On November 1, 2007, FC Bayern Munich guard Zan Sisko’s outlook on basketball changed forever. He was just 10 years of age at the time and a member of Union Olimpija's youth team in his native Ljubljana. That cold autumn night, he was inside the city’s Tivoli Arena to watch his club’s opening home game of the new EuroLeague season against visiting Olympiacos Piraeus.
The Greek team featured an exciting young new signing – a 20-year-old point guard who was playing in only his second EuroLeague game, having previously shined as a teenager with FMP in his home country, Serbia, to earn his big move to Olympiacos. It was Milos Teodosic.
"He's a player with something else, who can do things that nobody else can do or see."
As a young point guard himself, Sisko was naturally drawn to closely studying players in the same position. And when he saw Teodosic, he was instantly hooked.
"That was the first time I saw him," recalled Sisko. "And immediately I fell in love with him as a player. Olimpija won the game, but the main thing I remember is Milos. He was really young, but he really impressed me."
From that moment onwards, Sisko followed his new idol's career as closely as possible.
"He was 100 percent my hero. He's a player with something else, who can do things that nobody else can do or see. And that's what I like to see: different things on the court," he explained.
"It's easy to say Teodosic is one of the best passers in the history of EuroLeague. His way of playing basketball, everything looks so easy. He does everything with big confidence and his way of passing the ball without any care or thinking always really impressed me. He can make tough things look very easy, and he has that in his blood. That's what makes him unique."
Naturally, the young Sisko initially made great efforts to directly copy his hero's style of play, but as he developed and became more mature, he realized that he would be better served to use Teodosic as an important guide without necessarily trying to do exactly the same things on the floor.
"When you're a young player, you like to copy your idols and do things like them," Sisko said. "So in the beginning, for sure I would try to play like him. But when you get older and start to realize your strengths and weaknesses, you focus more on yourself. Over the years I stopped copying Milos and tried to become the best version of myself."
And now that he has advanced as far as the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague, the 'best version of himself' is a selfless team player who loves to serve his teammates rather than covering himself in glory.
"From the first day I started playing basketball until now, my biggest happiness has always been to pass the ball, share the ball and make my teammates happy," he explained. "For sure, I’m a [pass-first] point guard. A lot of players like to build their confidence by scoring shots, making points, but I grow my confidence in the game by passing and by making other players better. That has always been my way of thinking about how I should play basketball."
As you might expect, considering the strong influence left upon him by Teodosic even though he was only 10 years old, Sisko has always been – and continues to be – a keen student of the game, making great efforts to think about how he can become a better player.
"When I started, I was always watching point guards, how they played and read things on the court," he said. "I always liked to watch pick-and-roll players and, as well as games, I spent a lot of time online watching clinics and interviews with players and coaches.
"As well as Teodosic, I always loved to watch players like Sarunas Jasikevicius, Dimitris Diamantidis, Sani Becirovic, and more recently Nick Calathes. Those kinds of players, who have a lot of talent to play pick-and-roll really well and pass the ball, I have always admired them and tried to watch and learn from them.
"I like to analyze games and that's how I have improved my passing ability through the years. Especially in the position I play, I have to think. I cannot play only with my physique because I'm not as big as most other players, so I have to use my brain and my mind to compete. For sure, point guards have to think a lot – both for themselves and for others. So I always try to analyze the game, thinking about every practice and every game, and listen to my coaches."
On the subject of coaches, Sisko is greatly enjoying the early days of his new relationship with Coach Andrea Trinchieri, who has a long history of improving young players.
"I know that I have a big opportunity this year with Coach Trinchieri," he enthused. "He is a really good coach who likes to teach his players how to think and how to play the game. Every day he always talks to his players, both individually and as a team. Already I have learned a lot from him, and I’m really looking forward to this season."
"I know that I have a big opportunity this year with Coach Trinchieri."
This is Sisko's first full season in the EuroLeague after he joined Bayern from Slovenian club Primorska Koper last December and he believes the challenge of going up against the continent's strongest players will also help him improve, saying: "Last season I had the opportunity to play against some great teams and even in those seven EuroLeague games I think I improved my game and my mind. For sure, when you are playing against the best players and best teams, you can learn a lot, so I’m really excited about it."
And although it won't happen this season, because Teodosic is currently playing in the 7DAYS EuroCup with Virtus Segafredo Bologna, Sisko is also hoping that his blossoming career will one day allow him to make personal contact with his boyhood hero.
"I have never met him!" Sisko smiled. "I would really like this to happen in the future, to have a conversation with him and ask him some questions."