Introduction of our new players: Jovana Mandic – ELTE BEAC Kosárlabda

Introduction of our new players: Jovana Mandic

She has played in Spain, Germany and Italy, but thought that it is time to see what she is capable of in a stronger championship. She says it is an honour to learn from such coaches as Bubu and Nusi, and wants to see how far she can reach as a professional player. We introduce our Croation center, Jovana Mandic

How did you become a basketball player?

Actually, by accident. Obviously, I was always tall as my parents are tall. I tried a few sports but nothing really seriously, and there are no sportsmen in our family either – studying was more in the focus. But some of my friends in high school played basketball and they invited me to watch their practice. I was the tallest person, sitting by the side, so the coach immediately told me to join in and try. This is how it all began, I went to the next practice and then to the next, and so on. I was 15, which is pretty late, but I found myself in it and adjusted my life to basketball, everything else became of second importance and it is like that up to this day.

Tell us a bit about your career so far.

After a year of playing at home in Bosnia, I went to Croatia for a year. Then I got an offer from the States to study and play in a high school in Florida in my last senior year. I received some offers from universities next season and I decided to go to the University of North Carolina. I stayed there for two years and it was really great. In a sense it was also a cultural shock. The way university sports work here in Europe and in the States is totally different. This was the reason why it was so hard for my family to let me go to such a great distance, to a totally unknown place. They did not know anything about where I was going, what life is like there, who is going to coach me, who am I going to be with. It was an unknown path in our country, there were a few male basketball players who went to the States, and they had different experience. But America is very organized when it comes to playing basketball and studying at the same time. Universities are set up like that, your timetable is set up to be able to fulfil your duties at both ends, you have to turn up to your classes and exams, but they also make sure that you don’t miss a practice because of school duties. Coaches check on your grades, if I had bad grades I would not have been allowed to play. If I had stayed at home, I would have had to make a decision whether to study or be a basketball player, you simply can’t be both. But I wanted to do both, that’s why America was the best option for me. After playing for two years in North Carolina, my coach left as well as many of my teammates, and I also decided to move on. So, I found another team in Louisiana, about half an hour from New Orleans, and I finished university there.

In the back of my mind I have always known that I wanted to play professionally, so when my last university year began I have already started to think about my plans for the future. I got in contact with some agents from Europe who followed my career in the US. I started my professional career in Spain in 2016 and played there in my first year. During the summer I went to Argentina to play there in the off-season, and then I went to Germany, but things didn’t turn out well there, so last December I signed a contract to Italy and finished the last season there – and now here I am.

How did you choose BEAC to be the next club in your career?

After the season in Italy I went home and tried to focus on getting better, letting the agents to deal with whatever offer came in. I had options to go back to Italy or Spain, but I wanted something different, more challenging maybe, to play on a higher level. So I decided to wait, take the risk and see what comes up, even though players usually like to have a contract signed as early as they can, to be on the safe side. I got the call in July from my agent that there is BEAC in Hungary, they are interested but they first want to meet me and see me. I am familiar with Hungarian league, not to every detail and team, but I knew it is a strong championship and to come here and play here was very challenging. So I said I would like to come, if they want to see meI want to see them too. I came for three days at the end of July, I meet the coaches, went to some practices and felt that this is it, I like the whole atmosphere, the club, everything. I knew that the team did not qualify very high last season, but there is so much potential in it! There is Bubu who is coaching here for 15 years now, and I still want to learn and become better as a player, and I can learn a lot from her. She has such a great experience, and she had been a player herself too which is really important to me. And there is Nusi also, her career as a player is also exceptional. It is an honour just to work with them, and when they correct you during a practice you know that this is valid and you can become a better player by that. I talked to the girls, they were all so nice, they are very young but they are dedicated and really want to learn. I think they can all be really good players. The bare fact that this team is still playing in the first league is also unique – I mean we are the first foreigners, while other teams have 3-4, or even more foreign players. I am happy to be here.

Have you found your place on the team?

I think it will take some time. Every player that comes to a new team and a new league needs time to adjust to the new playing and coaching style. So far I’ve been on teams where I wasn’t one of the older players and my role didn’t include being a leader as much as that will be required of me here. This team is young so I hope that with my work ethics and being a player who has playing experience in multiple countries I can be a good example for others on and off the court.

What do you see for yourself in basketball in the long run?

It is hard to say. I feel I should live more for the moment. I obviously have individual goals, but I also want to be part of the goals that the team has. I want to be a better player by the end of this season than I am now, maybe also as a leader. I want to be a player as long as I can, this is something I can do now, but not later. I want to see how far I can get, and I hope that this season helps me on this road.

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