Croatian basketball star Ivana Dojkić is headed stateside. At just 25 years old, Dojkić is already among the most seasoned of EuroLeague professionals, and now she is on her way to the WNBA after signing a contract with the Seattle Storm.
On the court, Dojkić combines a developed three-level scoring ability and an all-world passing ability into a lethal “pass first, score if needed” player profile. Add in omniscient court vision and slick handles, and Dojkić on paper is the prototype for a future star in the WNBA.
Currently playing for Virtus Pallacanestro Bologna in Italy, Dojkić’s professional basketball career has spanned across nine years and five countries. Born in the coastal paradise of Poreč, Croatia, she fell in love with basketball after her first practice as an eight-year-old.
At 12, she packed her things and left Poreč for the first stop in her never-ending basketball journey. First she moved to Zagreb when her older brother Marko got called up by KK Cedevita. “They took him as a young prospect, and I [nonchalantly] said ‘Okay, I’ll go too,’” she said. Leaving behind her hometown, as well as her father who decided to stay back in Poreč, was only the first step in a long career of sacrifices and goodbyes that Dojkić would endure en route to international success.
The silver lining? Initially just along for the ride in Zagreb, Dojkić began playing basketball more competitively herself, and by her early teenage years, she was already playing for Novi Zagreb’s senior team.
At 16, Dojkić signed with Ženski Košarkarski Klub Celje in Celje, Slovenia. Though Celje is just a couple hours’ drive from Poreč, the prospect of relocating to another country to pursue her hoop dreams was daunting. The move to Slovenia would wind up paling in scope compared to Dojkić’s future endeavors. By the time she joined Virtus Bologna at 23, Dojkić had played professionally for clubs in Croatia, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Russia and Hungary.
Understandably, constantly moving between foreign countries to play professional basketball was difficult for the young Dojkić, but she attributes much of her resilience on and off the court to the moves. “Even though I wanted to give up a lot of times because it was very tough living in Moscow at such a young age … this is now [paying off], all these sacrifices that I made,” she said.
This season with Virtus Bologna, Dojkić is averaging 12.2 points, 2.6 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game. She shoots 41.5 percent from the field, 34.3 percent from deep and 83.3 percent from the free throw line, a solid set of splits that ensures defenses can never let her breathe.
Though her service in EuroLeague never went without notice, her performance at EuroBasket 2021 was what really catapulted her onto the radars of WNBA teams. Dojkić had already recently signed a contract with the New York Liberty in the summer of 2021, but the terms of the deal fell through because EuroBasket interfered with the start of the WNBA season.
Once EuroBasket 2021 started, maybe the Liberty’s scouting department felt vindicated that the girl they had found showed up on an international stage; or maybe they felt a twinge of regret seeing the player they let go dominate.
Despite Croatia winning just one game, Dojkić went on a personal tear at EuroBasket. As the captain of the team, she averaged 20.3 points per game, the third-highest average of the tournament behind WNBA players Jonquel Jones and Emma Meesseman. Though her efficiency suffered when she shifted into a more prominent scoring role, Dojkić more than made up for it with her patented passing vision.
Croatia’s sole win was a dismantling of the Czech Republic in which Dojkić posted 24 points on 58 percent shooting to go along with seven assists. Though this performance put her on the radars of WNBA scouts, she still needed some more reps in EuroLeague before another team was ready to sign her to a contract.
Two years and thousands of hours of work after EuroBasket, Dojkić was finally offered a contract by the Seattle Storm. “Seattle was the fastest and most professional,” Dojkić said. “We were really understanding each other perfectly. They saw me in such a good way even though we just had a few talks.”
Dojkić knew instantly that the Storm were the team for her. “Sometimes you feel that connection,” she said. “Sometimes you need to follow your feelings, and I really decided based on that.”
Dojkić’s deal, the specific terms of which the Storm have not publicized, is non-guaranteed. As an undrafted rookie, she will have to prove herself on every single possession to earn a permanent place in the league. Dojkić cites her decade of professional play as sufficient preparation, however. “I gained a lot of experience playing on such a professional, high level,” she said. “From such a young age I started to compete against much older and stronger basketball players. This developed my game at a young age at such a high level.”
Dojkić has played against countless WNBA stars like Diana Taurasi, Breanna Stewart and Britney Griner during their respective stints overseas, so she is already somewhat acclimated to the rigors of WNBA competition. “When you play against them, nothing can surprise you that much when you go to the WNBA in my opinion,” she said.
Despite her experience playing among WNBA players, Dojkić is careful not to become overly confident about her transition to the league. “I will need more adaptation on the different style of the game [in the WNBA],” she admitted.
As her season with Bologna winds down in May, she will officially begin her journey to Seattle. Whether Seattle is a permanent home or another stop in Dojkić’s nomadic basketball career remains to be seen, but she cannot wait for the transition. “It’s another world for me, so I’m really looking forward to it,” she said.
With the lights due to shine brighter on her than ever before, Dojkić can’t help but feel appreciative of the opportunity to play in the WNBA. “For me, EuroLeague was a dream, but also I will say this WNBA thing is a gift,” she said. “The organizations, arenas, marketing places … it’s something else that we don’t really have here.” Dojkić’s acknowledgement of the WNBA’s luxuries doubles as a constructive criticism of the overseas game, however.
“The growth [of women’s basketball] is more visible there in the states than here in Europe,” she said. “Here I think we should improve a lot of things such as marketing, media and social interactions and things.” Though by no means a perfect measure of support and exposure, comparing the social media followings of the WNBA to those of the EuroLeague backs up Dojkić’s diagnosis. @EuroLeagueWomen on Instagram has just 98,000 followers compared to the WNBA’s 1.3 million; on Twitter the WNBA’s 806,000 followers dwarf the EuroLeague’s 37,000.
Though she spent the last decade living out her dream in EuroLeague, the league’s instability worries Dojkić. “Economically, ten years [ago] it was much better, but now it’s not such a great situation in Europe,” she said. In her eyes, support for the women’s game in Europe is sputtering compared to the rapid growth of the WNBA. “In the US I think they’re really improving … but we’re struggling to improve in Europe,” she said.
Even then, as far as Dojkić is concerned, she has done her job if she is someone girls around the world can look up to. “I believe [I am] really proof that… even from small countries [women] have a way to reach [our] dreams and goals,” she said.
She already has thousands of points, rebounds and assists to her name, both in EuroLeague play and international play. She already has proven her worth in front of audiences across Europe. Now, Ivana Dojkić is gearing up to move to yet another foreign country and earn a spot in the WNBA.