Q&A: Luka Mirkovic on team chemistry, the new court and coming to America


    Luka Mirkovic (with the ball) says that this year's team has more chemistry than any other team for which he's ever played. Photo by Kimberly Alters / North By Northwestern.

    Most of the team has left after practice, but Luka Mirkovic remains on the newly waxed floor of Welsh-Ryan Arena. He catches a pass six feet from the hoop, takes one dribble, spins and then lays it in with his right hand. Next he moves to the three-point arc and begins launching shots, working on both form and technique. Swoosh. Swoosh. Swoosh. His post-practice regiment lasts about 15 minutes, with sweat pouring down his face.

    Mirkovic’s on-court ferocity is matched with his joviality off it. The 6’11” Serb’s personality is as big as he is and he has a strikingly genuine persona. He is one of four seniors on Carmody’s squad who hope to take the program to new heights. Mirkovic is impressed with this year’s team and its potential.

    How do you feel about the team this season?

    The core of our team is pretty much back, without Juice [Thompson]. We have amazing newcomers and I feel like this year’s chemistry is better than ever. It’s the best chemistry I’ve been around in my life. The guys really like each other. The sky is the limit this year and as long as we do what Coach Carmody tells us, we will accomplish our goal.

    What was some of the advice you remember getting your freshman year?

    [They said] that I had to put in the extra work myself. When everybody practices, work hard; but outside of practice you have to do it on your own. You have to work on the stuff that you don’t have time for. During practices we mostly work on our plays and defense. Outside of practices you have to work on your own game. That’s why I was working with Coach Vujic a lot on my post moves.

    How late do you typically stay after practice?

    I am probably going to stay another hour today after practice. I don’t have classes today so I’ll stay another hour for sure.

    What have your learned in four years?

    I know the system now so well. I’ve played here three and a half years, so I know all the plays in my sleep. I know when to make the pass and so on. I’m really used to the guys and really used to the system.

    What are some of your favorite memories throughout your career?

    It was probably my sophomore year when we beat Purdue at home. They were, I think, No. 6 in the nation. When the students stormed the court it was really cool. I’ll remember that for sure. Also, I’ll remember last year’s run in the NIT. Even though it ended when we lost to Washington State I felt like we had new energy in the postseason and I thought we played a few really good games.

    What facet of your game did you work most during the offseason?

    I’ve been working on my body; trying to get more athletic, stronger and faster. To be honest, this offseason I didn’t work too much on my skills. I worked more so on my body and just trying to get stronger and be a better athlete overall.

    What are you most comfortable with about your game going into the season?

    My post moves and my shooting.

    You’re the only listed center on the team. Are the coaches going to try to give you more help this year down low?

    No. Our system is always going to be one big guy and four outside guys. It’s never going to be Davide [Curletti] and me in the same game because that’s not our system. It’s always going to be either Dav or me. John [Shurna] is a big guy and Drew [Crawford] is really athletic, so I will have some help down there for sure.

    Fitness-wise will you be able to handle the extra minutes?

    Sure. That’s why I worked so hard in the offseason. I’ve been working on my conditioning a lot. I’m in the best shape of my life. There are some points where I feel like I don’t need to sit down, I can just keep going and going. I feel really confident about my conditioning.

    What is the mentality of the seniors coming into the season?

    The mentality is to be good leaders and try to help other guys because we were in the freshman guys’ shoes four years ago. Every practice we try to help them out with the offense and the plays and set an example out there.

    Thoughts on the new court?

    I like it. The purple part is really sweet. I was pulling for the all-purple court. I thought that was going to be sweet. Boise State has the blue field for football and I thought we could be like that. But it’s still really cool. I think it is more proof how people are really getting into this program. I think this program is definitely on the rise.

    What is the funniest story from your first five years in the U.S.?

    When I was in my first year in the U.S., I was in high school and our professor assigned us, in math class, to do 50 questions but even numbers. So she would write, “1-50 even” but I didn’t know what “even” meant. So I always did the full 50 questions when I was only supposed to do 25. I ended up doing all this extra work and she said, “You don’t have to do all of them, just the even numbers.” I was like, “What?” She said, “Even numbers. You know like two, four, six, eight, ten?”

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