Saturday, March 25, 2017

"Big Nik" Beginning To Realize High Major Potential

Just a few years of sustained devotion and relentlessness has the tendency to make a tremendous difference. Such is the case with bruising 7-foot-2, 245-pound Center Nikola Scekic.

Currently at Hutchinson Community College, the once-raw big has grown rapidly this past year while assimilating to the augmented physicality of the American game.

It's no secret and surely make no mistake about it, there is a certain stereotype associated with sky-scraping, Europe-bred bigs of Scekic's type.

They have a tendency to be classified as fundamentally sound and skill-centric bigs who can shoot the rock effectively and dish the ball with a higher IQ than most.

 Yet the primary, oft-mentioned flaws affiliated with European bigs are so obvious the words and descriptions nearly fall off the page: Soft. Unathletic. Lacking the same mental moxie as an interior banger here in the states.


Yes, when Scekic arrived at West Oaks Academy in Florida, his body and his ability to play aggressively and attack the rim ferociously needed some tweaking.

 Yes, he was nowhere near a finished product.

Working consistently with coach Chris Chaney, the seasoned coach with the most wins of any prep coach his age (see Chaney's teams at Laurinburg Prep and The Patterson School in North Carolina for more information), West Oaks was able to cultivate a post presence and toughness in the kid they call "Big Nik."

"He always had huge upside," said Chaney, who is currently grooming underrated talent such as Jalen Jordan at National Top Sports Institute in Scotland, PA.

"Nikola's elite passing skills and shooting ability for his size always stood out. And just think, he's not even close to reaching his potential yet."

While Chaney's words have proved prophetic at critical moments these past years, Scekic has improved exponentially with his strength and utilizing his size like a true big.

Now at the aforementioned weight of 245 pounds, Skekic is dunking everything he sees. His adeptness around the rim has rendered him a high percentage threat.

This is underscored by a recent 12-point performance on 6-for-7 shooting the other night.

As a significant role player on a reputable JUCO program, Scekic has become cognizant of just how important basketball will be for his future.

You won't recognize him as the same player he was at West Oaks.

Now he's laced with an insatiable hunger for the game few could have ever envisioned for him.

 He's a high-intensity and no frills guy, with a knack for authoritative finishes. No longer a shy kid adapting to the American life, he will have a boisterous eruption following a big bucket.

"He has completely transformed as far as how much he wants out of this basketball life," said Nikola Cicic, the former Arkansas Little Rock guard and fellow countryman who has been instrumental in propelling "Big Nik's" development.

"You have a kid now who has tuned up his body to the point where he is rock solid and is a daunting task for bigs to go up against."

Cicic continued "He's adjusted his game defensively and developed a higher IQ and it's a testament to the work he's put in and how bad he's realized 'this is for me. This game is going to take me far in life.' The kid is an absolute workhorse and developing this mentality has worked wonders for him."

A brief stay at New Mexico did not work out for the behemoth. Some of the factors at UNM were beyond his control, others were not.

Yet as he's proven in several recent performances (12 points in 23 minutes during a 95-78 drubbing of St. Petersburg College, 14 points on 6-for-8 shooting in 18 minutes against Hesston College, 14 points on 7-for-8 shooting in a 104-66 slaying of Dodge City Community College), it's clear the promise is there.

Iona, TCU, FAU, Evansville, Wagner, and Creighton (among others) are beginning to take aggressive pursuit.