Interview: Dan Gadzuric

Probably the most improved on the team this season, senior center Dan Gadzuric talks about what's made the difference, and what brought him to UCLA...

BRO had a chance to interview Dan Gadzuric before practice on Tuesday. Dan is a 6-11 senior center from The Netherlands. He averages 11.3 ppg and leads the Bruins in rebounds (7.4 rpg) and blocked shots (1.1 bpg). In Pac-10 play, Dan has averaged 14.0 ppg and 9.2 rpg, while hitting career bests of 59.3% of his FGs and 50.8% of his FTs. Many NBA scouts regard him as the best pro prospect on the UCLA team.

Dan often takes a "wary" approach to the media (e.g., in the locker room one day when he had the stomach flu, Dan asked UCLA Head Coach Steve Lavin to tell Billy Witz of the Daily News that Dan wanted to talk to him: "Then I can vomit on him when he comes in {to the locker room}." Thus, it was necessary for BRO's intrepid reporter to force him out into the open (and keep an eye out for mucous-like excretions) even though UCLA Assistant SID Bill Bennett had already asked Dan to come out of the locker room, where the big man was hanging out with Andre Patterson, Janou Rubin and Ced Bozeman as they all waited for an assistant manager to unlock the Gatorade cabinet.

Mike (hiding behind lockers, puts his hands over his mouth and imitates "Darth Vader": Dan Gadzuric! You should not have come back into the locker room without doing your interview. Once you were the master and I was the pupil. Now, I am the master!

Dead silence for about 5 seconds…

Andre: Whoa.

Dan: What in God's name is that?

Mike (stepping out into view): I am here for the interview.

Dan: I don't want to do an interview if you are going to act like a psycho. Mike: My mental state is not an issue here. I don't have to remind you of the power of the pen. You are nothing without me.

Janou: We are the news. Without us, you'd have nothing to write about.

Mike: That's sweet, coming from a walk-on.

Andre: Psych!

Janou: What would you do, write about the weather?

Mike: I'd write about your father (Janou's father is the guy who sued a high school for lost NBA earnings because they wouldn't let his 15-year old son play varsity).

Andre: Psych!

Ced: He's kicking your ass.

Janou: I know when to leave.

Janou leaves.

Mike: How's it going, Ced?

Ced: I'm chillin'.

Mike: You're always chillin'. I'd like to see you get scared just once.

Ced: If something ever scared me, I'd … chill.

Andre: Psych.

Dan: Is that your whole vocabulary? (To Mike) If you want to get an interview, wait outside with the rest of you people.

Mike: I love my people.

Mike leaves the locker room and runs into Bill Bennett.

Bill: So, is Dan coming out for the interview?

Mike (lying with a straight face): No, he's hiding in the locker room refusing to speak to me. I think you better talk to him again.

Dan emerges from the locker room shortly thereafter.

Mike: Ready for the interview?

Dan: No. But let's go ahead anyway.

Mike: First, straighten something out for me. You're from Holland, but your name is Slavic. How did that happen?

Dan: My mother was from Yugoslavia. My father is from St. Vincent, in the Grenadines {in the Caribbean}.

Mike: I think it's pretty well-publicized that you played soccer before you played basketball.

Dan: Soccer was my only sport for a long time. But I got too long [tall] for it.

Mike: How old were you then?

Dan: Fifteen.

Mike: So, is that when you gave up soccer for basketball?

Dan: I was already done playing soccer. My cousin suggested I try basketball, because of my length [height]. I was always taller than everyone my age, but I didn't know anything about basketball.

Mike: Did you like it right away?

Dan: Once I learned the rules I liked it. I had to learn to dribble and what a basket was. The first time I dunked the ball was when I really started liking to play. That was about a year after I started, when I was 16.

Mike: Did you play for your high school or for a club team?

Dan: It was more like a club. The Dutch National Team coaches heard about me and came to watch me play and one of them said I should come to the United States for more experience. A better experience.

Mike: When you came out to the U.S. to play high school basketball {at Governor Dummer Academy in Massachusetts}, did you already have the idea that you would play college basketball here as well?

Dan: No. I thought it was more of a foreign exchange kind of program. When I came here, I didn't know anything at all about college basketball, scholarships. I didn't know colleges played basketball and I didn't know that you could go to college for free if you played basketball. I didn't know it was such a big deal, with the fans and the newspapers and television. I just assumed I would return to Europe for college after a couple of years. I came out here because of the opportunities I had to see a different part of the world, to get a new perspective on life, and because I wanted to get out on my own and have some independence.

Mike: Speaking of college, what are you majoring in?

Dan: History.

Mike: Is it hard to focus on your school work when you play so much basketball?

Dan: Of course it is. You have to manage your time, but it gets very hard. Practice will go late and then you have to compensate by pulling an all-nighter, but I get so tired out from basketball that I sometimes fall asleep right in the middle of studying. So, I have to wake up even earlier the next day. I am tired all the time now and not sleeping much because I want to be at my best for basketball and take care of my classes too.

Mike: Why did you choose to play at UCLA?

Dan: I felt really at home here. The cultural diversity is important to me. It's a school with a strong tradition in both academics and athletics. I want to play in the NBA, and when I saw the good players who were already here and I met the coaches, I felt that I could develop into an NBA player if I came here. I really like the other players on the team, this year especially, so I am very pleased with how my career has worked out.

Mike: You've certainly been playing very well of late. Which coach has been assigned to work out with the big men?

Dan: Coach Patrick Sandle. Before this year, it was Coach Steve Spencer. Coach Saia always works with me, mainly for teaching the offense, but Coach Sandle has given me a lot of help this season. My understanding of the game has really improved. My poise at locating the defense. How to pass the ball out. Using my body to lean towards my man and the basket so I can take it inside stronger instead of falling away with my shot. My footwork. Defense. Everything is better. Coach Sandle has shown me a lot. I just have to keep working harder in practice and then play hard all the time in the games and I will continue to improve.

Mike: Have you gotten any feedback from NBA scouts on things you still need to work on?

Dan: Nothing specific. People tell me I just have to keep working hard, keep improving and become more consistent. Everything comes down to work.

Mike: I know you've usually gone back to Holland every summer to work out over there. Did you stay in LA this summer?

Dan: I've stayed in Los Angeles longer and longer each year. When I go back, I work out with one of the Dutch National Team coaches. But there's been a natural development because of the time and distance and my own improvement, where I spend more of my time here in the U.S. and around my teammates.

Mike: Well, the hard work is definitely paying off. I think you're the most improved player on the team this season. Thanks for talking to me, and good luck for the rest of the season.

Dan: Thank you.

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