You wouldn’t know it by watching his last performance of the regular season for Golden State, but Ognjen Kuzmic is developing a nice fundamental game, courtesy of his time with the team’s D-League affiliate in Santa Cruz. Kuzmic helped the team secure a 135-104 win over the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. With the victory, the Santa Cruz Warriors are one game away from returning to the D-League Finals for the second consecutive year.
Affectionately known as the Bosnian Beast, the Gentle Giant had yet another stat-line for the ages Thursday night, scoring 23 points on 11-of-14 shooting and grabbed 18 rebounds in just 27 minutes of work.
“I didn’t expect (a good game) from (Kuzmic) only because he played in Denver last night,” Warriors coach Casey Hill said. “He’s playing at such a high level right now and this whole kind of experience, he’s kind of fallen in love with Santa Cruz.
“Everything’s kind of going right for him down here and I couldn’t be happier for the guy. He’s done a wonderful job and he’s reaping the benefits of being patient, being diligent and working hard.”
Kuzmic dominated against the undersized squad of the Vipers, the Houston Rockets D-League affiliate. The Vipers, with NBA players Robert Covington and Isiah Canaan on assignment, struggled after playing Wednesday night in New Orleans and flying overnight to California for Thursday’s game.
The Santa Cruz Warriors held RGV to their lowest scoring output of the season (104 points).
Like Bay Area native and fan favorite Kiwi Gardner, Santa Cruz has embraced Kuzmic, showing their love with throngs of ‘Kuuuuuuuz’ ringing out with every great play he makes.
Kuzmic was appreciative after an interview in Los Angeles saying, “Hopefully you understand something,” being extremely polite.
Looking at his shot chart, there’s one shot in the mid-range, which appeared to be closer to the baseline on the eye-test which surprised even myself.
Kuz baseline jumper!!! Repeat, Kuz hit the baseline jumper! The Beast Has Range Folks!
— Sea Dubs Central (@SeaDubsCentral) April 18, 2014
So what’s to attribute to Kuzmic’s immediate success? Kuzmic has found motivation playing in the playoffs for Santa Cruz and it’s helped give him an edge.
Talking to coaching staff and players, all signs point to Brian Scalabrine. The White Mamba, who worked exclusively with Andrew Bogut while with Golden State, has taken on the responsibility of developing the rookie center, and it’s shown.
Listen to what Kuzmic had to say about his performance Thursday night. The Santa Cruz Warriors play game No. 2 in the best-of-three series in Hildalgo, TX at 5:00 p.m. The game will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network.