Vasa Pusica wasn’t going to play any other sport. Basketball was in his blood.
“Basketball is by far No. 1 in Serbia,’’ said Pusica. “People have natural talent for it.’’
Pusica was destined to play at an elite level, committed to the sport since first grade. But he wasn’t ready to be a professional out of high school so he went to Sunrise Christian Academy in Kansas, the same spot that produced Purdue’s Matt Haarms, another European (from Amsterdam). Like Haarms, Pusica had zero distractions at Sunrise and locked into hoops.
Determined to make it, Pusica landed at San Diego solidly in the rotation but not shining enough to be a star.
A coaching change at USD sent Pusica looking for a new home. He settled on Northeastern and coach Bill Coen.
“They developed a bunch of good guards, I liked the system and the way they run ball screens,’’ Pusica said.
Well, it didn’t take long for Pusica to shine.
He averaged 17.9 points a game last season after redshirting the previous year. He averaged 5.1 assists. And he enters this season as a legit CAA player of the year favorite. If that happens, look for Northeastern to make a push for an NCAA tournament berth.
“He’s not the type of player who will wow you with his physical gifts,’’ said Coen of the 6-5, 210-pound senior guard. “The beauty of his game is his understanding and feel. He’s a classically trained Serbian point guard. We play ball screen motion and his reads out of it are impeccable. He’s got a greta sense of when to score and how to get his teammates involved.’’
Coen said Pusica is a big-game, late-shot clock player.
Pusica has presence.
“In order for us to win a championship, he will have to play at a high level,’’ Coen said. “He was the runner-up to player of the year last season. He has to be near the top this season. He wasn’t the player of the year in our league last year but he is arguably the most valuable player in the league.’’
The Serbian pride comes through in every Pusica statement.
His dream is to play for the Olympic team, something that he knows could be a reach with a squad that is one of the best in the world.
“It’s crazy how much success we’ve had from a country of only 7 or 8 million people,’’ said Pusica. “Playing for my country would be a dream come true.’’
To do that, he has to continue to blossom, and he’s banking on this season being the one in which he’ll lead his team to a title.
“I believe I can score at all levels and I take a lot of pride in my passing ability,’’ said Pusica. “I believe I can find teammates open at anytime even if they don’t know they’re open, I can get the ball to them.’’