Well-trav­eled shooter sparks Hur­ri­canes

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Steven Wine

CO­RAL GABLES, FLA. >> De­jan Vasil­je­vic is a na­tive of Canada with Ser­bian roots who grew up in Aus­tralia and has now found a home as a shoot­ing guard for the Miami Hur­ri­canes.

Vasil­je­vic is the most well-trav­eled mem­ber of a tal­ented fresh­man class al­ready play­ing a sig­nif­i­cant role for the Hur­ri­canes, who com­pete in an eight-team tour­na­ment in Or­lando be­gin­ning Thurs­day.

In Miami’s first three games, all wins, Vasil­je­vic has av­er­aged 11.7 points while go­ing 9 for 18 from 3-point range.

“He can re­ally, re­ally shoot,” coach Jim Lar­ranaga said. “I told him he re­minds me of me — a re­ally good of­fen­sive player who doesn’t play much D. He re­ally tries, but you’re guard­ing a dif­fer­ent kind of player, an ath­lete who is very skilled, and he hasn’t faced that kind of ath­lete on a reg­u­lar ba­sis. So he’s learn­ing.”

Vasil­je­vic’s back­ground sug­gests he’s quick to adapt.

“My par­ents are from the for­mer Yu­goslavia,” he said. “Be­cause of the war, they de­cided to move here and there.”

He was born in Cal­gary and moved to Mel­bourne when he was 6. He has Cana­dian and Aus­tralian cit­i­zen­ship, and plans to apply even­tu­ally for cit­i­zen­ship in Ser­bia, where he still has fam­ily. His par­ents and sis­ter live in Aus­tralia.

His un­usual ac­cent — mostly Aussie, a bit Ser­bian — made him some­what dif­fi­cult for team­mates to un­der­stand at first.

“I’m try­ing to get rid of the Aus­tralian slang in my speech,” said Vasil­je­vic, who pro­nounces his name DAYon Vass-EEL-uh-vitch and goes by DJ. “At first they didn’t know what I was try­ing to say, but I’ve got­ten into their vo­cab­u­lary and how they speak.”

Team­mate Ja’Quan New­ton said Vasil­je­vic was shy and quiet when he first ar­rived.

“But now he’s talk­ing the lan­guage we talk,” New­ton said. “He’s pick­ing up our lingo. He’s very play­ful.”

And he can play. His par­ents both played semi-pro­fes­sional hand­ball, but he took up basketball at 12 and quickly be­came hooked, mod­el­ing his game af­ter Croa­t­ian NBA star Drazen Petro­vic, who died in a car crash four years be­fore Vasil­je­vic was born.

Vasil­je­vic has given the young Hur­ri­canes a perime­ter threat as the of­fense re­tools af­ter the de­par­ture of last sea­son’s lead­ing scor­ers, Shel­don McClel­lan and An­gel Ro­driguez.

His shoot­ing abil­ity caught the eye of col­lege recruiters in the sum­mer of 2015 play­ing for a U-19 team in Europe. He made vis­its to Miami and Stan­ford and chose the Hur­ri­canes be­cause he liked Lar­ranaga and the weather.

“I thought it was the per­fect fit for me,” he said. “It’s a new fam­ily to me, a new home.”

Vasil­je­vic’s par­ents prob­a­bly won’t make it to the United States this sea­son to see him play in per­son. He said he misses mom’s cook­ing, and notes there are no longer kan­ga­roos in his back­yard.

But the big­gest ad­just­ment has been dealing with cars driv­ing on the right­hand side of the road, op­po­site from Aus­tralia. He’s in no rush to ob­tain a U.S. driver’s li­cense and gets where he’s go­ing mostly by walk­ing, which isn’t much of a prob­lem be­cause he lives on cam­pus.

Vasil­je­vic wants to get a de­gree and plans on a four-year stay rather than an early exit for the NBA. He likes Miami so well he helped land two prospects in next year’s recruiting class and would be happy to give other prep play­ers his sales pitch.

“I’m 2 for 2,” he said. “Let’s see if I can keep it go­ing.”

WILFREDO LEE — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Miami guard De­jan Vasil­je­vic waits to en­ter the game against Western Carolina on Nov. 11. Vasil­je­vic was born in Canada, grew up in Aus­tralia with Ser­bian roots and is now find­ing a home as a shoot­ing guard for the Hur­ri­canes.

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