Dzepina Cleared to Play for Northern Illinois

Ante Dzepina, a 6-8 235 lb. center from Highland Community College in Freeport, Illinois has been cleared to play for Northern Illinois this season. The Croatian native will make his debut for the Huskies in Friday's men's basketball season opener versus the Maine Black Bears. Dzepina recently spoke with

Ante Dzepina had been waiting clearance from the NCAA's Foreign Eligibility clearinghouse. The clearinghouse monitors the amateur status of student-athletes who have participated in sports overseas.

Now that he has been cleared, Dzepina is looking forward to getting into the action for Northern Illinois on Friday. Dzepina is expected to backup Colorado transfer Sean Kowal in the middle. "Number one thing is winning," Dzepina said. "As long as we play hard defense, we'll be alright."

Ante arrived in the United States just two years ago. At that time he did not speak a word of English. He's made great strides learning the language and adapting to American culture in the last two years.

"I'm the only international guy on the team," said Ante. "It's a little bit hard not having Croatians around me, but it's OK. I'm doing well. I like it here."

Dzepina, who played under coach Pete Norman at Highland, advanced to third place in the NJCAA tournament as a freshman. Ante has been adjusting to Division I basketball. "It's a big difference," Ante said. "Coach (Ricardo) Patton is a real good coach. I study a lot from him."

Ante noted the differences between Patton and his former coach. "They're different. Coach Patton focuses on the little things. With Pete Norman it was play hard, play smart. (Patton) tries to correct every mistake. In the middle of practice he's showing us how to correct everything."

The Huskies take on Maine at 4 p.m. Central on Friday in the first-round of the 100 Club Classic in Kennesaw, Ga. On Saturday, NIU will take on either host Kennesaw State or Western Illinois.

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