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Foster: Mario Hezonja's fire a blessing and a curse

Terry Foster
The Detroit News
Mario Hezonja

Most mock draft experts believe the Pistons will select Croatian shooting guard Mario Hezonja with the eighth pick.

He'd be a good fit. The problem is, other teams ahead of the Pistons are doing extra homework on Hezonja, and he might not be there when the Pistons select. Teams behind the Pistons could also trade up.

This is no Darko Milicic, the Serbian bust the Pistons picked second overall in the loaded 2003 draft. This guy can actually play. If you don't believe it, just ask him.

"If I was in college I'd probably be the No. 1 pick," the 20-year-old Hezonja told "My coach trusts me and I believe in myself."

The University of Kentucky recruited him but Hezonja stayed in Europe and played for Barcelona in the Spanish League, a league that produced NBA players Pau and Marc Gasol, Anderson Varejao, Ricky Rubio and Rony Seikaly.

Now he is ready for the draft, and Miami, Denver and the Los Angeles Lakers have scouted him in Europe. What they see is an immature kid who is also 6-foot-7, explosive and a dead-eye shooter.

European scouts say Hezonja not only wants to dunk in your face but he wants you to know that he dunked in your face.

He plays with a brashness and high emotion that can get him into the game -- but also at times, get him off his game. He has been compared to Kobe Bryant because of his competitive nature. He hates to lose and he chastises teammates that he believes are not playing up to their potential – something Bryant is well known for doing.

Yelling at teammates won't play on the Pistons team. It won't make them play harder and they would be more likely to turn on Hezonja.

Hezonja is an intriguing prospect, even with his flaws, because he is not just a shooter. He loves to attack the rim and dunk. He can throw no-look passes and bring down the house.

The problem is when he is angry or agitated, Hezonja does none of that. He makes defensive errors and forces bad shots.

One of Milicic's problems was he lost focus as he discovered the riches and traps of life in the United States. Let's hope Hezonja avoids those problems.