First of all, if you don’t know my story yet, I advise you to first watch the short documentary above. I want to give credit to my good friends Shauyan Saki and Joe Winkenwerder for taking the initiative to do this documentary during probably the busiest year of their college careers. They were both in their senior year at The University of Georgia, not only were they great producers, they’re my close friends and did a phenomenal job for a subject that I don’t really like to talk about.
I also want to give credit to The University of Georgia, an unbelievable academic institution. Furthermore, I want to give credit to the entire University of Georgia Academic Faculty, maybe more specifically to my professors and, of course, the UGA Athletic Training Staff. Finally, I want to give credit to my Dawg Coach Mark Fox and his amazing staff for giving an opportunity to a kid from Switzerland to live his dream and be part of an amazing basketball program.
I could write a book about what I have experienced and what I would like to say to the entire Wish Dish Community. However I will keep it short and like we say in Switzerland, quality over quantity.
Long story short, in May 2012, I graduated from Furtah Preparatory High School in Woodstock, GA. A few months later, you could find me in the Swiss Armed Forces on duty.
In Switzerland, military service is mandatory. I personally chose to do my military commitment after High School rather than after college because I just wanted to be done with it and move on to the next chapter of my life at The University of Georgia. During the 6th month of service, I got a call from my mother that my only cousin Zeljko Langura had comitted suicide. He was a soldier in the Serbian Military.
2 months later, on a very hot day, I was injured while I was on duty at an undisclosed location. (Due to security and confidential reasons I cannot disclose where).
I had so many injuries and so many terrible memories building up. I can’t even remember all of them on top of my head including but not limited to severe skull fractures, torn ACL, PCL, Meniscus, name it…
The doctors told me that I should call it a career…I told myself:
Shortly after my injury, I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know if I would still be welcome on UGA’s Basketball Team or if I should stop my basketball dream and just be a regular student.
After talking to the UGA Basketball Staff and explaining my situation, they still honored their commitment and welcomed me to the team. However, what should have been the most exciting summer of my life (Yes, the summer before my freshman year of college) turned out to be my worst nightmare
I was supposed to start my first college basketball workouts right off the bat but instead I was out of shape, injured, limping around, not playing basketball, struggling with classes and getting lost through campus.
To make things worse, my injury story got out on national media. Everywhere on Twitter and Facebook people would send me nice messages of support.
Some national media outlets wanted to do a documentary on my story however I kindly refused simply because it had nothing to do with basketball. Although, my story is inspiring, soldiers never get the credit they deserve and I told Coach Fox our basketball team is bigger than a story.
During my freshman year, with the help of the UGA Athletic Trainers and God, I was working toward slowly coming back to basketball although a couple times I couldn’t see the end of the tunnel. I watched every practice on the sideline; I was wearing a suit and sitting on the bench at every home game, powerless.
During those tough times, I discovered the two most important words in my vocabulary today, persistence and resilience. Persistence is the quality that allows someone to continue doing something even though it is difficult and resilience is the ability to become strong after something bad happens.
I continued rehab for 14 straight months.
While my team was traveling and playing on the road, I would go into our practice gym in Stegman Coliseum with my friend Fariz (arguably one of the biggest UGA basketball fans). He would time me on sprints or rebound the ball for me. It didn’t feel the same but it didn’t matter anymore because I knew that both persistence and resilience were here to push me through.
I found joy in trying and I was content with my effort although I might not have been happy with the results. It was frustrating at times, thankfully one of my best friends who also grew up in Cherokee County and ironically happened to wear the same #20 as me but on the Football Team. His name is Quincy Mauger and he would tell me to keep going and that tough things never last and that there is always sunshine after the rain.
Thanks to Quincy and my teammate Nemi Djurisic who are like my brothers, pushed me the most throughout the process.
During my 2nd semester of my freshman year, I happened to meet a guy named Shauyan Saki, sports expert, who shared an international affairs class with me. With Shauyan we would talk about everything ranging from sports cars, sports to politics and business.
Shauyan and me had a lot in common and although he had a busy schedule building his business and covering sports around the area, he one day asked me if he should take in charge and tell the story the way it had to be told without having the usual big time media outlets involved.
Once I got back on campus for my sophomore year of college, I was fully healthy, but most importantly happier than ever. I started writing and here I am today. I hope you all enjoyed learning my story.