September 29, 2010
Players pride themselves on different aspects of the game. Rajon Rondo might not be the best outside shooter, but even the three foot cushion defenders provide him with won't stop him from blowing by an entire defense an dishing to an open teammate. Bruce Bowen might not be a prolific scorer, but he can certainly shut one down. As for the Dragovic family, they know hot to put the ball in the basket.
"My family has been playing basketball for a long time, and we have always been shooters," said Danilo Dragovic. Danilo, the younger brother of former UCLA standout Nikola, moved to Santa Barbara from Serbia Belgrade two summers ago.
This year, he is transferring to basketball powerhouse Harvard-Westlake, where he will spend his senior season. Although senior transfers are a rarity at Harvard-Westlake, the team had one glaring weakness in a season that ended in a playoff loss to Ridgeview-- shooting.
Dragovic, who did not play high school basketball in Serbia, said he has a lot of work to do to get ready for the season. "In Serbia, the concept of high school basketball doesn't exist. I played club basketball every summer but that just isn't the same thing. It doesn't have the school spirit, the pride or the competitiveness that high school has," Dragovic says.
Dragovic also said that in some ways, basketball is a different sport here in its home country. "Coming over, i had to make a lot of adjustments. The speed of the game is a lot faster here, you don't have as much time to make decisions. Defensively, it's a more aggressive, physical game here." Danilo credits his brother Nikola for speeding up his learning curve. "Nikola, you know he played at UCLA and in the Pac-10, so he knows what it takes to play at a very high level. He worked with me on getting into my comfort zone offensively, and adjusting to become the type of defensive player that I'm going to have to be to compete here," Dragovic said.
As big as the transition from Serbia to San Marcos was, Dragovic took on another monstrous challenge when he decided to transfer to Harvard-Westlake. The tendency is to just think about basketball, but by choosing to attend a school of Harvard-Westlake's caliber academically after just two years in the U.S., Dragovic will have his work cut out for him off the court as well.
"Harvard-Westlake is just such a good school and it was a great educational opportunity for me. Just touring the campus and seeing the classrooms got me so excited, and then in terms of basketball, the opportunity to play for someone like Coach Hilliard, and for a program that has had so much success, I just couldn't turn down such an incredible opportunity," Dragovic said.
Against California's top high school competition, Dragovic has delivered in summer clashes. In a 67-55 victory over perennial power Fairfax, he led all scorers with 14 points and displayed phenomenal court vision.
"We have a chance to be really good. My goal coming in was to help this team win state and I think we have a chance to do it. We've been playing at a very high level and we're using the pre-season really well. We're working really hard, we're coming together as a team, we're getting ready to win," Dragovic said
If Harvard-Westlake has found their shooter in Dragovic, then they just might.
By Jonah Rosenbaum