With two potential first-round picks in this year's NBA Draft in the South Kent gym on Monday afternoon, Andray Blatche and Kennedy Winston, it was Dragoslav Papic who stole the show during a pre-pickup game shooting display in which he connected on about 75 percent of his shots from beyond the arc.
The 6-foot-8, 200-pound Papic, who came over from Serbia just a few weeks ago and will be a junior at South Kent in the fall, was considered the best player his age in the same country which has produced Vlade Divac and Peja Stokakovic.
Papic, 18, grew up outside of Belgrade and played for B.C. Atlas, considered the best club team in the country, for the past three seasons. However, he decided that leaving his family would be the best decision for his basketball future.
``It's so much better here than in Europe," Papic said. "Better competition. That's why I came here."
Papic makes no secret that he came here with the intent to go directly to the NBA when he concludes his two-year stint under coach Raphael Chillious at South Kent. However, despite knowing little about college basketball, he's not ruling out the possibility that he'll need some time prior to going to the NBA – or back to Serbia to play pro ball.
``I'd like to go straight to the NBA, but who knows where I'll be in two years," Papic said. "I'm just going to work hard and see what happens."
In his first taste of American basketball, Papic has found out that it won't be as easy as it was back home. The game is much quicker and while Papic is a solid athlete, players are faster.
Papic played sparingly at a tournament last weekend in Philadelphia for the New Jersey All-Stars and also got abused by Winston when he worked out with him a week or so ago in New York. Papic already admits he's never gone up against a player of Winston's caliber.
On Monday, Popic made his share of outside shots – but the adjustment is going to take some time before he gets comfortable playing in the wide-open, non-structured American style of play.
``The game is totally different in Europe," Papic said. "More organized and much slower. Here the game is fast. Guys are very athletic."
Back in Belgrade, when Papic walked into a gym he was the center of attention. Admittedly, he got preferential treatment from referees in his homeland because of the reputation he had earned. Opposing fans throw coins and popcorn at him. Here, Papic knows he's going to have to re-establish himself.
Papic will have to work on his quickness and his ballhandling skills while he's here, but there's no questioning his ability to shoot the ball. He looked effortless even he was connecting on about half of his shots from beyond the NBA 3-point line.
Papic, who speaks nearly flawless English, knows his adjustment on the court may pale in comparison to that off of it. However, his best friend from Serbia, Opic, will join him as soon as he finishes school in late June.
``That should make things a little easier for me," Papic said.