Dejan Vasiljevic hadn’t planned on returning home to Australia to play basketball after finishing college.
Having had a successful four years at University of Miami, he was keen to test himself in the NBA summer league and try and earn a spot on an NBA squad.
But COVID-19 changed all of that.
With so much uncertainty in the world and basketball, Vasiljevic decided to head home to Australia.
Despite growing up in Tarneit in Melbourne’s western suburbs, Vasiljevic signed with the Sydney Kings for the National Basketball League season which is scheduled to start in the new year.
Vasiljevic said knowing that the NBL would go ahead was the major reason behind his change of plans.
“They said the Australian league would go forward and there’s been very little cases in Australia,” he said.
“I think the certainty of being able to play and having a job was a key.
“If the whole corona thing didn’t happen, I wouldn’t have come back to the NBL.
“I think I would have had a good shot making a summer league team, there was a high level of interest.
“Nine to 12 NBA teams wanted me to come in for a workout and do an interview.
“The NBA is still questionable when it starts. I think we’ll be a couple of months in before the NBA season starts.”
The 23-year-old looked at other NBL clubs, including the two Melbourne teams, but said it was the Kings where he thought would be best for his career. The Kings were runners-up last season.
He signed a three-year deal.
“I’m really close with assistant coach Adam Forde,” he said.
“He’s done a lot for me in the past at the university games and I’ve been speaking a lot to him.
“Will Weaver [Kings coach] is a great coach and coached in the NBA and G-League and I just felt comfortable there and they do a great job of player development.
“I wanted to do what was best for me and I needed development and needed to play and I think going to the Sydney Kings was the right choice.”
Vasiljevic arrived back in Australia from America six weeks ago.
He spent the first two weeks in quarantine, which he said wasn’t too bad.
Due to restrictions, he’s yet to see his family.
“It’s good to be back,” he said.
“Not being able to see my mum and dad and my sister it kind of sucks and my girlfriend is still over in America and so I’m kind of missing everyone.
“The last four years I’ve only come home for one month of the year.”
Vasiljevic returns to Australia having had a successful university career. The renowned three-point shooter averaged nearly 10 points and three rebounds a game.
He captained the side for three years.
“To be honest it was an up and down learning experience,” he said.
“To be able to learn from the veteran guys that were there and then take a major role in season two and improve dramatically and become captain in second year.
“I met a lot of people and connected with a lot of people around the world. I created a lot of friendships that will last a really long time and I met my girlfriend, who I’ve been with for just over two and half years.”
Vasiljevic said while it surprised some people over there that he was named captain so young, it was something that he was comfortable with having had experience with state and junior Australian teams.
While he’s home in Australia for the next step of his basketball career, Vasiljevic still has dreams of playing overseas. Playing in the NBA is at the top of that list.
“That’s the number one goal and Adam and Will know that,” he said.
“I’m currently in Canberra as it’s our week off. The Kings have brought me down here and putting me through a one-week training camp by myself.
“I want to try and stay on the top of my game even when I have time off.
“I want to become a better version of myself that kids look up to.
“I want to keep on developing my game and help the Kings win a championship first.”
Vasiljevic said he would love the opportunity to represent the Australian Boomers.
He has represented Australia at under-17, under-19 and the university games.
“I would like to represent them at an Olympics or a world cup and help them get a medal finally,” he said.
“I think I have proven over the years that I can be part of a team, with my scoring ability and my experience.
“I’ve won a silver medal at a [junior] world championships and won a bronze medal at university games and I think I deserve a shot with these guys and just play my role.”