Few people have heard of a small country named Serbia, but this season, Charlotte men’s basketball welcomed two freshmen from there: Luka Vasic and Milos Supica.
Vasic is from a town in Serbia named Pirot, and he plays the small forward position on the team. Supica comes from Serbia’s capital, Belgrade, and he is a power forward.
Prior to coming to school these boys didn’t know of each other, and only met about a week before coming to Charlotte. They both agreed, however, that the basketball in the United States is radically unalike to that which they experienced back home.
“It’s a lot different,” Supica said. “It’s a lot more physical and faster. That’s the biggest adjustment I had to make, to get used to the faster kind of basketball.”
Both players expressed how they have had to work hard on and off the court in order to get themselves in shape for the demands of D1 college basketball.
“European and American style is kind of different,” said Vasic. “[In the United States] players play with a lot of pace, with a lot of energy, with a lot of physicality, and I can say that the adjustment on the basketball court was harder than the academics.”
Amongst Serbian culture, the emphasis on education and academics is very strong, and this is prominent in Supica’s lifestyle now that he is at Charlotte. For him, it is just as important to succeed in school as it is in sports; and considering he one day hopes to go to the NBA, this says a lot. Vasic also talked about how the importance he placed on academics helped make his adjustment into college easy.
“I can say (the adjustment) was easy because my grades are pretty good. I try to be on top of both basketball and academics. And that’s basically how I want it to be,” Vasic said.
It is evident that this cultural importance placed on education has followed them from home, and they allow it to revolve their lives here at Charlotte. Both of the boys got to have a taste of living in America, though, before coming to Charlotte. Supica lived in Fayetteville, North Carolina for two years before coming to Charlotte, and he considers his host family there to be a very close element of his life. They were also a part of the reason why he chose to come to Charlotte.
“I tried to stay as close as I can to my host family, because they’re part of my real family now,” Supica said.
Vasic had also spent a year in the United States, but prior to coming to North Carolina he attended high school in Connecticut. He was recruited to Charlotte by assistant coach and fellow Serbian Ivo Simovic. The 2017-18 season marks Simovic’s first year here at Charlotte, too.
“When Coach Ivo moved here, I basically moved with him and I ended up here,” Vasic said.
Because the Serbian community is so small, they tend to band together when they can. After all, they all have very similar mentalities. The coaches, especially head coach Mark Price, were also a big factor in why Supica chose Charlotte.
“When I came to visit Charlotte, the thing that I really liked was the coaches, that’s like the biggest thing that made me come here,” Supica said.
Both of the boys have their family back in Serbia, but the one thing they miss the most? The food. And if you’ve ever had a punjena pljeskavica, you would understand.
When talking about his family, Vasic said, “I FaceTime them every day, we stay in contact. It’s easy right now.”
It’s not easy to FaceTime food.
Even though these two boys had to come to a new country and had to face the difficulty of United States college basketball, both of them overcame this adversity and continue to show their worth every single day. As Supica told me his motto was, “just go day by day.”