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WNCC's Kovacevic signs with Division I Montana

April 18, 2012

 Marko Kovacevic became the second Western Nebraska Community College men's basketball player to ink with a Division I school, signing a letter of intent with the University of Montana Wednesday afternoon.

Kovacevic, the 6-foo-11 center from Serbia, is following in the footsteps of teammate Raul Delgado, who signed with BYU last week. Kovacevic was being recruited by Division I schools such as BYU, Washington State, Utah, Stephen F. Austin, Albany, Memphis, and Texas Tech.

"When I went to visit Montana I was really surprised at the school because the players played really hard and I fit in. They are a team that can make me better," he said. "i didn't think about playing at the Division I at all when I came over here; I came over here to play at WNCC and at a junior college."

Kovacevic has worked hard to get that opportunity to play at the Division I level. WNCC coach Russ Beck said that WNCC has a long-standing tradition of making that dream come true for the Cougar basketball players.

"I think every young man on our team is a Division I player and I don't think they would be here if they weren't. That is a credit to the institution itself," Beck said. "WNCC has been sending guys to Division I long before I was here and they will send guys to Division I long after I am gone because that is the kind of program it is. I am excited because it is special to me and I know it is special to coach [Yahosh] Bonner that we are able to follow these guys and watch them play on TV and ESPN and say that guy was a WNCC Cougar. We are proud of that and Marko is our latest and there are guys in this room that will be making decisions as well. Then, our challenge is to go out and find future Division I players to participate with us at Western Nebraska."
Kovacevic helped the Cougars to a 26-7 record and a berth in the semi-finals of the Region IX tournament. Kovacevic averaged 11 points and eight rebounds a game this season. He had a season high 15 rebounds against the College of Southern Idaho and had a season-high 21 points in games against North Platte Community College and Lamar Community College.

Beck said he sees Kovacevic getting even better at the Division I level.

"I think he will be a better division I player than he was a junior college player because on any given night he will be able to match up with other guys that are 6-10 or 7-0 on a more regular basis," he said. "Marko has a great sense of humor and he keeps things light but he works real hard. Montana's situation was very attractive to Markobecause they lost a young man that was 6-11 or 7-0. They are recruiting Marko to be a starting five and they told him they are going to challenge and push him to fill that roll. They have a chance to be better than they were last year."
Beck said that Montana is a team that could see a better season next year as they return four of their five starting players. The Grizzlies finished last season at 25-7 before losing in the opening round of the NCAA tournament to Wisconsin. Montana had the longest winning streak entering the tournament, longer than Kentucky's. The Grizzlies ran off 14 straight wins.

Kovacevic is excited to be going to a program where he can get better. His goals at Montana is to graduate, play basketball, and hopefully become a professional player. But, as he gets ready to head up to Montana, Kovacevic said it will be tough leaving Scottsbluff.

"It was real nice to be here," he said. "I came here and I didn't know anything about American basketball. The guys that play here are really good and it was like a family. I improved a lot in my basketball."

Beck said it will be hard to replace a player like Kovacevic because of the way he handles himself on and off the court.

"The one thing that we could count on with Marko was he trusted our coaching staff and his teammates," he said. "He was willing to play any roll that he needed to play. It is very seldom that you encounter a great person like Marko is. That is why we are excited for him. He worked on his game every single day. He was one guy that would watch out for all of our players. If someone was down, he was over there putting his arm around them making sure they are OK. He was a great leader. i think he will be very hard to replace."

NJCAA Region 9 • Tagged
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