Monday, June 5, 2017

Bosnian Center Enters Next Stage A New Player

There were numerous questions surrounding Milan Stakic’s game. There were several “ifs” hovering over the 7-foot-2, 241-pound Center’s head when he arrived in the United States via Bosnia. The first matter of business was helping Stakic, who initially arrived at a not so svelte 275 pounds, shed weight.

The second was acclimatizing him to the demands of the American game. That meant less reliance on his feathery 15-18 foot jumper and a quick uptick in his interior play.

It demanded Stakic, who has learned English in less than a year and also speaks Spanish fluently (he spent time playing in the Canaries Basketball Association), incorporate a pack of post moves.

While Stakic struggled during the first semester at Conrad Academy (FL), it took a few loud and monstrous dunks and defensive performances to get him up to par. Stakic twice posterized a defender during a loss to ISA-Naples, finishing with 15 points and displaying a vastly-improved inside and outside feel for the game.

Then, during Grind Session’s tournament at Taylor County (HS), Stakic did a commendable job containing DeAndre Ayton. Ayton, the nation’s top prospect who is headed to Arizona, dismantled Conrad with 27 first half points. With Stakic applying his size and 7-foot-4 wingspan, he was able to somewhat minimize the damage in a double-digit loss.

Immediately following that performance, Stakic showed up hungrier and with more of an all-around confidence around the rim.

“Milan is very skilled for his size and he’s a fundamentally-sound big man who is capable of moving his feet exceptionally well,” said Nicola Cicic, who coached Stakic at Conrad and has been instrumental in nurturing his development.

“He was just always under the radar. Now he has a great feel for the game. Since he’s lost weight and gotten quicker on his feet he’s more of a threat all around the court. He was always under the radar, only good things will happen from him from now on.”

When Stakic began working out with Cicic religiously in May, he looked entirely different. Going to the rim, dunking with ease, and unveiling a hook with both hands, the transformation appeared in full swing. While he still needed work on speed and agility factors, the potential was beginning to heighten.

“He took off at the right time,” Cicic said. “Anytime someone is inexperienced with the American style of play, it’s a matter of getting more minutes and being able to handle big moments. Here’s a kid who lost 30+ pounds and got his body right and also developed a whole new game on the fly. There was a lot of adjustments and a lot of work he had to put in. But he took no shortcuts.” 

Stakic, who has interest from Oklahoma State, UMBC, and myriad others, will make a decision on the next stage of his career in a matter of months.

One option which keeps popping up is a post-graduate year at National Top Sports Institute (Pa.).

This would enable Stakic to play under legendary prep coach Chris Chaney, who has more wins under his belt than any active prep coach.

Chaney, who coached the team widely regarded as the GOAT of all prep teams at Laurinburg Prep (N.C.) 12 years ago, has cultivated a post presence in bigs such as Jordan Hill (Arizona, NY Knicks) and Hassan Whiteside (Marshall, Miami Heat). 

 "I spoke with coach Chaney and got a chance to see him coach and he is as passionate and intense as you get out there," said Stakic, who acknowledged that Chaney also coached his mentor Cicic at The Patterson School (N.C.). 

"It would be great to learn under an accomplished coach like him. I don't know where I am going next year, but wherever it is --I want to win. When it's all said and done, I want to have a championship under my belt. That's the goal."