Boise State has recruited two European players this summer with the Latvian PF Edmunds Dukulis and the Serbian SF Vukasin Vujovic. We spoke with the two players to get a better feeling for their choice to play in the United States and how it feels to be in such an international team like Boise State.
Why did you decide to play College Basketball?
Edmunds Dukulis: After graduating from high school, I spent a year in Cantu, Italy. It was a great experience practicing and being around big time players like Mike Green, Maarty Leunen, Vlado Micov, Manu Markoishvili, Denis Marconato and coach Trinchieri. They all are Euroleague caliber players and real Professionals at their job. I spent a lot of time off the court with both Americans and I remember Maarty saying: “Go to college unless the money is great! It is going to be time of your life”. It was probably the first time when I considered that. Then during the U19 World Championship 2012 in Riga, I got interesting offers from several D1 programs. Then, in August I decided that I’m going to do it.
Vukasin Vujovic: The whole last year I had the opportunity to train with many European clubs in Italy and Spain for example, and there I saw that the situation for the development of young players is getting worse and almost rarely they have a chance to show something, because most of the clubs looking for more experienced and older players . Guided by this situation, I decided to develop like a player the next four years in an American college and complete my education there.
How was your recruiting process and why did you chose Boise State?
As I said it started after the U19 World Championship. I was eager to go to the States on September or December at latest but obviously there were not many schools with open scholarships to say the least. Another Latvian D1 player helped me out advising to talk with his coach who put my name in to other D1 coaches. I ended up with five decent offers in that short period of time but Boise State was very interested, they wanted to sign me right away on November during the early signing period and with the team concept, facilities, other international players on the team and playing at the Mountain West Conference, it was a no-brainer.
Recruiting process was quite strange for me because I did not know so many things that must be done in order to establish the college, and Boise State was recommended former NBA player Pedja Drobnjak ,he is associated with a lot of American college basketball, that was main reason.
What do you expect as personal development over the next years? What do you think you can develop better by playing College Basketball compared to Europe?
We are blessed to have such a conversant and experienced coaching staff. They are saying that “you play like you practice” and that is the key for personal development. I am using this year-off to become a better player. I did a good job in the preseason of getting bigger and stronger. Now I’m working a lot with our individual coach on things I will face next season, primary extending my range and offensive skills. I think in college they put more emphasis on 1:1 defense instead of team defense which, of course, helps to improve as a individual. Also it is not a secret that the college basketball is much more psychical than European style of play. Another thing, college is a great place to mature as a player and personality, instead of Europe where you should change teams once in a while, live daily under stress of getting fired, not getting paid for months. I don’t think those 1000-2000 euros a month, what players my age are getting in Europe these days, are worth it to give up an opportunity of world-class education and lifetime experience, in addition of great level of basketball. Unless you are in a situation as Davis Bertans. I am really happy for him. Once famous Latvian coach/player said: “If you are a good player, you will survive in college as well”.
I expect that I will speed up my game because basketball is much quicker here with a lot of transition, which is not the case in Europe. Also I think that I would greatly enhance the physical, because we are working a lot in the weight room, and basketball is based mostly on that.
Edmunds, you have not played one game yet for Boise St. Why and what are your personal expectations concerning your playing time over the next years?
I am ruled ineligible to play this season by the NCAA but I have three years of eligibility left starting next season. I believe we are building something special in here and I can help this team to get there. Everybody knows I’m a hard-worker and that’s how I am going to earn minutes on the court next season, starting today.
Vukasin, you have not played many games yet for Boise St. What are your personal expectations concerning your playing time over the next years?
So as I understood when I came to America, Europeans don’t have much chance as freshmen, and I’m not frustrated with that. Certainly I expect a lot because some players will go next year and I will be much better and will know my certain minutes in the game, after all, we are among the two best conferences in the USA and that will be another challenge for me to show my talent.
Edmunds, you are quite old for a freshman being born in 1992. Do you hang out more with the more experienced guys of your team or the other freshmen?
We have a great team chemistry and we are usually hanging out together as a whole. Although it is probably easier for me to communicate with the other foreigners.
What are you plans concerning your major?
I have already declared International Business as my major and I’m pretty sure it is not going to change. I have a good idea what I want to do with my life after basketball ends.
Where do you see yourself in 4 years from now?
Hard to say, sky is the limit. I really believe that everything happens for a reason and there is reason why I’m in Boise now. Basketball has always been my priority but at the same time the education is important as well. I would love to finish my Bachelor’s degree and go back to Europe then.
It is still early to talk about where will I finish in 4 years, all I had to work and play as much as possible. Many things can happen by then.
There is another European Freshman in your team in Vukasin Vujovic, how would you describe his game?
Vuk is great guy to be around also off the court. He is a good shooter and sees the court very well. I think he just needs time to adjust to the level of physicality and he is going to be alright.
There is another European Freshman in your team in Edmunds Dukulis, how would you describe his game?
Edmunds Dukulis is a good person firstly, and certainly we’ve crossed a lot of things together here. He plays very intelligent, has a very good post moves, and I think that he will have a successful career after Boise State.
You also play together with two Australians (Igor Hadziomerovic, Anthony Drmic) with European origins. Are they closer to the US Basketball philosophy, the European or do they have their own Aussie approach to the game?
Iggy is definitely Euro style combo guard with a very good size, quick enough to defend smaller guys, rebound and make winning plays. Anthony has something from each one of those philosophies. He is smart, plays hard, doesn’t give up anything for granted. I enjoy playing together and against them.
They are more European players than U.S college players. For them this is the second year in college, and some things they understand a little better than Edmunds and me.They are also very good persons and they help me in the beginning to get used to American life.
Edmunds Dukulis was ruled ineligible by the NCAA because the NCAA allows players to compete only for one year between graduating school in a foreign country and enrolling in an NCAA institution. Dukulis played beyond that mark and was ruled ineligible.
Vukasin Vujovic averages 5.5 minutes per game, scoring 1.8 points and 0.7 rebounds per game so far for Boise State.