UH-Hilo center Sasa Vuksanovic averaged a double-double over the weekend and his production was rewarded with the PacWest player of the week award.
“I was just happy to get such an award. I’ve been working hard individually to get better on every aspect of my game the past couple of months, so the hard work always pays off,” he said. “Of course, my teammates and coaches are doing a great job putting me in a great position from which I can score.
“This award is the award of the whole team, not just me because we have been doing a great job for the past couple of months practicing and pushing each other.”
The senior from Serbia scored 40 points and had 21 rebounds in a pair of wins over Hawaii Pacific. He’s now averaging 17.2 points and 10.5 rebounds per game for the Vulcans (5-1), who next host Chaminade on Feb. 20-21.
His dream is to play pro ball, and any type of award adds to his resume. He’s the second Vulcan to win the weekly Hawaii pod award; Aniwaniwa Tait-Jones was honored earlier.
“His goal this year is to be the best man in the region, and for him to do that would be averaging a double-double,” UHH coach Kaniela Aiona said. “He’s got a bright future and will be able to play pro ball in Europe somewhere. He’s having that type of year, and that’s what national scouts look for. They want guys from winning teams, and that helps, too.”
Vuksanovic is shooting 50% from the field. That high percentage is no accident. Aiona knows about the hard work Vuksanovic has put in the gym.
“He’s a gym rat and loves to be in the gym,” Aiona said. “He’s worked on his body, his flexibility, his mobility, all of that.
“He can step out and shoot it, but he knows his bread and butter, and being more effective is getting touches in the lane or the post. He’s a good teammate and a pleasure to coach.”
Last season, he didn’t land on any of the All-PacWest teams, so self-improvement came with losing some weight.
“I just feel better on the court. I’ve been working hard to get my body stronger,” he said. “I see a lot of improvement in my moving, bouncing, and just feeling lighter on the floor. It definitely seems like I improved my defensive skills.”
As a youngster in Serbia, he worked on using both hands. That ability has made Vuksanovic a versatile scorer.
“I’m so glad I’m able to use both hands,” he said. “Last year I was using my left hand more often but I feel like I’m using both hands pretty equally and that is a big part of my game.”
The Vulcans have this week off and next week the first West Region poll comes out. The West Region includes the PacWest, Great Northwest Athletic Conference, and the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference. The California Collegiate Athletic Association canceled its basketball season.
The top six teams from the region qualify for the NCAA Division II tournament.