and apart from the injured Marko Luković, Pavle Marčinković did not play either.

Dalmatinski Portal reported that this is Split's most convincing victory in history compared to other rivals in elite competitions. When this club was called Jugoplastika, they defeated Lesonit from Ilirska Bistrica with a score of 95:32 in 1965, and five years later, they were more successful than Maribor 122:63.

In the 1985/1986 season, Jugoplastika topped Pristina with a score of 133:74, and then in the Champions Cup in the 1989/1990 season, they defeated Scottish team Livingston 122:65.

To read more about sport in Croatia, follow TCN’s dedicated page

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Ivica Skelin Appointed Coach of Croatian Men's Basketball Team

Ivica Skelin has been appointed as the new coach of the Croatian men's basketball team, succeeding Aleksandar Petrović who led the team in the last two major competitions.

Friday, 26 May 2017

Playoff Finals; Cibona Needs One More Win For The Title

Cibona won two games in a row; they won the second one 72-67 at Dražen Petrović Hall and now lead the series 2-1

Monday, 22 May 2017

Split To Play The Champions League?

FIBA invited the best European basketball club of the 20th Century to participate in the next season of the newly established Champions League

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Cibona Ties The Play-off Final Series

Cibona beat Cedevita 91-85 away, and the final series is now tied at 1-1. The first team to get two more wins will be the new Croatian basketball champion

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Cedevita Wins The First Game Of The Play-off Finals

Cibona was hosting the first leg of the final series, but the guests won 79-73 after they were trailing by ten points with less than five minutes left on the timer

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