Nikola Vucevic, the 6-10, 260-pound center from USC declared for the NBA draft in March. With the 2011 Draft just two days away, SCPlaybook’s Whitney Blaine caught up with Vucevic to find out the latest in the Montenegro native’s life.
Blaine: How has the draft process been for you?
Vucevic: It has been long but been fine. It’s a lot of traveling from city to city, in and out. I’ll be in one city one day, another the next. The workouts, depending on the team, some have been harder than others.
Blaine: Were you nervous when you first declared?
Vucevic: At the press conference I was really nervous but I wasn’t nervous about what was going to happy I was confident I was going to be successful.
Blaine: What teams have you been working out for?
Vucevic: Twelve teams [total], I’ll be in Washington tomorrow [to workout for the Wizards]. Houston [Rockets], San Antonio [Spurs], Denver [Nuggets], Charlotte [Bobcats], Boston [Celtics], New York [Knicks], Philadelphia [76ers], New Jersey [Nets], Sacramento [Kings], Portland [Trailblazers], Indiana [Pacers] and then New York again today.
Blaine: Do you have a good feeling about some teams more so than others?
Vucevic: Some workouts I’ve done better [than others]. I can tell some teams have more interest than others.
Blaine: Did you get along with any coaches?
Vucevic: A couple were pretty cool, saying good things. Most of the people I’ve talked to are cool.
Blaine: Do you have a preference where you want to play?
Vucevic: Almost every reporter I’ve talked to asked me that. But I just want to get picked.
Blaine: Is there a system you think you’d fit best with?
Vucevic: A team that focuses on the half-court game. A really [strong] defensive team, that’s something I’ve been used to playing. That will probably be the easiest transition for me.
Blaine: Are you concerned about the lockout at all?
Vucevic: Not as much because I can go overseas and play. It’s probably harder for guys that are from here. I’m from there (Montenegro is a small country in Europe), people know me over there. I had offers before there so it’s not that much of a concern to me.
Blaine: What’s been the most surprising thing you’ve dealt with this summer? What’s something you didn’t expect?
Vucevic: There was nothing I didn’t expect. I’ve talked to a lot of [other players] about how workouts went. Nothing surprised me really.
Blaine: Describe your workouts.
Vucevic: We get there- some teams do testing, most teams measure you, get your weight and all that. I do a little warm up, skill work, shooting to get going, then a lot of playing one-on-one or two-on-two [with other draft prospects]. Then at the end you do some shooting again.
Blaine: Do you plan to go back to USC and get your degree?
Vucevic: I’m planning on doing that some day. Whenever I have a free summer I will do that.
Blaine: Do you think the scrutiny you’ve played under at USC has prepared you for the NBA?
Vucevic: I think being in L.A. and playing at USC it definitely helps because you get used to a lot of people talking to you, a lot of media and all that.
Blaine: What aspect of your game do you want to improve upon?
Vucevic: I want to be able to shoot the NBA three [pointer] consistently. I want to get stronger a little bit. I’ve put up a lot of weight since I got to USC but I think there’s still room for work.
Blaine: You’ve been away from your family when you moved to Los Angeles, do you think the professional transition will be easier because you’ve dealt with a big move before?
Vucevic: Coming here on my own and being on my own for four years helped me mature and helped me handle different situations. I moved from Simi Valley to L.A. and that was still kind of a change so wherever I end up it wont be an issue for me to adjust.
Blaine: Were you rooting for Miami or Dallas this year?
Vucevic: Dallas because they have Dirk [Nowitzki] he’s one of my favorite players and Peja Stojakovic, he’s from Serbia. So I wanted them to win because of those two.
Many sources are suggesting that the Houston Rockets will select Vucevic in the first round, with the 14th overall pick. He is among the top-5 in big men out of this year’s draft, averaging 17.1 point and 10.3 rebounds for the Trojans. He was named the Pac-10 Most Improved Player in 2010 and started all 34 games for USC last season.