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The Superb Serb

CHRIS CODUTO/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Ivan Radenovic picks up a loose ball during the Wildcats' win over Oregon in January. Radenovic had one of his best games against Oregon, but has since slumped due to homesickness.
By Christopher Wuensch
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, March 9, 2004
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Radenovic adjusting to life away from home country

Across two continents, an ice-cold ocean and thousands of miles away from the Tucson desert lies a life Ivan Radenovic used to know. That life didn't include cactus gardens, five-page papers, pop quizzes or final exams, but it did have one thing in common with the UA: Basketball.

The regular season may be drawing to an end for Arizona's men's basketball team, but life is just beginning for the freshman from the city of Belgrade in Serbia and Montenegro.

Since Arizona imported him from the former Yugoslavian republic as an answer to its lack of height in late December, life for Radenovic has been anything but ordinary.

Though the sport brought him here, his new life in the Old Pueblo doesn't necessarily revolve around basketball. Where most foreign students get the luxury of an orientation and are eased into college life, Radenovic had none. Thrown into the mix seven games into the Wildcats' season, the 19-year-old has had to adapt, and fast.

"You've got to understand that he's been put in a situation where basketball isn't his only concern," Arizona assistant coach Josh Pastner said.

Pastner equates Radenovic's experience to an American student studying in France and forced to write a five-page paper in French.

After graduating from Belgrade's Secondary School of Sports and taking a six-month hiatus from basketball, Radenovic had to sit out for a NCAA-imposed two-game suspension because of a brief pro appearance.

When he finally debuted Dec. 28 against Liberty, the Serbian looked to be the answer to Olson's prayers. Radenovic poured in 17 points in 26 minutes and was overshadowed only by teammate Andre Iguodala's second triple-double of the season.

Eventually, the minutes and points began to fade as school and homesickness began to rise. Radenovic soon found out that juggling school, practice and a new country weren't as easy as he thought they'd be.

"I lost my confidence after the first part of the season," Radenovic said. "After that, it was very hard."

The lanky freshman has since found his niche at Arizona, mostly due to the comforting efforts of teammates and Serbian natives living in Tucson. Recently, those Serbian friends took their new prodigy out golfing for the first time, where he was instantly recognized by the Tucson faithful.

"They wave and tell me good luck," Radenovic says of his fame on the links. As for his golf game, he said he thinks he'll stick with basketball for the time being.

"I think it's been tough for him to adjust," Arizona senior Fil Torres said of his new teammate. "We all try to be there for him and help him out."

Social status aside, Radenovic insists the toughest adjustment to the United States is on the court, where the pace of the college game is considerably faster than in Europe.

"In Europe, I'm one of the fastest players," Radenovic said. "But when I came here, it's a whole new story."

Although his numbers may not reflect it, the Serbian has made adjustments to his game. Averaging 6.3 points and 3.1 rebounds in 20 games this season, Radenovic was named an honorable mention All-Pac-10 Freshman selection yesterday.

"I think he's made a lot of progress on the defensive end of the court," Olson said. "One thing about Ivan, no matter what it is you ask him to work on, you can count on him doing it."

If the pressure of a new life in Tucson has stressed out Radenovic, Olson said he can't tell by watching him.

"Ivan has really maintained a very solid composure," Olson said. "I'm sure he's been frustrated at times, but he really hasn't shown that to us."

The Serbian's season won't end with the Wildcats' in March. This summer, Radenovic has plans to play for the Serbian junior national team to further his game.

With a year under his belt, the worldly Radenovic hopes to make an impact for the Wildcats this postseason. After all, he says, he knows the best answer for homesickness: Winning basketball games.

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