Miami men’s basketball player Milos Jovic hasn’t seen his dad in five years.
Jovic, a native Serbian, grew up around the game thanks to his father, who has coached professionally in Serbia for 30 years. Jovic now plays for the RedHawks, thousands of miles away from his home and his loved ones.
From the time Jovic was 2 years old, he remembers going to his dad’s practice with a basketball in his hands. The game was in his blood, and there was no denying he had a future in the sport.
“He knew and I knew that I was going to play basketball,” Jovic said.
Serbia, a nation of just over seven million people, is in love with basketball, Jovic said, claiming it to be the most popular sport in the country. Though it has a small population, Serbia currently ranks as the sixth best basketball team in the world, according to the International Basketball Federation.
Jovic is no exception. It’s evident to Miami Assistant doach Jeff Rutter that Jovic grew up in a basketball-crazed country in a basketball-crazed household.
“He’s fundamentally very sound,” Rutter said. “He has the attitude that you want from every guy.”
Outside of a good attitude, Rutter praised Jovic’s value to the RedHawks as a versatile player who can play four of the five positions on the court. Though averaging just 4.4 points per game this season, good for seventh on the team, Rutter believes Jovic’s value may not show up on the stat sheet, but more so through the energy he brings to the locker room and overall culture of the program.
To Jovic, this is just the style he was used to -- solid passing, selfless defense and a team-first mentality. His manner of play is reflective of the cultural differences Jovic has observed between the U.S. and Serbia.
“In the United States, people are more individualistic,” Jovic said. “In Serbia, we are trying to help each other.”
The transition to America for Jovic was actually his second international stop in his basketball career. For his junior and senior years of high school, Jovic played for Get Better Academy, a club team in the Czech Republic, where he toured around the world with the hopes of getting noticed by college teams.
Jovic shined, averaging 16 points per game and earned All-Star recognition in the Czech Republic National Championship. He also played on the Serbian Under-17 and Under-18 National Teams.
After landing on the radar of Miami and choosing the RedHawks, Jovic took a leap and came to America in 2016, where the transition proved difficult at first. Jovic said he called his mom nearly every day the first month of college, questioning whether he made the right call.
“Those first few weeks I was freaking out honestly,” Jovic said. “People were talking way too fast.”
For Jovic, the difficulties of adjusting to Miami were two-fold: missing home and keeping up with the language. Though he could speak English at the time, he found himself unprepared for the speed in which it’s spoken in America.
On top of learning a completely new culture and pace of life while studying Sports Leadership and Management, Jovic was tasked with adapting to a new speed of play on the court. He said the style of the game differs vastly in America compared to in Europe, citing the emphasis American basketball places on excitement compared to the more methodical style played in Europe.
“Here it’s more run and gun,” Jovic said. “In Europe, it’s more tactics.”
After a few years of adjusting to American college basketball, Jovic has put together an efficient season thus far for Miami, shooting 44% from the field and over 42% from the three-point line.
But what truly makes him valuable is the consistent energy he brings to the team, Rutter said.
“The best way to describe Milos is he’s an everyday guy,” Rutter said. “He’s clearly the best communicator on the team, and he’s a great teammate.”
Jovic is set to graduate from Miami in the spring, but has one more year of eligibility remaining as a college basketball player. Miami now feels like home. His accent is barely noticeable, he has assimilated seamlessly into the team and is thankful he took the risk to become a RedHawk.
But he still finds himself longing for Serbia.
The last time he saw his family was a year ago.
It even gets to the point where he has his grandmother send him Serbian recipes when he craves a home-cooked meal. But what he misses the most are the people he loves, like his father, mother, brother and friends. They’ve never watched him play a college basketball game, seen where he goes to school or experienced the United States for themselves.
By the time Jovic graduates, he’d like that to change.
Even though his father is in China, where he has lived since 2016 coaching professional basketball, Jovic said he talks with his dad almost on a daily basis.
One day, he dreams the man who taught him to love basketball can watch him suit up for the RedHawks.