USC basketball has recently had a run of Serbian post players. Nikola Vucevic began the Trojan trend playing at USC from 2008-2011 before leaving early for the NBA draft. Strahinja “Luis” Gavilovic followed in 2012 with Nikola Jovanovic joining the roster in 2013.
Jovanovic passed up the opportunity to return for his senior season this year, but USC did add freshman forward Nick Rakocevic. But it isn’t exactly a continuation of the recent Trojan tradition.
While the name is Serbian, Rakocevic identifies much more to his hometown. He was born and raised in Chicago, growing up watching Michael Jordan and the Bulls. He is a through and through Chicagoan ready to extoll the virtues of deep dish pizza and and North Avenue Beach. (“It's incredible, but definitely go there in the summer time and not in the winter.”)
Even though he is playing across the country on the West Coast — where he is averaging 5.0 points, 3.5 rebounds through the first four games and loving the ability to wear shorts in November — Rakocevic still wants to represent his city and the heritage of Chicago basketball.
“You play as tough as you can,” Rakocevic said. “You're not afraid to mix it up with the other team, to get it on the floor. That's what I like. That's how I kind of describe my game, kind of as a tough kid. There's always some great talent in Chicago. I've just got to keep up the hype.”
Rakocevic may not follow the strict Serbian standards of USC’s prior Niks, but he has the chance to continue giving the Trojans a stellar post presence, which is what he is focusing on as a freshman.
“Being able to score the ball on the post and just getting a quick bucket and also on offensive rebound. That's kind of like my go to with the putbacks and things like that. Just rebounding period. Setting good screens. Getting my teammates open. Things like that.”
Watch Nick Rakocevic, above, talk about how he's fitting into USC's basketball culture after growing up in Chicago and which place he picks as the best deep dish pizza spot.
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