In the news: Cleveland State has a 7-foot-1 Serbian recruit 21 Jan 22:36
CLEVELAND, Ohio -- On the day Dennis Felton was hired as Cleveland State's new basketball coach, he said something about adding players from overseas.
I believe he mentioned it at least twice at the March 24, 2017 press conference.
Other than remembering the comment, I didn't pay much attention to it.
Then I heard about Uros Plasvic.
I'm talking about 7-foot-1, 215-pound Uros Plasvic from Serbia.
Plasvic is playing for Hamilton Heights Christian Academy in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
"Uros has committed to play at Cleveland State," said Zach Ferrell, his high school coach.
Cleveland State can't comment on Plasvic because he has not officially signed with the Vikings.
But according to Ferrell, Plasvic is headed to CSU. He will join fellow Serbian Stefan Kenic with the Vikings.
"Not many people know about Uros," said Ferrell. "He just came to us in October. He still has a lot of developing to do. If he had been with us a year ago (as a junior), a lot of major schools would be after him."
Ferrell talked about the influence of Drazen Zlovaric, a Cleveland State assistant coach from Serbia.
Zlovaric played for current CSU coach Dennis Felton in 2008-09. That's when Felton was the head coach at Georgia.
Zlovaric finished his college career at Tennessee-Chattanooga, where he was s teammate of Ferrell -- the Hamilton Heights coach.
Cleveland State is hoping Zlovaric can give the Vikings a recruiting pipeline in basketball rich Eastern Europe. He's off to a good start.
Plasvic plays for a Hamilton Heights team that has players from seven different countries. For several years, the team has been a basketball version of the United Nations.
Their graduates include Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (a native of Canada), a freshman averaging 12 points for Kentucky.
They have Nickeil Alexander-Walker (Canada) averaging 11.9 points as a freshman for Virginia Tech.
Those two were roommates at Hamilton Heights.
Abdul Ado (Nigeria) is averaging 7.1 points as a freshman for Mississippi State.
Current Hamilton Heights junior Jason Jitoboh (Nigeria) has offers from several SEC schools, according to Ferrell.
Hamilton Heights has sent a lot of players over the years to Division I colleges.
Plasvic is playing against major competition. He scored 16 points and had eight rebounds against Oak Hill Academy, ranked No. 13 nationally by USA Today.
In 17 games this season, Plasvic is averaging 8.1 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in 18 minutes per game.
Looking at his stats, he goes up and down. Plasvic had 21 points and 14 rebounds in his last game. The game before that, it was four points and two rebounds. He has dealt with some foul trouble and a few minor injuries.
"It's been a big cultural adjustment for him," said Ferrell. "He is still learning English. This is his first time in America. He's playing with kids from all over the world. We have players from China, Turkey, France, Russia and the Bahamas. He just needs some patience. He'll be terrific."
Ferrell said the 19-year-old center has never even been to Cleveland. Last year, he attended Medical School of Belgrade.
"He committed to Cleveland State because of Drazen (Zlovaric)," said Ferrell.
COMING TO CLEVELAND
Stefan Kenic is the first Zlovaric recruit.
The 6-foot-9 freshman is averaging 8.3 points and 3.1 rebounds.
"I came to Cleveland because of Coach Drazen," he said. "Serbia is a small country. He played pro ball there. All the basketball players know each other."
Zlovaric said he first heard Kenic planned to turn pro after high school in Belgrade, but then decided to go to college.
"Then I heard he wanted to go to school, so I recruited him," said Zlovaric.
Kenic said he had offers from St. Bonaventure, Hofstra, UC-Santa Barbara and about 10 different mid-major programs.
"I came to Cleveland for a visit in May," said Kenic. "I liked it. There are a lot of Serbians here. I know some people here already who used to live in my old neighborhood."
As Kenic said, "For a small country, Serbia has lots of good basketball players."
Cleveland State is in a building stage with Felton. The Vikings are 4-15 overall, 1-5 in the Horizon League. The Vikings are extremely small and being out-rebounded by 8.1 per game.
"I played last year (on an amateur team) with Uros," said Kenic. "He is very tall, very long arms. We need him. I told him that. I told him that he'll like Cleveland. We can do something good here."
By Terry Pluto, The Plain Dealer