VANCOUVER - Luka (The Bazooka) Zaharijevic has a nickname worthy of his contribution to the Kitsilano Blue Demons senior high school boys basketball team.
The Bazooka is a multi-faceted weapon who can score, rebound, pass and defend. He stands 6-8, weighs 260 pounds and has hands of velvet. Now in Grade 12, he is pondering the next stage in his career while also pushing the Blue Demons to elite status this year. Kitsilano is 6-0 to start the new season.
“My dream is to play NCAA Division One basketball,” the Bazooka said Wednesday after Kits crushed the St. Thomas Aquinas Fighting Saints 121-48 to open the 2012 Telus Classic. “I am looking at any Division One program because my goal is to play pro basketball one day. I would love to be somewhere in Washington or Oregon, somewhere close to home, and preferably somewhere with an architecture program.
“The CIS wouldn't be bad, of course, but I just want to go to the NCAA, even a low Division One school like Seattle University or the University of Portland. It doesn't have to be one of the high ones like Gonzaga or Washington.”
The Bazooka has been keeping his marks up, too, to keep his options open.
“I have to brag about that,” he responded, smiling. “I worked really hard first term. I took physics, chemistry, math, English, marketing and art and I got all A's. My average was, like, 91 per cent so I'm doing all right.”
Zaharijevic schooled the young and under-sized Fighting Saints on Wednesday, netting 23 points along with 13 rebounds, five assists, three blocks and three steals. They had no answer for him inside and when they collapsed, he cleverly dished to wide-open teammates.
“Definitely our team revolves around Luka,” noted Blue Demons coach Randy Coutts. “Other teams are going to focus on him because he's such a scoring threat inside. He realizes there are going to be two or three or fours guys on him and the beauty of him is that he passes the ball so well out of the post. If other teams come hard at him, he's kicking it out and we're making cuts and getting lay-ins. So Luka is a good all-round player.”
The Bazooka is far from a one-man show, however. The Blue Demons are big, quick and have wonderful depth.
On Wednesday, Vibhor Mathur came off the bench and rained in six three-pointers. He finished with 19 points. Jonathan Kongbo, a 6-6 Grade 11 student playing only his second season of organized basketball , also came off the bench and dropped home 16, including one monstrous dunk that drew howls of appreciation from the near-full Kits gym. Starter Noah Derappard-Yuswack added another 19 for the Blue Demons.
“I'm really excited about this season,” said Zaharijevic, the son of Serbian immigrants. “We are an unselfish team and that's one of the key reasons why we've been successful so far and why we will be successful. What I've noticed is that when I get the ball, I'm like a magnet and I attract a lot of defenders so instead of trying to go up against a double or triple team, I find it way more effective to pass to a teammate.
“It's all about patience and it's really been working,” he continued. “Honestly, I don't care who scores. I don't care if I score as long as we're playing great team basketball and we're winning.”
Having both Zaharijevic and Kongbo for the inside game is luxury for Coutts, now in his 15th season coaching the Blue Demons. He was reluctant to talk about the potential of this particular edition but it seems a slam dunk the Demons will be at or near the top of the senior boys AAA rankings this season.
“This is a very good team,” Coutts concluded. “We come out and we play hard.”
Kitsilano will face the visiting Burnaby South Rebels at 1:45 Thursday in day two of the four-day tournament. The Rebels beat R.C. Palmers 94-89 in their first-round match.
For complete Telus Classic scores and schedule, see www.canadaonefoundation.com and follow the links to Secondary Boys and Secondary Girls.
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