Radenovic, home sweet home

By Roman Veytsman
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Serbia and Montenegro has been tormented by violence, wars and political turmoil, but amid the chaos, the country has produced world-renowned basketball stars like Vlade Divac and Peja Stojakovic.

Junior forward Ivan Radenovic of the Arizona men's basketball team called the country home for most of his life, and last summer, he was able to return to his old stomping grounds.

Radenovic first arrived at Arizona in spring 2003 and quickly had to adjust to the different lifestyle as well as the heightened speed of the game.

After his freshman year, he returned to Serbia and Montenegro to play for the national team and came back to Tucson as the team's most improved player, said Arizona head coach Lute Olson.

Over the summer, Radenovic said he set aside all distractions and went home to work on his individual game. No teammates, no pick-up games and not too much traveling. Just him, his trainer, the basketball court, and a lot of sweat and tears.

Radenovic and his instructor, Marin Sedlacek, who works for the Memphis Grizzlies, spent much of the summer in Radenovic's hometown of Belgrade, aside from a two-week basketball camp in the mountains, where Radenovic worked out for more than six hours a day.

"Those two weeks were like hell," he said. "Oh my God, it was so hard, because I did lots of running, weightlifting and plus the (camp director's) workout.

Radenovic said he would be so drained by the end of the day, he wound up going to bed around 9 each night.

The rest of the summer, Radenovic said he worked out close to home, honing his ball-handling, his shooting and his post game, listening to everything Sedlacek thought was important for Radenovic's game to develop.

"I did some stuff that I can really use in a game, like the way I'm posting up," Radenovic said. "I can read how the defender is playing me. Whatever I'm doing in the post, I can get an open shot. Also, on my shooting, I can use more legs, and those are small things that can help you a lot."

Radenovic said not playing with a team was the weakest part of his summer, but that the individual workouts helped him tremendously.

Other than basketball, Radenovic said he spent time with his family, his father, Bratimir, his mother, Leposava, and his sister, Anica.

"I didn't go out that much or hang out with my friends too much because of my family," Radenovic said. "I really wanted to spend some time with them because last year I spent my time with the national team, so this year it was a chance to spend some time with them."

He said he also set aside some early mornings to go hunting for deer with his father, something Radenovic has been doing since he was 6 years old.

Bratimir, who, like his wife, is an economist, is also an avid hunter and has gone on numerous expeditions, Radenovic said.

"My dad is an old hunter, probably one of the biggest in the world," he said. "He's been hunting all over Africa, Russia, all over the world. So he's an old man, an old hunter. We had fun. We talked about my experiences, my future."

Radenovic's future appears bright, as he looks to be one of the best big men in the Pacific 10 Conference.

After averaging 8.6 points and 5.5 rebounds per game last season, Radenovic will be able to show off his versatility as the Wildcats switch to a 4-out-1-in offense.

"He's worked on pick situations, where he'd set an off-ball screen, and then we popped him out because he was such a good perimeter shooter," Olson said. "Now, he'll be in the motion offense just like the point guard and the wings."

Radenovic has already proven he's not the typical European player on defense, showing toughness and quickness while guarding opposing teams' big men and wing players, such as Phoenix Suns forward Dijon Thompson last season.

"He can guard inside or out, so if it's a big guy, he is physical enough now and ... (unlike) a lot of other European players, he has really good lateral foot quickness," Olson said. "I think other teams will have to match up with us more than we'll have to match up with them."

NBA and European teams have noticed Radenovic's talent, but he said he is not enticed by the idea of leaving early.

"Definitely not," he said. "That's the worst option for me because I am really close to graduation. After this year I have one more year, so it would be ridiculous to go back and not finish school."

Radenovic's summer was entangled in hard work on the basketball court and precious time with his family. While he cherishes his homeland, he said he's ready to go back to work in Arizona.

"It was a great feeling to spend some time with my mom because she really missed me," he said. "Being able to go hunting with my dad, and spend some time with my sister, talking to her a lot about her school and about my experience in America (was great).

"But I'll be ready once we start practicing a lot."