The first time freshman Nemanja Mikic took the court at the Smith Center, he went three of six from the three-point line, ultimately contributing 11 points to the Colonials’ victory over Bowie State in an exhibition game.
His success that day from beyond the arc was indicative of Mikic’s intended role for the Colonials: scoring baskets from behind the three-point line.
Lately, however, Mikic has expanded his role on the team beyond just a designated long-range shooter, posting impressive contributions on both offense and defense.
“I just think that’s part of his growth as a basketball player,” men’s basketball head coach Karl Hobbs said after his team’s 72-52 win over Fordham Wednesday night. “I don’t doubt that he can do other things.”
While there’s no doubt that it is Mikic’s three-point prowess that has earned him adoration from fans and a huge poster in the windows of Phillips Hall, the Serbian freshman has slowly expanded his role on the team on both offense and defense.
“My main focus is to hit threes and stretch the defense a little bit. [But] the coaches were challenging me to do some other stuff,” Mikic explained. “Every day I’m getting to know my teammates better and getting a feel for how they play,” he added.
Wednesday night’s game against Fordham was no exception to Mikic’s developed pattern of play. He scored a modest six points, none of which came from beyond the arc. Instead, Mikic showed his flexibility on offense, taking jumpers but also scoring on a put-back layup after grabbing a rebound, and recording his first-ever collegiate dunk on a fast break late in the second half, a play that brought a smile to his face when asked about it after the game.
“I was open, fast break, and I just used the opportunity,” Mikic said with a grin, adding that it was “always” fun to play above the rim.
But Mikic’s expanded offensive repertoire isn’t just for fun. Its roots, both Mikic and Hobbs said, are based in a desire to keep opponents guessing.
“In the beginning, I was only shooting threes, and Coach told me that the scouting report was only going to say that I’m a three-point shooter,” Mikic said, adding that Hobbs recommended he “sometimes mix in a shot-fake and try to rebound and get some shots up off the glass.”
“I think teams understand he’s a three-point shooter, they’re gonna really come down on him,” Hobbs said of his star freshman’s offensive development. “You can see that he’s doing a lot more shot fakes and getting into the lane and he’s developing nicely. He’s really coming around, and I still think he’s one of the better freshmen in the league.”
Mikic has also found ways to contribute in ways beyond scoring points. The forward grabbed a career-high 10 rebounds against Fordham Wednesday, a team-high for the game. He’s also one of five GW players with 10 or more steals this season.
“Well, mostly for rebounds, is just [associate head] coach [Roland] Houston challenging me a lot,” Mikic explained. “They [the coaches] have been ever since I came here. He’s been talking to me about trying to get as many rebounds as I can, and it just happened tonight.”
As for his goals for his freshman sharp shooter, Hobbs said the formula would be simple.
“Keep playing, keep playing,” Hobbs said. “Keep getting better – that’s it.”