We may want his country to lose tonight, but Manchester Giants will be hoping at least one Croatian will end up on a winning team next season.

Big man Vlatko Granic, who hails from Split in Croatia and stands at 6’9”, is coach Danny Byrne’s first new import signing for the 2018/19 season as part of an exciting and tenacious new roster.

He said: “I am really excited to come to Manchester and meet all the players and coaching staff.

“I am an all-round player, I can get rebounds, I can knock threes and I can play good defence.

“My plan is to give my best on the court and to help my team reach the play-offs. I believe we can do really great things this season.

And he’ll be cheering his countrymen on tonight when they face England in the FIFA World Cup.

“I think Croatia will win! 2-1. If we win against England, there is a huge chance to win the World Cup.”

Granic, who is 24 on Sunday, moved to the US as a teenager to pursue his college career, spending two years in the junior college ranks at Weatherford College in Texas, where he made his competitive debut playing against South Plains and reigning Giants MVP David Kadiri. In his second season there he averaged a double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds, and was 12th in the entire country for defensive rebounds and 23rd for total rebounds.

Heavily recruited by NCAA Division 1 colleges, he headed to Loyola Ramblers in the very strong Missouri Valley Conference. In a single season there he featured in 24 games, playing nine minutes per game, with his standout performance coming against San Diego State as he scored 7 points on 75% shooting in 16 minutes.

After coaching changes at Loyola, Granic found himself out of favour and decided to head back to Europe and start his professional career, signing with Or. Sa. Barcellona in Italy’s Serie C, before joining ASD Pallacanestro Molfetta for their post-season campaign. In Italy he was among the top players in the league, again averaging a double-double of 19 points and 13 rebounds.

Danny Byrne said: “We put considerable effort into scouting for this position, as we think it is a crucial role in what we’re trying to do with this team.

“Vlatko brings something to Giants that we haven’t seen for a while. He’s a big guy, willing to mix it up in the paint, rebound and play hard on defence; but he can also stretch the floor and shoot the three.

“He brings that typical European style to our frontcourt, and for such a young player he already has a wealth of experience in the US and Europe. From being in a top college programme to leading a team in a European league, he’s ready for the rigours of the BBL.”

Granic will arrive in Manchester next month and is likely to make his first appearance in Giants colours in the pre-season game against USA Select at the Trafford Sportsdome on Sunday September 2 (5pm tip-off).