Former University of Hawaii basketball standout Stefan Jankovic is back in the islands vacationing, fresh off his first season of professional basketball.
"It's been fun, first and foremost," said the 6-foot-11 forward. "I'm playing professional basketball for a living, doing what I love."
Coming off a junior season in which he was named Big West Player of the Year, Jankovic chose to leave UH amidst NCAA sanctions and turn pro. He went undrafted before signing with the Miami Heat for the NBA Summer League which led to a training camp invite.
"It's a lot of learning, a lot of adjustments," Jankovic said of life around the NBA. "They can only tell you so much about the pro level. You're playing against grown men. Bigger, stronger, faster."
Jankovic suffered an ankle injury in camp and was waived in October, landing with the Heat's D-League affiliate. Just five games in another injury struck, this time it was a broken shooting hand.
"That was tough, but I learned how much the game was mental being away from it," said Jankovic. "Basketball, especially, is a next play sport. There's no time to dwell on the last play. I learned you have to move on and keep your head straight."
Jankovic's rights were traded to the Orlando Magic's D-League affiliate where he finished up the season averaging more than 14 points and nearly seven rebounds in eight games.
"I proved to myself, first and foremost, that I belonged there. After you go through an injury you have to get that confidence back. I finished the season strong which was super important for me."
All the while the postseason ban was lifted from the UH men's basketball program, and the reason Jankovic and several of the other juniors departed was no longer.
"That's tough," Jankovic said of hindsight wishing he stayed for his senior season. "I like my decision because on one side I got a head start. I got a year extra of professional basketball which is huge because the first year is just like anything, first freshman year of college, you can only be so prepared. You have to go through the battles and stuff like that. It would've been nice, honestly, to be here and everything, but it's tough. I'm at peace with my decision."
Jankovic's focus moving forward is on shoring up his defense, but what he's heard from the Heat, Magic and other organizations is that the potential and skills are there for him to be an NBA player.
"The dream has been the NBA and I was close," said Jankovic. "I know myself, I'll only get better, so the NBA is still the goal."
Copyright 2017 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.
Hawaii News Now
420 Waiakamilo Road, Suite 205
Honolulu, HI 96817
Main (808) 847-3246
News (808) 847-1112