HUTCHINSON, KS — Even amid the disappointment of Sheridan College’s early exit at the National Junior College Athletic Association national tournament Monday, there were still a couple rays of sunshine. Sasa Vuksanovic represented one of those bright spots.
In one of his strongest games as a General, Vuksanovic caught the eye of multiple four-year colleges. The Sheridan College sophomore, who had Division II offers on the table, elevated his stock to the Division I ranks with his play against Kaskaskia College.
SC head coach Matt Hammer knew Vuksanovic had the capacity to have a game like the one he had Monday — he had shown it a few times this season — and that’s precisely why Hammer recruited Vuksanovic. The plan all along was to have Vuksanovic in Columbia blue and gold as a freshman.
Vuksanovic hails from Novi Sad, Serbia, where he lived his first two years in fear. From February of 1998 to June of 1999 the Kosovo War took place.
“Basically like every night and every morning there were sirens, and people had to go underground. Outside was not safe,” Vuksanovic said. “… I lived two months underground. It was pretty scary because people were dying. Bombs were falling all around, and you didn’t know what to expect.”
Vuksanovic’s family persevered and returned to a more everyday lifestyle shorty after the conflict ended. Vuksanovic grew up in a water polo household.
His father and brother both played and not a day went by where Vuksanovic didn’t hear water polo mentioned in conversation.
“It got pretty annoying, honestly,” Vuksanovic said.
Naturally, Vuksanovic started playing water polo, but after about a year he drifted away from the sport. Around that same time, Vuksanovic’s mother, while shopping around town, heard about a club basketball team in Novi Sad. She relayed the message to her son, and he was intrigued.
Vuksanovic always stood as one of the tallest in his class, and his height made him advance and become a menace on the basketball court.
After a successful club basketball career in Novi Sad, Vuksanovic moved to the United States and prepped at a school in Maine. He grew more familiar with America and the English language, and elevated his game to a point where he had his choice of what junior college to attend.
He committed to Sheridan College originally, but didn’t pass the TOEFL — an exam that international students must take before being admitted into SC. Vuksanovic looked to his backup plan, attending McLennan Community College, with the intention of finding his way to Sheridan after one season.
“Sheridan was the plan all along,” Vuksanovic said.
Vuksanovic averaged 6.4 points and 3.2 rebounds in his freshman campaign with the Highlanders. He saw improvement in his time as a General — averaging 8.2 points and 4.2 rebounds per contest — making his largest leap shortly after Christmas break.
“I was talking with our assistant coaches after the Williston trip and I was like, “We got to get this kid involved more.’” Hammer said.
The months of January, February and March saw Vuksanovic log six double-figure scoring nights, culminating in his strong game at the national tournament. He went 6-for-11 from the field with 13 points to go alongside six rebounds and two assists.
Vuksanovic would like his next stop to reside in a warmer climate. His favorite spot in Serbia is a beach along the banks of the Danube River, and he’d like something similar for his last two years of collegiate basketball. Following his play in Hutchinson, Kansas, Vuksanovic may have his choice of multiple beach-dwelling colleges, both Division 1 and Division II.