Between trips to Coral Gables and China, Dejan “D.J.” Vasiljevic has a busy summer ahead.
The Australian freshman arrived at UM on Saturday, having traveled approximately 9,700 miles from his home in Melbourne. He’ll take classes and train for a little less than a month, then travel more than 15,000 miles round trip to China to participate in what he and UM coach Jim Larranaga called an Australian national team development camp. Then it’s back on campus for more summer classes and more training until the school year begins in August.
“It’s an amazing honor to have a chance to represent my country, showcase my talents with the national group and be able to perform at the highest level,” he said Sunday via phone, as he was moving into his dorm room.
Vailjevic, a 6-foot-2, 195-pound combo guard who describes his game as “versatile,” is one of the top junior players in Australia. He shined at both the under-17 and under-19 international tournaments. However, he will be a rookie at the camp, which he said will be held at two locations in China from June 23-July 2. The 19-year-old expects to be tested by veterans like Chicago Bulls forward Cameron Bairstow, 25, Brisbane Bullets (Australian NBL) guard Adam Gibson, 29, and Illawarra Hawks (NBL) guard Mitch Norton, 23.
“It’ll be a lot tougher,” Vasiljevic said. “They’re older than me and far more experienced. They’ll treat me like a rookie. I’m going to embrace the challenge.”
Basketball Australia spokeswoman Lisa Hasker said Vasiljevic will be part of “an ’emerging’ Boomers team with a couple of Olympic squad members and a couple of Aussie college stars” like himself. They will play a tournament in China. The tournament is in its “final planning stages,” Hasker said.
Larranaga, who signed Vasiljevic as part of the first top-10 recruiting class in program history, said the camp will be a spectacular opportunity for the freshman. He won’t be a part of the “Boomers” squad that plays in Rio from Aug. 5-21, but he could be in line for future Olympic duty.
“It would be like one of our college players being included in USA Basketball’s preparation for the Olympics,” Larranaga said. “He’s not an NBA player, but we want to include him in the trials because we think when LeBron James and Dwyane Wade and these guys are done, he’ll have graduated in the program. We’re not intending on them being with the Olympics this year, but in four years, we think in all likelihood, they’ll be considered.”
Since the camp runs between UM’s Summer A and B sessions, Vasiljevic, who is studying business and economics at UM, will have to convince his professors to let him take “A” finals early and get ahead of “B” coursework.
Larranaga was impressed with the email Vasiljevic sent him this spring, asking how he could both attend the national camp and also do what’s best for the Hurricanes. “It was so well-written and so thoughtful and so understanding,” Larranaga said. “This is a sharp individual. This kid knows what it’s all about.”
Will he be able to fit everything in?
“I’m not the decision-maker. That’s up to faculty members, but they’re going to love the kid,” Larranaga said. “Who wouldn’t want a young man to experience being with their national team? What an honor that is – and what an educational experience to go to China.”