Belgrade (heinnews) – Dzanan Musa’s eyes light up and a big smile comes over his face when he is reminded about the events of August 16 and October 15 last year.
It’s not every day a 16-year-old hears from the legendary Arvydas Sabonis that you’re “something special”. Or that a 16-year-old makes his Euroleague debut and is assigned to guard the great Vassilis Spanoulis.
Welcome to the whirlwind past seven months for Dzanan Musa – one of the brightest talents in European basketball.
Musa spent the past week working on a totally different assignment than he has since re-joining Cedevita Zagreb following his wildly successful summer with the Bosnia and Herzegovina U16 national team.
Musa guided the Bosnians to the title at the European Youth Olympic Festival in Georgia on August 1, and then completed the team’s magical run on August 16 by leading Bosnia to the U16 European Championship crown – arguably the country’s greatest sporting result.
That led to Musa’s meeting with Sabonis.
Musa collected 33 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, three steals, two blocks and the crucial three-pointer late to give Bosnia an 85-83 victory over Lithuania in the U16 Euros final – in front of 5,000 strong in the Zalgiris Arena in Kaunas, Lithuania.
“That was amazing – 5,000 people were cheering against us. In the first row was the Lithuania senior team, Valanciunas and the rest. It was amazing,” Musa recalled at the Adidas Next Generation Tournament.
“When I scored the crucial three I was like, hey man, you scored the three to win the European Championship, you’re not here. I wasn’t there when I hit that three. I didn’t feel like I was playing basketball. I thought I was at home in bed. I was in the sky.”
Musa was named the MVP of the tournament and received the trophy from the legend Sabonis.
“It was amazing when Arvydas Sabonis came over to me and told me, ‘Man you’re something special.’ Oh (big smile and laugh)… I was like … Arvydas told me that. That whole tournament was amazing to me.”
As wild as that was … the real party was just about to start.
“When we were in the airplane half an hour before we landed on Bosnian territory we were all quiet and nobody was talking. When we came out and saw those people, we knew that we were European champions. We didn’t know it that night when we actually won. We didn’t feel it. But when we came home and became even bigger stars that was amazing.”
Some 50,000 Bosnian people flocked to downtown Sarajevo to give their U16 European national team a hero’s welcome.
Musa also got a hero’s welcome in his native Bihac, which he left when he was 12 years old to start his basketball career in earnest.
“Bihac is amazing to me. Every single other city is small to me compared to Bihac. I will always come back to Bihac. No one else can replace that feeling when I came back to Bihac,” said Musa, who was given an apartment in the city by the mayor.
Fast forward to mid-October and Musa has been brought back down to the reality of practicing with Cedevita’s professional team after all his heroics for the Bosnians cadets.
Musa clearly impressed the team officials in Zagreb with his work ethic as he was rewarded for his efforts with the start for Cedevita’s Euroleague season-opener at Olympiacos Piraeus.
“That was amazing. I didn’t play much for the senior team so three days before the game coach told me, ‘Hey man I know you are training hard every day. You’re getting better and better so you’re starting and playing against Spanoulis,'” said Musa, who has a picture of him facing the Greek legend on his Instagram account.
“I was like oh man, that’s like playing against Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo.”
Musa wouldn’t be Musa though if he didn’t put in a joke.
“I expected that (Spanoulis) would be much better (laughs). I’m just kidding. He’s amazing as a person. He asked me about me and how I train. That was a special moment . I scored four points so I’m glad that I debuted against that kind of player.”
Musa remembered those two moments at a tournament where he’s trying to actually become a mix of the players he was at the times he met those greats.
Cedevita management sent Musa to the Adidas Next Generation Tournament in Belgrade with the assignment of being more of a team player and getting his teammates involved into the game - a bit more than he did at the U16 European Championship, where he averaged nearly 20 field goal attempts and 8.5 free throws per game, though he did average a tournament high 6.3 assists.
Cedevita were hoping Musa had learned from playing with the senior team to play more and more effectively without the ball.
Musa collected 37 points, nine rebounds, eight assists, three steals and three blocks in Cedevita’s first game against Bayern Munich. He followed that up with 24 points, eight rebounds, 11 assists and six steals versus Partizan Belgrade.
In the third game - a meaningless one as Cedevita had already clinched first place in the group - Musa had nine points, seven rebounds and seven assists against Zemun when he injured his right knee in the third quarter and did not play the rest of the game.
In the semi-finals against Spars Sarajevo, Musa was hampered with the injury and struggled from the field with 5-of-14 shots in scoring 13 points. But he did pick up four rebounds, nine assists, three steals and three blocks.
Musa’s final numbers (16.6 points, 5.8 rebounds, 7.2 assists, 2.4 steals and 1.4 blocks) took a hit as he played less than 9 minutes in the third place game against Partizan and went scoreless with one rebound and one assist.
“I thought I was a good leader. The last two games I didn’t because I had that (knee) injury but in the first two games I almost had a triple-double in both games. So I involved other players. In the semifinals with my injury I had nine assists, so that talks about my leadership.”
Musa said he doesn’t have the highest expectations for the rest of the season as he returns to the Cedevita senior team.
“My plan for rest of the year is to get better every day and improve my weaknesses and stuff like that. I don’t expect many more minutes now with the end of the season. But I will work hard to achieve that and make coach Veljko Mrsic trust me.”
While Musa may not have big goals this season, Musa wouldn’t be Musa if he didn’t have big goals over the long haul.
“In the next 10 years, I want to be like Steph Curry, LeBron James and reach over Michael Jordan in NBA rings,” he boldly said.
“I always want to win titles. I want to go over Kobe Bryant. I want to go over Michael Jordan. Go over everything because I’m that kind of player. I always want more.”