One on one with Antonio Vrankovic

Duke has continued to expand their recruiting board in the class of 2015 with recent visitor Antonio Vrankovic nearing a potential offer after last week’s trip to Durham. We sat down with the big man to discuss his trip to Duke, the Blue Devils’ interest, and just how close he’d be to committing if Coach K pulled the trigger on an offer.

Let’s start with a little bit about you Antonio, where are you from and when did you get your start playing basketball?

Antonio Vrankovic: I was born in Minnesota when my dad was playing for the Timberwolves and then we moved to to LA for a little bit where he was playing with the Clippers and he was in Boston too, but that was before I was born. All together we lived for like 3 years in the states and then we moved back home to Croatia where my parents are originally from. I lived there for 11 or 12 years and then I started playing basketball there. I went to public school and Christian school there and learned the American language because Croatian is my first language. Then I went to Florida my sophomore year and I’ve been here ever since. 

I first got interested in basketball because of my height, I wanted to try it out and I was taller than most of my friends and I just wanted to try it out because I had the height advantage. After that I just fell in love with it.

How much of a role did your dad play in your development?

My dad didn’t force me to play basketball, but he was happy when I wanted to start playing. But he never wanted to force me into something that I wouldn’t enjoy or that I wouldn’t like. He definitely helped me develop my game, and he’s been my mentor and my teacher my whole life. He definitely has taught me a lot of things. He never let me develop bad habits because he would correct me when I didn’t do things right with my game, he taught me a lot. 

For fans who haven’t seen you play, how would you describe your on-court approach on the offensive and defensive ends?

I think I’m a low post scoring guy. I’m also a really good passer for my height. I can find my open teammates if people double team me. I’m a solid mid-range shooter and I have good touch around the rim with both my left hand and my right hand. I’m a righty but I can score with my left hand too. With defense, I’m a good rebounder, solid shot blocker, I’m not the best athlete but I find ways to affect shots and block them. The big thing with me is I try to be a great defender. I would say that I’m a good defender who is working on becoming a great defender. 

Do you play with more of a physical type approach?

I think i’m a physical player with my size, I use that as an advantage. I know on the college level that you have to be physical no matter what you do on the court. I don’t avoid contact and stuff like that.

Have you measured for height, weight, and wingspan lately?

Yeah I’m about 270, 275 right now and I’m about 6-foot-11 and a half. My wingspan is about the same as my height, probably about 6-foot-11.

Do you have an idea of what your stats were as a senior at Pine Crest?

We played about 25 games and I averaged 25 points, about 16 rebounds and 5 blocks per game. 

How’s recruiting been for you since it first started?

I’d say it was my sophomore year when it first started and I got my first offer from UNC-Charlotte. That was the first time I ever experienced the recruiting process and ever since I’ve been recruited by a good amount of colleges.

Can you share with me what schools have given you a firm, committable scholarship offer up until this point?

A lot of them, probably around 15 mid-majors have given me a scholarship offer and Georgia has offered me too, that’s one bigger program that has offered me. Then a bunch of mid-majors, San Francisco, La Salle, Lehigh, Florida Gulf Coast and a few more.

Which schools are currently recruiting you who haven’t extended a formal scholarship yet?

Indiana and Duke, Notre Dame and a couple more schools that I can’t remember off the top my head. Oh, and Virginia too. 

Take me through the Duke interest, when did they first start expressing interest in you and who have you talked with from the staff?

So I talked with Coach Nate James the assistant coach. It all started this year, he came to see me play at the Kreul Classic and then after the season he called me again and said he was interested and I was playing well lately, so I sent him a couple of films of my workouts and games. Then he got really interested and then I went to visit Duke this week, I went up Wednesday to watch the game in Cameron and came back Thursday. That’s how it all started.

What did you get to do on Duke’s campus when you were there?

It was a short visit because it was really last-second that we went up there and it was their last home game was on Wednesday, so we had to fly up Wednesday, we got there around 5 PM, so we really only had a few hours before the game to do anything. We went through the facilities, talked with some academic people and then we watched the game and talked with Coach K and the rest of the staff after the game and we met the players after the game and talked with them.

What were your impressions of the facilities?

Yeah facilities are great, they are top-notch and it doesn’t get much better than that. I enjoyed myself in there.

What was covered in your meeting with the academic staff?

I talked to the guy that deals with all the academics for the basketball program and I just asked him a couple of questions about what their tutor situation is and stuff like that. He said my grades were good and coming from Pine Crest there shouldn’t be anything to worry about with the academic part. I sent him my transcripts and test scores and he said they look fine.

Then you got to meet with Coach K—how did your meeting with him go?

It was really good, I was a little nervous to be talking to a legend but it went fine. It went smoothly and we talked about the game that had just finished and then Coach K talked about what they like about my game and what I need to work on, it was a good conversation. Coach K had seen my film and he said that he likes my touch around the basket and that my footwork is pretty good for somebody my size. My passing ability and he likes that I have the ability that even though I don’t face up a lot, I do have the ability to do that and shoot and score by facing the basket and by having my back to the basket, he said he liked both of those things. He said that I should work on getting more explosive and athletic and he said if I do that then my footwork will get even better.

Did the Duke staff discuss where they feel they are in the recruiting process with you?

Yeah a little bit, they said they have to talk to the Head of Admissions because he wasn’t there, he was traveling around for Duke and he wasn’t there that day to introduce me to him. They said they were going to talk to the Head of Admissions as soon as possible and they were going to let me know.

Did they discuss the potential of a scholarship offer?

Yes, they said that they want to make the offer but Coach K said we have to include certain people in that process, you can’t just not include an important person like the Head of Admissions but he also said that they are going to talk with him as soon as possible and will let me know.

Have you heard from the Duke staff since you visited?

Yeah I talked to Coach James yesterday. He just said that I’m glad you came and I hope you had a good visit and just told me what was going on and to keep working hard and getting better.

Now that you have been on campus and talked with the Duke staff—what are your thought process towards Duke now?

Duke’s been my dream school for awhile now since I started playing and watching basketball. It doesn’t get much bigger in college basketball than Duke and you always know about them from following them. They’ve definitely been my dream school for awhile now, it’s a dream come true to hear from them.

What made Duke your “dream school”?

Since I was watching players like Christian Laettner and Grant Hill and all of them, I was just impressed with how good they all were and how well-coached they were. Ever since I was a young kid I was just always impressed with them.

With Duke being your self described dream school and now that you have interest from them, do you consider them to be your favorite in your recruitment?

I think that, I would say that out of all the schools recruiting me that I like Georgia too, but If Duke does offer me, I would definitely have to think about that a lot with my dad and my coach, they are one of my favorite schools ever.

If Duke offers you Antonio—how do you see that affecting your recruitment?

If a school like that offers me, then all the other schools, I never thought about it because an offer like that really can’t be bad, so I think other schools might realize that I have talent and that I can play, but I think it would affect my recruitment in a big way.

What has your dad and your coach said to you about Duke’s interest and their thoughts on Duke as a program?

I think anyone who says anything bad about Duke doesn’t know what they are talking about, so they are really happy with it. It’s a great basketball program, a great academic school, they have a lot of great history and they are very happy for me.

So when it comes down to decision making time, are you making the final decision or will you be weighing heavily on input from your dad or coach?

The final decision is mine, whatever I decide is where I’m going, it’s going to be where I want to go. My dad and my coach will give me advice because I ask for their advice but it’s my decision and I will make the final decision.

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