Oton Jankovic and his parents wanted a different path for the 6-10 sophomore’s basketball career.
Rather than signing a pro contract in Europe, as most elite-level teens do, Jankovic is coming to the United States to play for Prolific Prep in Napa, Calif. DraftExpress.net refers to Jankovic as “one of the best European prospects in his generation.”
“He’s a rare kid of his caliber to not sign with a pro team and take the leap of faith to come to the United States,” Jeremy Russotti, the founder of Prolific Prep, told USA TODAY Sports. “Most kids of his caliber sign.
“He and his family have been following us and then contacted us. It was a big surprise. We’ve been building the relationship over the last eight months and he wants to try something different than the European model.”
Russotti said the family initially reached out via Facebook, seeking the challenge of playing in the U.S.
“He’s extremely athletic,” Russotti said. He’s very similar to Andrei Kirilenko from Russia. He has a high basketball IQ and just needs to come here to the United States to get more toughness and get used to the speed and the physicality of American basketball. He has all the physical gifts to become one of the the best players in the world in his age group.”
Jankovic had been playing in the Cibona Zagreb youth system, impressed at the adidas Eurocamp and also averaged 10 points a game in his age-group FIBA European Championship.
DraftExpress.net says Jankovice “can play either forward spot on both ends and is a jump shot away from being considered a very intriguing NBA prospect. At the very least, the Croatian 16-year-old forward has excellent role player potential and is most definitely a name worth tracking as his skill level develops.”
At Prolific, he joins other newcomers Gary Trent Jr. from Apple Valley, Minn., and Paul Scruggs from Southport in Indiana as high-profile transfers along with top returnees Nathan Mensah, a junior power forward; and Abu Kigab, a senior small forward.
“Our team is much, much better than last year and we were good last year,” Russotti said. “Kids like Gary Trent Jr. and Paul Scruggs are such team guys. Our chemistry was good last year, but it wasn’t perfect and where the coaches want it with his team. We have an entire team full of guys that believe in the system and in the program. That’s the biggest difference.”