Kentucky's Zvonimir Ivisic dominates in first game after being cleared to play by NCAA | Zagsblog
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Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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Friday / July 19.
  • Kentucky’s Zvonimir Ivisic dominates in first game after being cleared to play by NCAA

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    By DYLAN LUTEY & SAM LANCE

    Zvonimir Ivisic is officially back for Kentucky, and in his first ever college basketball game, “Big Z” made quite the statement during the Wildcats 105-96 win over Georgia.

    The 7-foot-2 Croatian center — who was just granted NCAA eligibility on Saturday morning before the Georgia game — finished with 13 points, five rebounds, two assists, two steals and three blocks. He also shot 3-of-4 from 3-point range in 16 minutes of action.

    One of Ivisic’s assists was a flashy, behind-the-back pass to senior guard Antonio Reeves for 3 that sent Rupp Arena into a frenzy. The multiple 3-pointers from Ivisic also electrified the Kentucky crowd.

    Postgame on ESPN, Ivisic shared what the moment was like with John Calipari when he was cleared to play.

    “We cried, we both cried,” Ivisic said. “Then we started jumping… I just started jumping like crazy.”

    Ivisic, who played professionally overseas for a few years, initially had issues with his enrollment into the university when Kentucky looked to add him in August. After that was solved, he just needed to be cleared to play. Now, 172 days later, Ivisic was able to step on the court and finally impact Kentucky basketball.

    “Hey BBN, guess what? I’m free,” Ivisic said via a video pregame. “See y’all at the game tonight and thank you all for the support. Go BBN!”

    Kentucky Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart confirmed Ivisic’s statement Saturday morning.

    “We’re happy to share that Zvonimir Ivisic is eligible to play,” he said. “Want to thank everyone at the University of Kentucky, our Kentucky athletics staff, and the NCAA for working through this. Exciting time for Coach Calipari, Kentucky Basketball, and BBN. Go Big Blue.”

    The No. 8 Kentucky Wildcats (14-3, 4-1) are even more formidable now with the addition of Ivisic. Kentucky arguably has the best core of guards in the country with Reeves, five-star freshmen DJ Wagner and Rob Dillingham and four-star freshman Reed Sheppard. And now, teams will have to deal with two skilled 7-foot bigs in five-star freshman Aaron Bradshaw and Ivisic.

    With this loaded roster, Calipari and Kentucky are eyeing to reach its first Final Four since 2014-15. The next step in that process is a SEC road game vs. South Carolina on Tuesday at 7 p.m. ET.

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