Slovenian prospect who might be the No. 1 NBA draft pick was so good at age 8 that coaches moved him up an age group after watching him play for 16 minutes

An impressive EuroBasket tournament this summer has pushed 18-year-old Slovenian forward Luka Doncic into the conversation for No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft next June.

Luka, the son of professional Slovenian basketball player, Sasa Doncic, is a versatile 6-foot-7 forward who has shown the ability to control every aspect of the game, a la LeBron James.

According to ESPN’s Mike Schmitz, Doncic has apparently always been a highly skilled player, dating back to when he was eight years old, long before he would win the EuroLeague and ACB Rising Star awards.

When Doncic was eight years old, his father joined Slovenian powerhouse team Union Olimpija and Doncic was invited to join the practice for players born in 1999.

Doncic dominated so quickly that according to Schmitz, coaches moved up to the 1996-born group 16 minutes into the sesssion. From there, Doncic continued to flourish.

“A skinny, happy-go-lucky eight-year old, Doncic was so dominant at his first Olimpija practice that the coaching staff moved him up to the 1996-born group only 16 minutes into the training session. After a full practice with the older kids, Doncic was then bumped up to the Olimpija selection team, where he’d develop over the course of the next few years, regularly competing against players three and four years his senior.

“Due to league rules, the 8-year-old Doncic wasn’t allowed to compete at the under-14 level, but he tore through his own age group and played a role off the bench on the under-12 team as well.”

Doncic continued to develop and drew interest from clubs around Europe. At 13 years old, he scored 54 points to go with 11 rebounds and 10 assists in the championship game of the under-13 Lido di Roma tournament and won MVP. At 13, he signed with Real Madrid, where he still plays.

Though Doncic’s Eurobasket tournament ended early with an injury, he still showed plenty of promise along the way while playing for his native Slovenia.

Against Latvia, Doncic scored 27 points with nine rebounds, looking comfortable going right at Kristaps Porzingis.

Former NBA forward Anthony Randolph, who now plays with Doncic, said Doncic is one of the best talents he’s ever seen.

“I don’t want to give him a big head, but I think he’s probably one of the best talents that I’ve ever seen, especially at his age. It’s unbelievable. Just for his size, the way that he handles the game, the way that he carries himself on and off the court. He’s just so versatile. I mean, the kid can damn near average a triple double when he figures it out.” 

A lot can change between September and next June, but certainly, Doncic figures to be one of the most highly regarded players going into the NBA draft. While the NBA works on lottery reform, some teams may very well tank for a shot at Doncic. 

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