Coach Bob McKillop: Luka Brajkovic Playing “Like a Champion”
Eleven games into his college career, Davidson freshman Luka Brajkovic is simultaneously adjusting and thriving as the Wildcats’ starter in the post.
The 6-foot-10 forward from Feldkirch, Austria, is still getting acclimated to American basketball in some ways, but he’s already blossoming into a reliable inside force for Bob McKillop‘s Wildcats. In other words, he’s already been good. There’s potential to be even better in the games and seasons to come.
“Here’s a freshman that has been exposed to quickness and athleticism than he’s never seen before,” says McKillop. “And he’s responded like a champion for us.”
Brajkovic is scoring 12 points per game on a team with a dynamic backcourt – Kellan Grady and Jon Axel Gudmundsson combine for 38.2 points per game – and he leads Davidson with 6.4 rebounds per contest. He’s shooting 56 percent from the floor and has a team-best nine blocks. At Wake Forest Monday, he recorded career-highs of 19 points and 14 rebounds – and hit his second 3-pointer of the year – in the Wildcats’ 67-63 loss.
“I feel really comfortable,” says Brajkovic. “It’s getting better every day. In the beginning, in the summer, there were some struggles learning the new system, but now it’s getting better every day.”
Brajkovic has scored in double figures eight times and had 18 points and seven rebounds in wins over Dartmouth and Winthrop on Nov. 9 and Dec. 4, respectively. His first double-double came against Northeastern on Nov. 18 when he had 17 points and 11 boards. His rebounding has improved, and he’s clever and under control with the ball in his hands.
“He’s very crafty,” says McKillop. “He has great hands, is incredibly coachable and what a great teammate.”
Still, the college game is brand new for Brajkovic, who learned to speak English at an early age. The games are officiated differently, and the style of play is unlike what he’s seen before. The biggest adjustment?
“Definitely the pace of the game,” says Brajkovic. “It’s much quicker, much faster and it’s also more exhausting to play because the players are much faster and guarding ball screens, the physicality you have to adjust to.”
But McKillop has been impressed with how quickly and seamlessly Brajkovic has become a Wildcat, on and off the court.
“I think this is a young man who feels he has awakened and it’s Christmas Day,” says McKillop. “He has got absolutely no sense of entitlement. He treasures waking up in the morning, being on this campus, getting the food he eats – and he’s got a great environment in Austria, don’t get me wrong – but he’s playing basketball, going to school, has great teammate friends. He’s a bit of a celebrity on campus. I think he’s like a kid on Christmas Day.”