Dejan Vasiljevic Shooting For The Stars

Australian high-school sensation Dejan Vasiljevic has committed to the University of Miami and he is set to heat up the U with his incredible outside shooting stroke, along with an all-business approach on the court.

After a recruiting process in which Vasiljevic drew interest from many schools fielding current Australian prospects, such as LSU (Ben Simmons and Darcy Malone), Winthrop (Xavier Cooks), St Mary’s (Dane Pineau, Jock Landale, Emmett Naar, Kyle Clark, Jordan Hunter and Tanner Krebs), Louisville (Deng Adel and Mangok Mathiang) and Albany (Peter Hooley and Michael Rowley), the 6’1 guard finally settled on Miami, as he announced via his Twitter account.

Along with the Australian-filled colleges listed above, Washington State, Minnesota, California, Lehigh and most notably, Stanford also recruited Vasiljevic.

“Understandably many will wonder why I passed on such a great opportunity to be involved with the Stanford program,” Vasiljevic explained to Olgun Uluc of Fox Sports. “I felt that choosing Miami would provide me with a necessary balance in terms of my athletic and academic developments and allow me to reach my professional goals.”

Let’s be honest here though, Miami is no joke of a college. The Hurricanes play in the celebrated ACC Conference, which Vasiljevic also citied as a deciding factor in his decision. Miami is able to provide Vasiljevic with a greater opportunity as a freshman, as current guard Angel Rodriguez is in his final season with the U and Vasiljevic understands he will need to be at his best to match the production of Rodriguez, who is currently averaging a modest 11.7 points, 4.1 assists and 2.2 rebounds per game.

“With departure of Angel Rodriguez, I am left with huge shoes to fill.” Vasiljevic explained to SB Nation’s ‘State of the U’. “As a freshman, I can certainly make an immediate impact with the toughness and scoring ability but also the experience of playing at two World Championships.”

In those two World Champions Vasiljevic spoke of, he was sensational. The Victorian native averaged 17.4 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game at the 2014 FIBA U17 World Champions. His terrific showing helped Australia secure a spot in the championship game, where they suffered a thrilling 99-92 loss to the USA. Vasiljevic also earned himself a spot on the All-Tournament Team, along with fellow Aussie Issac Humphries, who is currently playing for the Kentucky Wildcats.

At the 2015 FIBA U19 World Championships, Vasiljevic also had another strong showing, as he averaged 13.3 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1 assist per game, as Australia finished 7th in the tournament. At Oceania level, Vasiljevic was, unsurprisingly, tremendous. At the 2013 FIBA Oceania U16 Championships, the 180 pounder put up 19.3 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1 assist per game, as he was the leading scorer in the competition. The next year, at the FIBA U18 Oceania Championships, Vasiljevic had a solid outing, posting per game averages of 12.6 points, 4.6 rebounds and 4.2 assists.

This World Championship experience will be a huge asset for Vasiljevic has he begins his college career next season. Many freshmen come onto the NCAA scene at a primetime campus with minimal experience on the big stage, which makes sense. After all, these are 18-year olds we are talking about, so playing in front of big crowds is something they wouldn’t have experienced often. Playing in four esteemed FIBA Championships though will help Vasiljevic in a huge way, as he will be able to use those experiences on a world stage to help with his adjustment to the atmosphere of college basketball.

NBA veteran and current Cleveland Cavaliers forward Richard Jefferson recently told Joe Gabriele of cavs.com that the atmosphere in college basketball is unmatched by any other basketball league in the world, even the NBA. “Look, when you’re 18 years old and you’re playing Duke or when you’re going into the Dean Dome – that’s a tough place to play. When you’re 17, 18 years old and you’re going into Pauley Pavilion and there’s 12,000 drunk college kids screaming at you – that’s a tough place to play.”

“But when you’re talking about corporate sponsors and millionaires sitting courtside, that’s not a tough place to play.” Jefferson explained. “L.A. used to be a tough place to play because of all the stars. You might look around and get distracted. But as far as an environment, there’s no tough place to play in the NBA.”

It is interesting Jefferson mentioned playing at Duke and UNC, as those two schools are in the ACC, the conference where Vasiljevic will be suiting up in next season. By using his previous experiences at the FIBA World Champions though, Vasiljevic will have greater wisdom when playing in these raucous atmospheres.

Vasiljevic’s on court talent will be able to withstand any atmosphere though, as the sweet-shooting guard will make an immediate impact at the U.

The former Melbourne Tigers junior, Vasiljevic has been compared to Drazen Petrovic, an All-NBA Third Team member in 1993 and a member of FIBA’s 50 Greatest Players of All-Time (1991).

The comparisons are adequate, as Vasiljevic has a deadly outside jump shot, with the majority of his scoring comes from the three-point line. Vasiljevic isn’t afraid to pull-up, similar to the way Stephen Curry pulls-up from seemingly anywhere, as the Aussie has the green light to unload from downtown. Modern day basketball is becoming more and more reliant on the three-point shot and floor spacing and with Vasiljevic’s skill-set, he is a prototypical shooter for todays era of basketball.

Vasiljevic is a headache for opposing defenders, as his quick fast step and strong build allows him to drive the lane when the opposition closes out on his jumper. Vasiljevic has a similar body composition to Townsville Crocodiles guard Jordair Jett, who is one of the NBL’s best at using his frame to get to the rim and finish amongst the bigs. While he isn’t a great finisher at the basket yet, Vasiljevic definitely has the ability, potential and body to make this one of his strengths.

The passion that steams out of Vasiljevic helps him on the defensive end of the floor, as he uses this positive energy to play hard-nosed, pesky defence, similar to his Australian counterpart, Matthew Dellavedova.

Miami is currently ranked as the 17th team in the nation, sporting a 17-4 record and a 6-3 record in conference play. With the services of Vasiljevic coming on-board next season though, expect those wins to increase and the losses to decrease.


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Luke Sicari

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Writer, producer at 1116 SEN | Media assistant at the West Coast Eagles | Sport Journalism Student at La Trobe

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