It is no secret with all the incredible shots and passes Luka Doncic has done that he would be crowned Magic. He is on his way to possibly becoming the GOAT, but not only on the court is Doncic incredible, but also off the court he has a big heart for his fans. One could imagine that after having to put up with fans day in and day out in the NBA, that his humbleness and generosity could have waned a bit over the last years, but it hasn’t. No matter where he goes, someone wants a piece of that Luka Magic. It wasn’t any different at the 2022 Euro when he was in Cologne with Slovenia and no matter if before or after the game, he always had time for his fans in front of the team hotel. I witnessed it myself and it isn’t only fans and journalists like myself, but also teammates that are amazed by his humbleness. Imagine coming to Madrid as a 16 year old from Sweden and a year later at age 17 being teammates with Luka Doncic with Real Madrid. That is exactly what happened to Swedish national player point guard Melwin Pantzar (190-PG-2000). He had the unbelievable honor to witness Doncic play his last season in Europe before going over the pond to conquer the NBA. So often you see Luka Doncic sporting that massive smile on photos or on camera where you just wish he could be your best friend. Pantzar was able to experience exactly how humble of a guy he was when he played his first ACB game. ‘Luka was a great teammate. I remember when I made my debut with the first team, he was the one who took a selfie with me after the game and congratulated me. Which was a wonderful gesture. He treated everybody the same way even being a superstar. He tried to help the younger players always’, remembered Melwin Pantzar. Not many guys can boast that they were able to practice with Luka Doncic on a daily basis. I would have guessed his mid range game or passing would have been that are where he would of soaked up the most from. ‘His passing and how he was able to move with his own speed. You can see it today in his game, that he plays at his own pace, which is amazing’, stressed Melwin Pantzar who once guarded him in the World Cup qualifiers when Sweden played Slovenia.
Luka Doncic signing autographs at the 2022 Euro in Cologne
Melwin Pantzar who lists ex NBA player Shane Larkin as his toughest foe in his career besides Luka Doncic was born on April 20th, 2000 in Valsta Sweden. He came to Real Madrid in 2016 and would remain 3 years. In his first season he played with their farm team averaging 5.0ppg, 1.9rpg, 1.3apg and played also for the junior team. In his second season he finally made his ACB debut and also continued to play for Real Madrid 2 (EBA) and made a massive jump averaging 11.4ppg, 3.5rpg, 2.6apg, 1.0spg, FGP: 46.7%, 3PT: 31.8%, FT: 85.9%. He had some huge games in the EBA scoring 26 points against Guadalajara and 22 points against Almansa. He also played 3 ACB games playing a total of 33 minutes and scored 4 points in 20 minutes against Gran Canaria. He began that game and for him being nervous was an understatement. ‘Yes I was and still I am. But you just got to play it through’, warned Melwin Pantzar. Americans that come overseas always have a wake up call to being overseas for the first time and for him he obviously had a wake up call to being a member of Euroleague team Real Madrid. ‘It was a dream coming true. Seeing some of the best players in Europe each and every day. It was kind of a shock in the beginning but then you get used to it. My wake up call was when I started to play 1on1 with Sergio Llull’, remembered Melwin Pantzar. In his last season he was able to only get into 5 ACB games and made his Euroleague debut against Baskonia scoring 3 points and dishing out an assist in 8 minutes. His 3 years in Madrid was obviously an eye opening experience and one he will never forget especially learning the art of basketball every day from Spanish national player Sergio Llull. ‘When I left to Real Madrid I wasn’t really a pure PG. But when I came there they tried to teach me more how to take care of the team. When to attack, how to set people up and lead the team. Sergio Llull was the first person I heard about arriving to Spain. And seeing him playing at that level he did when he won EL MVP was just amazing. Always making the clutch shots, a true inspiration’, added Melwin Pantzar‘.
