Arun Basuljevic has been fortunate to circumvent the snowfall that’s pelted the region.
Basuljevic, a freshly-minted All-American who got his playmaking teeth cut in Mahopac, is greeted each morning by the scalding sun in Sarasota, Fla.
He could be shoveling snow out of his biting-cold driveway at home, yet he’s practicing in 80-degree weather and cooling off in the fabled Siesta Key Beach, widely regarded as America’s top beach.
Security Guards are constantly prowling this very beach, protecting against tourists stealing the purified white glistening sand.
It is a unique environment for a unique player, whose ability to set up goals and shred defenders in traffic has helped the undefeated Red Bulls coast through the competition this fall.
While he’s relishing the opportunity to be away from home, savoring the scenic environment and blistering-hot weather, nothing is more important than the upcoming tournament for Basuljevic’s U-18 Red Bulls.
“I think the most memorable game of our season will be against Real Salt Lake on Thursday,” explained Basuljevic, who captured a Develop Academy National Championship with a pulsating 2-1 win over Shattuck-St. Mary’s in Houston over the summer.
“They are undefeated and so are we. This is going to be an action-packed game with a lot of people watching, in Florida. It is definitely exciting.”
Basuljevic began his career with the Red Bulls five years ago. He was a 12-year-old with an ultra-advanced skill-set, a thirst for competition, and a proclivity for creating offense.
Having accelerated the maturation process, Basuljevic was rendered hard-to-guard by many in his age group. Leaps-and-bounds above than most in his age groip, Basuljevic needed to cultivate his talent in an highly-competitive atmosphere. He needed a place where he could play against stiffer competition and be assessed on a higher scale.
Enter, the Red Bulls.
“All the kids on Red Bull were once the best players on their own respective teams,” Basuljevic said.
“It was tough in the beginning, but I really benefitted from it. I think you can compare the Red Bulls to a club overseas in Europe, in terms of how they run their program. Everything is very professional, the level is really high.”
Basuljevic’s confidence, likewise, is really high. The Red Bulls have eaten up a national schedule in shark-size bites. The Red Bulls recently swept Albertson in four age levels.
On Thursday, Basulevic will play on the same sun-sprayed turf field at Sarasota, Fla., where Georgetown coach Brian Wiese discovered him two seasons ago.
Basuljevic chose Georgetown during the early stages of his recruitment, when a buffet-line of Division-I recruits expressed considerable interest. Basuljevic was inundated with offers from Duke, Wake Forest, Louisville, St. John’s, Maryland, a slew of others.
“He (Wiese) gave me an offer I couldn’t refuse,” said Basuljevic, whose pivotal assist on Anthony Viteri’s left-footed snipe into the top corner during the 70th minute, propelled the Red Bulls to a 2-0 win over Albertson.
“He showed me that there is a very realistic possibility of me playing beyond college and he showed that Georgetown can help me get there. It was everything about the school that sold me. I love the town that surrounds it, and it’s in D.C. The academics are great and they are one of the best programs in the country. It was a no brainer.”
The decisions will be a bit more difficult tomorrow. Real Salt Lake is one of just six teams which have qualified for playoff berths at the U16 and U18 national level the past three seasons. They enforce a high-scoring brand, predicated on dominating possession. RSL finished 19-5-4 while playing a potent national schedule in 2012-13, scoring 61 points in 28 games.