Vucevic will never forget his USC experience
LOS ANGELES — The Magicat-Lakers game was not completed in time for this edition. Read the late game story in our e-edition at OrlandoSentinel.com/late or on our website.
Walking into the practice court at the University of Southern California’s Galen Center, a quick glance around reveals Nikola Vucevic’s presence.
Posted high above the court is a picture of Vucevic from his playing days at USC, hanging alongside other former USC basketball greats like DeMar DeRozan, Taj Gibson, O.J. Mayo, Nick Young, Sam Clancy and Harold Miner.
It’s hard to miss.
So is Vucevic’s love and admiration for his alma mater.
For the veteran Orlando Magic center, USC represents a place of personal and athletic growth full of memories.
“It’s always special to go back,” he said Monday in Sacramento. “I spent three great years there. SC kind of helped me in many ways become the person I am today. It helped me mature a lot. I met a lot of great people there, people I still stay in touch with.”
Vucevic and the Magic were in Los Angeles to take on the Lakers Wednesday night at Staples Center. It was the first game of a backto-back set for the Magic, who will face the Clippers on Thursday. It is Orlando’s first back-to-back set in Los Angeles since Nov. 24 and 25, 1990.
To get to USC, Vucevic averaged 18.0 points and 12.0 rebounds as a senior at Stoneridge Prep in nearby Simi Valley. He said his time there “was either to see if I got any offers or go back to Europe and turn pro.”
He got an offer from the Trojans.
“They liked me and they recruited me,” he said.
Vucevic, who was also a member of Montenegro’s U-18 team at the time, went on to start 64 games during his three seasons at USC. As a sophomore, Vucevic earned the Pac-10’s Most Improved Player award and second-team all-conference honors.
As a junior during the 2010-11 season, he was a Pac-10 first-team pick after averaging 19.4 points, 10.8 rebounds and shooting 42.6%
from 3-point range during conference play. Washington State’s Klay Thompson and Washington’s Isaiah Thomas also were firstteam selections.
Vucevic and the Trojans also won the Pac-10 tournament
that season to earn a berth in the NCAA Tournament. USC lost one of the First Four games to VCU, which went on to reach the Final Four.
Still, USC was the last Pac-10 men’s basketball tournament champion. The next year the conference became the Pac-12 after adding Colorado and Utah.
“I have a lot of good memories there, especially my junior year. It was one of the best years of my life,” Vucevic said.
Vucevic enjoyed his time at USC so much that he sometimes looks back and wishes he were still there. It’s not that he doesn’t appreciate where life has taken him. Vucevic is now a
father, he’s coming off his first all-star season where he helped lead his team to the playoffs and he’s in the first year of a new four-year deal with the Magic.
For Vucevic, life is good. But his time at USC is something he’ll never forget.
“When I look back at it, you kind of miss it,” Vucevic said. “You wish you were still in college, but obviously I’m in a good place now, too. But college, I think, is a unique experience. I don’t think you can ever replicate it anywhere else.
“That experience is just amazing when you’re an 18-, 19-, 20-year-old kid.”