FGCU's Filip Cvjeticanin, center, celebrates with teammates after beating San Diego State on Sunday at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. / KINFAY MOROTI/THE NEWS-PRESS
Name: Filip Cvjeticanin
Hometown: Zagrab, Croatia
Quote: “I like a community, all the people know each other over here. I like the campus and beach.”
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Known as the “Croatian Sensation” among his FGCU teammates, sophomore forward Filip Cvjeticanin has basketball in his blood.
His father, Danko, won two Olympic silver medals — one in 1988 with the Yugoslavian National Team and another in 1992 with the Croatian National Team.
Born in January of 1993, Cvjeticanin didn’t see his dad compete for his country, but he’s heard the tales of the national team that lost in two Olympic finals to the United States, most notably in 1992 to the Dream Team.
“I heard stories when I was younger and even today he talks sometimes about it when I ask him,” Cvjeticanin. “It’s probably an unbelievable feeling to win two Olympic medals. I can’t even imagine, I’m trying to follow his steps, but it’s going to be pretty hard.”
His father now serves as the Brooklyn Nets international scout and has done so since 2010. His professional career spanned 17 years and included stops in Spain, Italy and Serbia.
Cvjeticanin was born in Spain while his dad was playing for CB Estudiantes in Madrid but was raised in Croatia’s capital city, Zagrab. It’s the largest city in Croatia with over a million people in the metropolitan area.
He took recruiting visits to Duquesne, Miami, Northwestern and West Virginia but decided to play for FGCU in Lee County with 400,000 fewer people than Zagrab.
“As much as it is a big city if I would go into town in the main square, I would find people I know,” Cvjeticanin said. “I like a community, all the people know each other over here. I like the campus and the beach.
“When I came here I didn’t have anything bad to say about it, it was like heaven. Dorms on the beach, I can come in the gym and shoot whenever I want, so I found it really interesting.”
Growing up with a dad who played on two Olympic teams gave the 19-year-old the opportunity to meet his teammates. He met three-time NBA champion Toni Kukoc when he was No. 7 but said he couldn’t recall the meeting.
But he never encountered Croatian national hero and Hall of Famer Drazen Petrovic. Cvjeticanin was born six months before Petrovic died in an auto accident on the German Autobahn in 1993.
“My dad told me so many stories about him and Dražen working after practice, both of them are really great shooters,” Cvjeticanin said. “I was looking in my dad’s room for some stuff and I found a little notebook and it was a practice plan. In that practice plan it said they would make 400-600 3-pointers after practice. On weekends they would shoot 1,000 3-pointers.”
An early-season back injury has hampered him this year. Cvjeticanin’s numbers dropped from 6.8 points per game last year to 3.7 points per game this season. He has still seen action in 34 of 36 games this season, including both NCAA tournament games.
He has two more years of eligibility at FGCU. In 2016 the Olympics will be in Rio de Janiero — where fans might see Cvjeticanin again.
“We’ll see, I’m going to try to work as hard as I can and see how far I can come. Maybe for the national team in Croatia, we’ll see.”