Croatian international Matej Buovac was recruited to New Mexico State to add 3-point shooting, but the Aggies also added leadership when they landed the 6-7 shooter from La Lumiere Prep. Here are a few comments from Buovac, starting with his experience at the international level, where he has played twice in the Euro Championships. Regardless of what he may be able to add from a shooting perspective, Buovac has played a lot of basketball for a kid who turns 19 on June 5.
Most recently, Buovac captained the Croatia Under 18 team last summer. He also played on the U16 team.
"It was a pretty good experience and an honor for me. We lost in the quarterfinals to Spain, who won it all. We finshed eighth."
Buovac graduates from La Lumiere on May 25 and will travel home to Croatia. While he can play for his country again this summer for the U-20 team, Buovac said he is currently leaning toward coming to Las Cruces for the second summer session in June.
"I have next year to play as well. I think I should go (to NMSU) early because it's my first year in college and I want to get to know everybody and start working with the team. I'm leaning toward coming back earlier."
Buovac said he averaged around 10 points and shot 44 percent from 3 point range at La Lumiere. While the numbers don't jump off the page, consider the level of play. La Lumiere finished the season ranked No. 35 and played in the ESPN Rise Championships and was the only team to beat Findlay Prep during the season. Buovac said two of his teammates committed to Purdue, one to Indiana and 7-foot center Obij Aget committed to New Mexico.
Buovac has been in the US since August of last year. Schools reportedly interested in him were Bradley and Tulane and he had an offer from UAB.
"No. 1, was the coaching staff. Marvin Menzies showed me the most love. He came to my prep school two times to see me and Indiana is a long ways from Las Cruces. Second and most important, the basketball program is a winning team and that was important to me that they won the conference and went to the NCAAs."
Rather than stay in Croatia, Buovac came to the US via Dave Maravilla, who helps place European players in the US.
"If I stayed back home, I could have signed a professional contract but I chose to come to the States like a lot of European players do. I could have continued my education if I would have stayed but it's very hard and I probably would have been average on both sides. In America, I can excel on both sides."
Buovac came to visit for a NMSU home game against Hawaii, where it became apparent to him that he could contribute at this level.
"Shooting is my forte and that's why they recruited me," he said. "When I was watching the Hawaii game, they are a high major team athletically but they just needed somebody to hit shots and help spread the defense."
With the loss of three seniors, the Aggies will have a lot of youth on the roster next year. During his visit, Buovac said he spent the most time with redshirts KC Ross Miller and Sim Bhullar.
"It was a gameday so I wasn't hanging out with players so much, but KC and Sim gave me some background. I like that I can come in and contribute in my freshman year."