'10 Unwrapped: Stefan Nastic

In a dramatic reversal from six months ago, while football recruiting has closed with a whimper, basketball recruiting has closed with the most emphatic of bangs. The final piece of Coach Johnny Dawkins' puzzle is Canadian big man Stefan Nastic, and The Bootleg is pleased to introduce you to Stanford's next center.

Born on Nov. 22, 1992, Stefan Nastic will be just 17 when he formally starts at Stanford come fall, and may well still be a minor when he plays in his first college basketball game. But don't mistake youth for rawness, as Nastic has received more than his fair share of formal basketball instruction.

"Basically since I started grade nine, I started extensive training," Nastic said in a Tuesday night interview with TheBootleg.com. "I started with the Serbian National Teams, the U16 and then the U18 teams. It was a great experience."

Indeed, Nastic, a dual Serbian and Canadian citizen, went to Europe over his summers for skill development, training with Serbian coaches who've coached famous Eastern European players before him, including Vlade Divac, Dino Radja, Tony Kukoc and Drazen Petrovic. Notably, in the spring and summer of 2008, Nastic played on an AAU travel team and the U16 Serbian National Team in tournaments in France, Russia, Slovenia and Italy.

"I've been tall my whole life, I'm 6-foot-11 with a good wingspan, but I've worked on all types of skills," said Nastic, who reports averaging about 20 points and 10 rebounds per game. "One of my strengths is my post-up game, my ability to shoot it, my ability to dribble, my comfort in different situations. On the Serbian National Team, they put me at the four because there were three seven-footers ahead of me. I played power forward at 6-foot-11. … I believe I can run floor, and I'm a team player. I'll try to open it up for my team and then it'll open up for myself. That's key for me."

The Nastics are an unfailingly polite and incredibly tight-knit family: call Stefan for an interview and you'll end up speaking with his mother, Mira and his father, Slavisa. Both are both incredibly proud and protective of their son, and so perhaps it's no surprise that it was Slavisa Nastic's influence that helped lead Stefan to Serbia for training.

"The main thing a lot of universities who came said they liked about Stefan was his basketball skills," Slavisa Nastic said. "I was surprised with the attention he got because he'd mostly play US tournaments in March and April but go overseas for the summer. It was important the European approach to the game he got: learn the skills first. That's how they approach basketball in Europe; they develop you to play and understand all positions, to understand the game. It's a very simple game, but you have to really understand it. . In Canada, Stefan has been developed by his 5th year Toronto 5-0 Club and AAU Coach Vlad Matevski, who is European. Obviously Stefan has North American experience, so we were trying to really get him well rounded."

And it might just be the words of a proud father – or a recruiter who'll always paint as bright of a picture as possible – but the elder Nastic is confident that his son's background will help him overcome the age gap and avoid a redshirt year.

"On all the visits, I would ask what they think [about a possible redshirt]," he said. "They'd say, ‘Listen, Stefan will be ready. Don't worry. He's one of the rare players – and we see a lot at his size and his age -- who have that skill. There are not too many guys with that size with those skills and abilities: inside and outside shooting, driving, passing and seeing the floor.'"

Indeed, Stefan's unique combination of size and skill turned heads.

"When I came back to Canada, some coaches heard about me on the team and heard about me in some summer tournaments – LeBron James' Shooting Stars, the Pittsburgh Jam Fest," Stefan said. "Then they would come to open practices, and coaches would also ask to see me train one-on-one. Then, last year, coaches called and then this year, it elevated even higher, with coaches coming to see me."

Stefan reports interest from a who's who of bicoastal college basketball powers: Georgetown, Cornell, Duke, Stanford, UCLA, Cal, Virginia, Maryland, Northwestern, Santa Clara, Harvard, Oregon State, Nevada, Rhode Island and Michigan among them. All in all, the Nastics report interest from 36 universities and visits from coaches of 25 or 30 schools. Still, there was no doubt in Stefan's mind where he wanted to end up.

"Stanford was the top place," he said. "Especially when I got accepted – that was an honor. I was planning to visit Georgetown and Virginia, but once I got accepted, I thought it over with my family and knew it was my first choice to begin with. I'm taking the opportunity with Stanford because it's a complete option: basketball-wise, school-wise, the situation, the coaches, the players, the location, it's great. I really could not find a reason not to go."

"Stanford was our first option, definitely as parents, our top option," Slavisa Nastic said. "We are the ones who contacted Stanford in October and told them about Stefan. He can continue his education at Stanford and play basketball there too. He's a strong student – he had offers from top basketball schools, but all the universities that were there were academically strong. But Stanford was always the top choice and since he got accepted, we didn't think twice.

"We believe in the vision of Coach Dawkins. It's a young team with a new coach and a new philosophy and all of the puzzle is there. It's a high major and one of best schools in the world."

After the initial contact in October, Nastic stayed in touch with the staff and received Coach Dawkins and assistant Rodney Tention, who visited Nastic in his Ontario home, twenty minutes north of Toronto.

The Nastics then visited Stanford the weekend of Jan. 9, allowing them to see the Card down UCLA 70-59, and allowing the studious Stefan to see how he could thrive in Palo Alto.

"It's a great area and it was a great experience to go with my family and my head coach," said Stefan, who had never before been to California. "We had a great all-around experience seeing the campus, the players, the coaches and the learning environment. Everyone is focused there; everyone is dedicated and determined.

Thus, when Nastic heard he'd been accepted about a week and a half ago, it didn't take him but a few days to commit to the Card on the weekend of Jan. 28.

Nastic is still traveling over 400 miles a week for training and practice, and is staying focused in the classroom too in the half-year before he arrives in Palo Alto.

"I'm working on my strength, functional strength," he said. "I'm also working on off-ball movement, small details like that, being efficient, things that are helpful in the game."

Nastic's father reports his son is thinking of studying a science in college, possibly in combination with business, and adds that the definite goal is for Stefan to finish his degree before moving onto any professional opportunities. Slavisa Nastic adds that his son will move to the Farm already knowing one member of the 2010 six-person class: fellow center Dwight Powell.

"Dwight Powell used to play on the same team as Stefan," Slavisa said. "Dwight Powell said come and play [at Stanford]. Stefan and Dwight are very good friends who know each other before starting school, and that's a positive thing. They just met for Christmas -- Dwight was in Toronto. So it's a great thing Stefan already knows someone there too."

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