The defensive specialist who lists Facundo Campazzo Dee Bost Sergio Llull Jeffery Taylor and Edy Tavares as his 5 best teammates of all-time then made the move to RAS Monaco Basket (Jeep ELITE ProA). Here he had tough competition once again as he played only 5 Pro A games averaging 3.2ppg, 2.0rpg, 1.2apg while also playing 1 Eurocup game and also playing with their U21 (France-ProA U21) averaging 12.9ppg, 5.4rpg, 5.4apg, 2.8spg, FGP: 45.8%, 3PT: 10.0%, FT: 77.6%. He even achieved a rare triple double against Le Mans in the youth league. Once again he profited much and remembers 2 people helping him immensely along the way. ‘It was a really good experience, even though cut short due to COVID. But I loved it there, Sasa Obradovic who is an amazing and really demanding coach taught me a lot of things. Especially on the defensive end. It was good for me to play with the U21 team. Norris Cole was a great guy, he tried to help me out when he noticed something I did wrong. He brought positive energy every day’, remembered Melwin Pantzar. He won’t only never forget guys like Doncic, Llull and Cole, but also living in world class cities. ‘Madrid is a really big city, so you could explore it more. I was there for 3 years so I had my restaurants that I got to know with time. Monaco was smaller, but very beautiful, especially the water’, remembered Melwin Pantzar. After playing for top organizations Real Madrid and Monaco, the young Swede took a step back to play with Real Valladolid Baloncesto (Spain-LEB Gold). Sometimes taking a step back later results in being able to take 2 steps forward. So far this decision has paid off as he has continued to raise his game each season and currently is averaging 15,7ppg, 3,5rpg, 3,6apg and 1,8spg. ‘It was the most important decision of my career until now I would say. After almost not playing in my last year in Madrid and just playing a bit in Monaco I really needed to take a step back and enjoy just playing basketball again. I’ve gotten way more confident in my game, had coaches who believed in me, was allowed to make mistake and getting more mature when it comes to reading the game’, stated Melwin Pantzar. Being able to play with against very talented Spanish players as well as in one of if not the best second division overseas has helped him mature and develop further. ‘It’s been a great experience, Spanish players are really smart and read the game very well, which is what I needed to get better at. The league is physical and high pace. I don’t think they really care which country you from, but more how you play the game. I would say Leb Oro is an underrated league. There are people here that I know for sure would be able to play in the highest leagues in Europe. You could see how good the teams are also, for example when teams go down from ACB, how hard it is to go up again’, commented Melwin Pantzar.
The talented guard who has Dwyane Wade LeBron James MJ and Shaq on his personal NBA Mount Rushmore played for all Swedish youth national teams and won the Addidas Next generation tournament in Munich in 2018. ‘A fun memory that I will remember all my life. Playing international at that age was something big. Just seeing how big basketball is and how many big talents Europe have. I would say Goga Bitadze, Deividas Sirvydis and Theo Maledon stood out’, remembered Melwin Pantzar. He has been part of the Swedish national team since 2020 and is a part of a young core of players with Bobi Klintman, Pelle Larson, Elliot Cadeu, and Kenny Photo who are the future of Swedish basketball. Just like with club basketball, he continues to make strides and develop further with the Swedish national team. His minutes and responsibility continue to climb. ‘My role was mostly defensive at the beginning, matching up with the other teams best player. But with time the coaching staff gave me more and more freedom on offense also, setting up my teammates and attacking the rim. I don’t really think about that right now, I’m happy as long as I can contribute and we winning games’, stressed Melwin Pantzar. Just like with Sergio Llull in Madrid, he has found his mentor in Swedish veteran Tobias Borg in the national team. ‘He’s helped me a lot, he’s a real veteran. Always showing up to camp in shape and focused. It’s a pleasure playing and seeing how he tackles every game/practice’, expressed Melwin Pantzar. He had some big games against Israel scoring 18 points and 11 points.
The ex Real Madrid player who believes that Lebron James is the GOAT is a 190cm guard that likes how Euroleague players Pierra Henry and Corey Higgins play. One could compare his game to Milwaukee Bucks point guard Jru Holiday, because he likes to attack the rim, draw fouls and kick out the ball to his teammates and not to forget defends with passion something that gets him hyped before games. His defense is something that often gets his offense going as he loves to run the break. ‘I’m a defender who’s going to try to pressure so my opponent isn’t comfortable, be a bit annoying on ball. If I’m off ball I’m trying to read the attack so I can steal the ball from the weak side most of the time, or on handoffs. I would like to get better at being closer to my man on pin down screens’, warned Melwin Pantzar. He knows that in order to get back to the Euroleague, he will need to make certain adjustments with his offensive game. ‘I’m working mostly on my shooting. 3s, pull up 3s, and of 1on1. I would like to get a better floater also’, stressed Melwin Pantzar. It will be interesting to see where the basketball journey of Melwin Pantzar will go in the next few years. What really is riding in his corner is that he is still so young with 22. One thing that also really stands out is his character. He is a guy that hasn’t taken anything for granted in his career, but is super humble. Not many guys can say they played with Real Madrid and Luca Doncic as a teenager. He knows that getting back to places like that will take continued hard work. ‘I’m really thankful, some days you forget how fortunate you are playing basketball each and every day. It’s a big thing playing for a club such as Real Madrid, it’s one of the biggest clubs in the world, and Monaco which is a kind of up and coming club with great ambition. It was two great experiences’, stressed Melwin Pantzar. It won’t surprise anyone when that really great great next experience comes about.