Dejan Vasiljevic soaring like an Eagle in the Big V

Diamond Valley came into the Big V season full of hope and optimism, which mostly stemmed from University of Miami commit Dejan Vasiljevic. Questiones remained however; would his college commitment be a distraction, and how would he fare playing against men?

Two games into the season and all of these questions have been well and truly been answered.

As round one wrapped up on Good Friday, with the Eagles defeating the Whittlesea Pacers 88-76, Vasiljevic was able to display why he was such a touted prospect on the college recruitment circle.

Vasiljevic followed up his 32 points effort in the Eagles season opener against Eltham, with a double-double of 29 points and 10 rebounds against the Pacers. Vasiljevic stood up when the Eagles needed him most on Good Friday, hitting a pair of big three-pointers when it seemed like the momentum was swinging the Pacers way. Along with a handful of strong drives to the basket, where he showed his capability to finish among the trees at the rim, Vasiljevic also had a tough tip-in late, as he showed a poise and calmness when the game was on the line.

This is what makes Vasiljevic special. He isn’t afraid of the big moment, whether that is playing with Australia in FIBA Junior World Championships, representing Victoria in Australian Junior Championships, or now with Diamond Valley in the Big V. You can bet that Vasiljevic won’t be afraid to hit a big shot for the Hurricanes next season either, even if it comes in front of a raucous crowd of college kids.

"I'm not really thinking about next year right now because you have to be in the moment, at the stadiums to experience how crazy the crowd is," Vasiljevic shared with The Age's Roy Ward.

“There is nothing like playing in, being in those stadiums, especially during the late season and the tournaments. It's just crazy and hopefully next year we can be there on court trying to reach our goal of winning a championship."

While no comparison can truly be made between a crowd at Diamond Valley and a major collegiate program in the United States, a sold out crowd on Good Friday was nonetheless loud and passionate. Vasiljevic thrived amid the chaos.

With the Pacers on an 11-2 run to start the fourth quarter, the Eagles were in danger of letting a game they were in control of slip away. Whittlesea had whittled Diamond Valley’s lead down to a very manageable nine points with 6:08 remaining in the ball game.

Vasiljevic, who to that point had yet to find the range from beyond the three-point arc, called for the ball and pulled up from downtown. Even with a defender in his face - it didn’t matter. Vasiljevic’s shot was pure and stopped the Pacers late rally. The key three pointer lit a flame under Vasiljevic, as he would go on to score 15 points in the final quarter, leading the Eagles to their second win of the season.

His three-point shooting expertise is the main thing that people notice when they watch Vasiljevic play. However as the Good Friday victory showed, he has the ability to impact the game in a variety of different ways.

As evidenced by his 10 rebounds, Vasiljevic does a great job at crashing the rebounds as a shooting guard. Some guards prefer to leak out when a shot is missed and receive a pass from their teammates to start the break. While there is nothing wrong with this, Vasiljevic uses his strength to get his own rebound and start the fast break by himself.

Vasiljevic’s speed allows him to go coast to coast in a matter of seconds. His body control and basketball smarts help him to make the right pass on the break, take it to the rim, or even pull it out and run a play if nothing eventuates. He is a willing passer, despite being the best offensive player on the court and this allows his teammates to get into a rhythm, as seen by Ryen Vilmont’s 25 point outburst against the Pacers.

With good instincts as an off-ball defender, Vasiljevic is able to fight through screens and get his hand in passing lanes, as he is able to read the play before it even happens. Vasiljevic still isn’t an adept on-ball defender yet, but the basketball IQ and the innate instincts are there.

Diamond Valley currently sits atop of the Big V ladder with a 2-0 record and Vasiljevic has been a big reason why. He has so far been able to silence any doubters and is proving why he is the next rising star of Australian basketball, a line that continues to grow every year.

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