Nikola Vujcic’s big fish: Ante Zizic signs with Maccabi Tel Aviv. However, the center’s play will determine if the Sports Director’s move will succeed or not

Aug 25, 2020 | Holyland Hoops

“I attempted to find the connection between all of Maccabi Tel Aviv’s new signing announcements: 1. Right before Oz Blazer’s signing there was a picture of Maccabi Chairman Shimon Mizrahi fishing. Both are Israelis. 2. For the Chris Jones announcement there was a picture of the coach Ioannis Sfairopoulos fishing as well. So immediately afterwards, I wrote that if Ante Zizic signs with the Yellow & Blue, the fisherman will be Nikola Vujcic the club’s sports director.”

This is what The Sports Rabbi wrote on Twitter on the afternoon of August 16, after guard Chris Jones signed with the team. And now, just as August 25th has arrived, the Ante Zizic saga has finally come to an end. The Croatian center signed with Maccabi Tel Aviv, after Maccabi posted a picture of his compatriot Nikola Vujicic fishing for a big catch. Bull’s Eye.

Vujcic was the main man in making Zizic a reality for Maccabi Tel Aviv. The Sports Director had brought a 16-year old Ante Zizic to Israel along with Dragon Bender to practice with the Yellow & Blue’s first team back in 2013. This was in actuality the beginning of the center’s journey to eventually join the club now as a 23-year old after playing the past 3 seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA.

The signing of Zizic who starred with David Blatt and Darüşşafaka in Euroleague play back win 2016/17 is largely the responsibility of Vujcic who won the battle against a much wealthier Real Madrid over who would end up with the talented player. Real were willing to pay Zizic more, but needed to delay the signing due to the situation with star guard Facundo Campazzo who may end up in the NBA which ended up costing coach Pablo Laso his services and allowed Maccabi to swoop in and get their man. Another contributing factor to Zizic’s signing is the fact that his older brother Andrija won a Euroleague title with the Yellow & Blue back in 2014.

More than Greek coach Ioannis Sfairopoulos and the rest of the professional staff, the person who will particularly be judged concerning the signing of Zizic is the Sports director Nikola Vujcic, who managed to bring a player from the best league in the world in one of the brilliant moves in the European transfer market this summer. Vujcic is very familiar with Zizic as he was at his academy in Split and he arrives at Maccabi Tel Aviv thanks to sports director.

After many years of criticism for his work at the club, Vujcic has managed to not only help steady the ship over the past couple of seasons but has now landed a big name with his fingerprints all over the signing. In addition, Maccabi Tel Aviv posted a picture of Vujcic with Zizic adding an additional layer of emphasis concerning the Sports Director’s involvement in the deal.

The following may sound similar to what Nahum Barnea wrote in Yedioth Ahronoth about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s peace agreement with the United Arab Emirates, but of course connected to sports. If Zizic succeeds – most of the credit goes to Vujcic. But if Zizic turns out to be a flop in the end – the failure will primarily lie with Vujcic. Zizic’s signing looks impressive on paper and the Sports Director deserves compliments for luring the center to Tel Aviv and not to Madrid. But the minute the big fish Zizic steps onto the court and plays the upcoming two seasons with Maccabi – Vujcic the fisherman will either sink or swim with the latter preferable for all.


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