For Australian basketball fans, Dejan "DJ" Vasiljevic will be one of the college players to watch.
Throughout three years at the University of Miami, his role has slowly increased under veteran coach Jim Larrañaga. By the end of last season, Vasiljevic had already emerged as a leader, logging a full 40 minutes in Miami's season-ending loss to Virginia Tech.
Vasiljevic's steady year-by-year increase in scoring average also reflects his growing presence on the team. Before scoring 11.8 points per game last season, he averaged 9.0 ppg in his sophomore year and 6.0 ppg in his freshman year. If this trend continues, expect Vasiljevic to hit new heights in his last season.
In case you haven't seen Vasiljevic play, he is a 6'3 guard renowned for fearless shooting. Vasiljevic shot three's at 36.7% last season, while taking 7 attempts per game. He lives beyond the arc, with 70% of his shot attempts coming from deep last season.
For those that watched his rise through the junior ranks, this is nothing new. Vasiljevic was one of the standout players at the 2014 FIBA Under-17 world championships. He made the tournament's all-star 5 as Australia progressed to the final, losing only to the USA. His highlight reel below shows his fearlessness and ability to hit tough shots from downtown (often contested).
Fast-forward back to 2019, the off-season has been very productive for Vasiljevic. He led Australia to a Bronze medal at the World University Games in July, averaging a team-high 20.5 points per game on 48% shooting. He even saved his best game for last, with 33 points against Israel in the playoff for bronze.
Miami and Vasiljevic then headed to Italy in August, playing three preseason games. He top scored for the Hurricanes in providing 16.5 points per game, perhaps giving us a glimpse of the season ahead. Vasiljevic and back-court partner Chris Lykes are the only starters returning for the Miami Hurricanes this year, meaning the Victorian's role has never been greater.
The Hurricanes will be hoping to bounce back from a disappointing year, where they went 5-13 in conference play and lost in the 2nd round of the ACC tournament. In an interview last week, coach Larrañaga described Vasiljevic as a "very important leader".
Larrañaga added: “DJ is shooting to become the leading three-point shooter in school history this year, and we hope he achieves that goal because that means he's making a lot of threes." This show of faith from Larrañaga bodes well for DJ's final season, indicating that he won't be starved of shots.
Aside from Vasiljevic, the Miami Hurricanes are definitely a team to watch for Antipodean basketball fans. Center Deng Gak hails from Sydney, while forward Sam Waardenburg is an Auckland, New Zealand product. Waardenburg in particular is expected to become a regular starter, after starting just 11 games last year. Hopefully for Vasiljevic, the Hurricanes can bounce back to make his senior year a memorable way to finish his amateur career.