Live. Breathe. Blue. Kentucky Basketball - Big Z Delivers

by BILL CROCKETT (LEXINGTON, KY)
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Roughly four hours after being cleared by the NCAA, Zvonimir Ivisic, a 7-foot-2 freshman from Croatia, made his long-awaited debut on Saturday at Rupp. Admittedly nervous prior to the game, Zvonimir, better known as Big Z to BBN, didn’t disappoint when the bright lights came on. Big Z ignited the crowd and arguably had the best freshman debut of any Wildcat from the Calipari era. Ivisic knocked down his first four shots during a 106-95 victory over Georgia and provided a spark the ‘Cats desperately needed during the first half.

Big Z played a total of 16 minutes during his first game as a Wildcat. He finished with 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting from the floor, including 3-of-4 from deep. Ivisic tied for the team high in rebounds with 5, had a team-best 3 blocked shots, and recorded 2 assists and 2 steals. He also had a team-best plus/minus of +14 when he was on the floor. UK’s big man definitely delivered. “I was nervous at the beginning while I was sitting on the bench and before in the locker room,” Ivisic admitted. “I was really nervous, but when I got in, I was cool.”

It’s been an eventful journey for Ivisic to reach this point—and that’s putting it kindly. After more than one hundred days without a decision from the NCAA on his eligibility status, Kentucky fans declared World War Z on the NCAA. A group led by the Rupp to No Good Podcast launched a campaign that raised over $4,000 to put a Free Big Z billboard outside the NCAA Eligibility Center. Regardless of whether or not the billboard influenced their decision, that was a great way to show BBN’s unwavering support for Big Z and his plight.

Calipari has a lot of touch decisions to make with his allotment of minutes now. Based on Big Z’s performance, it’s going to be difficult to keep the big man off the floor. Compounding matters, sophomore forward Adou Thiero, who has missed the past six games with back spasms, appears close to returning. Thiero is one of the best defenders and rebounders on the team. Someone will have to lose minutes for Big Z to gain more playing time. Those could come from a combination from Onyenso, Edwards, Thiero, Mitchell. Cal has to juggle egos and develop new rotations, but it’s clear that Big Z brings a dynamic no other team has.



phil malicote