HELENA — Carroll College freshman guard Jovan Sljivancanin looks up to Denver Nuggets all star Nikola Jokíc.
Why would he not?
He is a fellow Serbian who can do it all. He posts up, he steps back for 3-pointers and grabs every rebound within arms length.
Sljivancanin has also shown he can do it all since getting inserted into the starting lineup last week for the injured Matt Wyman.
He not only finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds against Montana State-Northern and then turned heads against the University of Providence with 19 points and 18 rebounds.
“He can score and has really big hands,” Carroll coach Kurt Paulson joked. “That’s why he is such a good rebounder.”
Sljivancanin was born in Belgrade, Serbia, and moved to Las Vegas just before his junior season.
He said it was a hard decision to move 6,200 miles from home but he knew it was the right decision for his basketball career.
“Basketball is the No. 1 sport in America and I wanted to come here, study and get better,” Sljivancanin said. “At home it is really hard to do school and basketball at the same time because it is separate.”
While Sljivancanin was playing an AAU tournament in Las Vegas, Paulson was in town. He actually was in Las Vegas recruiting some other player, but ended up looking at Sljivancanin.
“This was actually late in July, 8 a.m. on a Sunday,” Paulson said. “Immediately he caught my eye and I followed him the rest of the day. It was honestly just timing and using my connection.”
When Sljivancan arrived in Montana, he never stepped foot in the Treasure State but was excited for his new opportunity.
“I didn’t know anything about Montana but when I got recruited, but this was my only offer,” Sljivancanin said.
For the first few months of the season Sljivancanin was a spark off the bench. He showed flashes of scoring like putting together a 23-point game against Northwest University, but he still wanted to improve on his defense.
“It’s getting better but I know I have to be quicker,” Sljivancanin said.
Injuries have been Achilles' heel for the Saints since the first week of the season. And after Wyman injured his knee on Feb. 2 against Providence, Sljivancanin knew he had to step up.
His 18-rebound performance ties the most in a game by a single player with Andy Garland’s 18 rebounds against the University of Great Falls back on Jan. 30, 2010.
Who knows what will happen when Wyman returns to the rotation, but next year after he graduates the Frontier Conference will know the name Jovan Sljivancanin when has an opportunity to cement himself into the starting rotation.
Remember, he is only a freshman.
“We love what he brings,” Paulson said. “He’s the missing piece we needed this year.”