Nikola Djurisic shooting for stars as NBA draft stock soars & what is his connection to Israel?

Jun 24, 2024 | Holyland Hoops

The NBA Draft will take place this Wednesday night with plenty of uncertainty as to who will be top the selection as there is no generational talent as there had been last year with French superstar Victor Wembanyama, there could be plenty of surprises throughout the two rounds.

While there will be no Israelis who will be selected in this draft for the fourth year in a row since Deni Avdija was taken by the Washington Wizards with the 9th pick of the 2020 Draft, there is still one player that jumps out for sports fans in Israel and that is Serbian Nikola Djurisic. The 20-year old Serbian swingman who plied his trade with Mega Basket in the ABA and Serbian Leagues this past season, has steadily moved up the draft charts throughout the year, spent the first year of his life in the Holy Land.

The son of former Hapoel Petach Tikva defender footballer Dusko Djurisic and volleyball star Vesna Citakovic who played for Raanana, spent the 2004-05 season in Israel and spoke warmly about his family’s experience when The Sports Rabbi met up with him in Belgrade earlier in the year.

Nikola Djurisic – Photo credit: ABA League

Djurisic, who averaged 14.4 points in the regular season and 22.3 points in the playoffs, is now on the cusp of being a first round selection after a stellar campaign, his third full time year with Mega. The Ghent born Djurisic was paired with the talented Nikola Topic for the first part of the season, but once Topic moved from Mega to Red Star Belgrade midway through the season, Djurisic really took off.

Topic, who will most likely be a top-10 pick in the draft saw the second half of his season suffer a bit due to injuries that kept him off of the floor which has caused some draft experts to waver somewhat on where he will be selected.

Djurisic began playing basketball at 8-years of age while learning the game from his uncle Perica Djurisic. After spending his formative years at the KK Banjica youth department, Djurisic moved to Mega in 2017 where he continued his development.

Nikola Djurisic – Photo credit: ABA League

At the prestigious Basketball Next Generation Tournament in 2020-21, Djurisic averaged 16.9 points, grabbed 7.6 rebounds and dished out 5.6 assists to earn a spot on the exclusive All-Tournament Team and was named the tournament MVP when his squad won the competition in the 2022 edition.

Djurisic continued his ascent as he starred with the Serbian Youth National teams and made his debut for the Senior National Team as an 18-year old in 2022 during 2023 FIBA World Cup Qualifying in a 75-63 win over Slovakia where he scored 7 points and took 4 boards top go along with 3 steals in 20 minutes of action.

In 2023, Djurisic was named the ABA League’s Top Prospect as the swingman kept turning heads with his intelligent play and intangibles. Mega Basket is known to produce many high level prospects and stars from 3x NBA MVP Nikola Jokic who plays for the Denver Nuggets, Los Angeles Clippers big man Ivica Zubac and the Miami Heat’s Nikola Jovic.

Nikola Djurisic – Photo credit: ABA League

“Personally for me, this is my fourth year in professional basketball and the third year in the ABA League,” Djurisic told The Sports Rabbi after he had led his team in scoring with 17 points in a 92-72 loss to powerhouse Buducnost. “I am not a veteran but I am experienced in this type of league. It’s tough especially because you have much older guys and experienced guys so it’s much harder to play against them. But you just need to be competitive and show that you are not afraid to go into contact with them.”

Djurisic has looked forward to the opportunity to play in the NBA from his childhood and would love the chance to show what he can do on the biggest and brightest stage. He has been invited to over half a dozen pre-draft workouts with NBA teams including the Indiana Pacers but he also is aware that he has plenty to work on in order to be with the stars.

Nikola Djurisic – Photo credit: ABA League

“My dream is to be a basketball player and the dream is to be in the NBA. That would be a dream come true, but I need to get my 3-point percentage up. At the beginning of the season it was good and there were games where I was shooting very well and then some games later on where I was getting a lot of bad shots up because I want to compete and the game takes me away, so I’ll shoot some wild shots. If I can be better in my 3-point percentage I think I can go to the NBA.”

The modest 20-year old came into the season with a minor injury but once that was behind him it was all systems go as he played the first half of the season with Nikola Topic.

Nikola Topic – Photo credit: ABA League

“It was tough the first 3-4 games because I didn’t practice with the club as I was hurt in my foot in the preseason maybe just three practices before I came back to play. I needed to adjust to them and once we got into the rhythm it was easy to play with Nikola Topic. He’s a helluva player and one of the best point guards. Unfortunately he got injured after his move to Red Star and he will comeback as I am taking to him everyday and we are really close off of the court.”

Djurisic looked at his upbringing as being key to how he plays the game of basketball, “The Balkans, the ex-Yugoslavian countries when we are little and going to practice. The coach doesn’t let us do the wild stuff and they are teaching us how to play proper basketball. Pass, extra pass, cut, defend and those types of things in the basketball IQ we have that advantage.”

As for players Djurisic looked up to in patterning his game after, he chose a pair of legends, “Locally my father showed me Dejan Bodiroga and in the world I started playing because of Michael Jordan, those two players from their highlights.”

Nikola Djurisic – Photo credit: ABA League

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