By Andrew Roberts
With the national basketball championships coming to Ryerson on March 12, the focus has been on the players graduating from the Rams. But for Filip Vujadinovic, 20, the journey is just beginning.
Since joining the Rams in September as the only recruit (the other two rookies were walk-on additions) Vujadinovic has taken full advantage of the opportunity.
“When I come off the bench I’m just so ecstatic, so excited,” he says. “In that two to three minutes, if I can get a couple points, couple rebounds, couple steals it’s really good for the team.”
Though the six-foot-six forward embraces his role, there’s no question that the initial transition wasn’t easy. “I went from playing all but two minutes [in high school] to playing only five or six minutes here, so that was the biggest culture shock for me,” he says.
“I wasn’t expecting to be practicing every day, how hard the games were… you can’t make a mistake in university – it’s magnified on the court.”
Vujadinovic began his basketball career in Grade 1 by shooting hoops out on the driveway with his dad.
“He really pushed me even when I didn’t want to do it,” he says. “It really shows how much he cared about my future.”
After playing in his first house league game at six years old, Vujadinovic says he was “hooked” and never looked back. It wasn’t until middle school, however, that he realized he could make a future out of the game he loves.
“I remember scoring 20 to 30 points a game without a threepoint line in Grade 7, thinking ‘okay, maybe I can do something with this,'” he says.
Beyond family support, the intensity of a basketball game motivates Vujadinovic in a way no other sport ever could.
“I feel like you can’t take a single play off,” he says. “If you sit for one second you’re going to be seen as the one person on the court who isn’t trying and you’ll be taken off pretty quick.”
Vujadinovic’s winning attitude is seen on the court every game and his teammates are happy to have him around.
“The best thing about him is he’s young and willing to learn,” says Rams fifthyear point guard Jahmal Jones. “On the court he’s playing at top speed all the time. Defensively, offensively, Fil is just ready to go all the time.”
Head coach Roy Rana says the future is bright for Vujadinovic.
“We’re really excited, he’s going to be a very big part of our program for a number of years to come,” he says. “He’s a strong, powerful athlete and has a chance to be one of the best players in the league.”