For many high school graduates, making the transition to college can be a challenge. Between living on your own, developing new relationships and spending hours on schoolwork, the adjustment is often difficult.
International freshman guard Dejan “DJ” Vasiljevic took his talents to the U to embrace these hurdles.
Vasiljevic, who was born in Canada, moved to Melbourne, Australia, at the age of six and picked up basketball at 12.
“Basketball wasn’t a thing growing up,” said Vasiljevic, whose parents both played semi-pro handball. “My sister is the one that got me started. She was playing around with her friends, and I was just going to school playing here and there, but I started taking it serious.”
As Vasiljevic grew as an athlete, he started competing internationally for Australia. In 2013, Vasiljevic led the country to a silver medal at the FIBA Oceania U16 Championships, averaging 19.3 points per game. He played in the 2014 FIBA U18 Oceania Championships and the 2015 FIBA U19 World Championships in Greece, among other international appearances.
For the sharpshooter, the decision to attend Miami over schools like LSU, Louisville and Stanford came down to a few key factors.
“When I was on my visit, they mentioned that they have people from all different parts of the world, at the school and in different parts of the community as well,” Vasiljevic said. “I felt Miami was the best for me both for academics and athletics. Coach L definitely played a big part; it is a new family to me here.”
The relationships were not built right away. There was a cultural disconnect when Vasiljevic first arrived on campus; peers had a hard time understanding his Australian slang. Since then, he has quickly broken the barrier, adopting the dialect of his teammates.
“He’s a really great kid, a great student and fun to be around,” Head Coach Jim Larrañaga said. “What I’m more impressed with than anything is there are so many diverse personalities on our team, and he fits so well with everybody.”
Vasiljevic, who models his game after Croatian scoring legend Drazen Petrovic, has fit well with the team on the court as well, specifically as one of the main scoring options off the bench. Even with his natural offensive talent, Vasiljevic is not one to settle.
“I’m still trying to improve my game, but they call me shooter,” Vasiljevic said. “I’m a guy that wants to work hard and get better every day and make my teammates better.”
While his smooth shooting touch amounted for 11 points in his debut against Western Carolina, Vasiljevic acknowledged that he has to improve on the defensive end.
“I knew coming to America that I had to step up defensively because you’re playing against longer and quicker athletes,” Vasiljevic said. “In Australia, they aren’t as quick.”
Vasiljevic has received high praise from both his coaches and teammates alike for his work ethic and ability to adapt to others around him.
“Obviously it’s a cultural difference from two polar opposites in the world, but I think he’s adjusted great,” senior guard Davon Reed said. “We joke around asking him stuff about kangaroos, but I think he loves being here and he’s picked up the lingo really quickly, and he’s been working hard. He’s a worker and he is constantly getting better.”