SIBENIK - Early Days

Drazen grew up in Sibenik, a small port city on the Adriatic Sea. Most of his younger years he spent just like many other kids did around the city. It was obvious even then that there was something special about him, said Neven Spahija, his lifetime friend. Everywhere we went, Drazen had a privilege status, Spahija explained.

In our younger years, older guys constantly were beating on us younger kids. But, they never touched Drazen. In fact, they protected him. Drazen was extremely clever and smart and he was aware of his status, Neven recalls.

Neven Spahija at Nets Arena next to Drazen's jersey
What separated him from other kids was his interest in basketball. Drazen loved the game of basketball and he was not afraid to show it. He and his brother, Aleksandar, spent hours teaching themselves basketball on makeshift courts.
He would take the ball, which was bigger then him, and dribble around all day, Aleksandar remembers, I had to control him constantly so some of the older guys wouldn’t step on him on the playground.

As the years progressed, his brother Aleksandar became one of the premier players in the country and transferred to Cibona (Zagreb) while Drazen, at the age of thirteen, entered the world of basketball in the local basketball club Sibenka.

Defeats, defeats … he could not handle them well. He hated defeats. When he would lose on the basketball playground, he wouldn’t talk to anybody for hours. He even hated to lose playing card games. After every lost game while he played for Sibenka, he would stay up in the gym after the game and practiced shooting.
- Neven Spahija

Enthusiastic Drazen
Maybe it was that unexplainable force that pushed Drazen at his early stage of life to practice twice, three times a day. Five hundred shots every morning, at 7 a.m. before school, would be a standard workout for Drazen. And then in the evening - practice with the team. He would be the first one there, on the court, before everyone, and the last one to leave. Practice and hard work. Every morning, afternoon and night. Drazen was showing off all of his talent and hard work playing in the junior leagues against kids that were 2-3 years older than him.

He was only 15 year old when he joined the first team where he got to work with the professionals. His talent and hard work brought him to be the best young player in the country at the age of sixteen.

Fifty or sixty points on junior games would be an unwritten standard for Drazen, Aleksandar recalls, he showed great leadership among the players of his age and older. A year later he lead the junior national team to win gold medal in the European championship, and at the same time Drazen was getting more and more playing time with the professional team of Sibenka.

When he was still a newborn, everyone wanted to hold him. From the very beginning there was something special about him. His grandmother used to say, This child is a special gift of God. Drazen will represent something important.