Earlier this summer, Arizona Wildcats freshman Filip Borovicanin got treated to lunch by Tucson royalty.
Former UA big man Dusan Ristic was in town and wanted to share a few tips to Arizona’s newest Serbian member.
“I think he helps me a lot,” Borovicanin said. “He prepared me for like how practices will be here and everything with (strength and conditioning coach) Chris Rounds.” Ristic also introduced Borovicanin to some of his Serbian buddies in Tucson.
Always an honor to welcome the winningest player in program history back to campus - @ristic_dusan!— Arizona Basketball (@ArizonaMBB) July 19, 2022
Great to have him catch up with current Wildcat, and fellow Serbian, Filip Borovicanin #BearDown | @KSSrbije pic.twitter.com/4TGgMBTbZT
The meetup with Ristic was one of the highlights of Borovicanin’s first few months in Tucson.
That the 18-year oldwould wind up 6,000 miles away from his hometown of Belgrade is a testament to Arizona’s recruiting efforts and Borovicanin’s belief that college is the best avenue for his basketball future.
Arizona identified Borovicanin on the recruiting trail in September 2021. Assistant Jack Murphy, the lead recruiter, would contacting him nearly every day.
At the time, Borovicanin was lighting up Serbia’s First Regional Basketball League for KK Beko. He averaged 20 points, 9 rebounds, and 4.4 assists, guiding the team to a championship.
Borovicanin’s recruitment picked up with Texas Tech, Georgia Tech and Xavier expressing interest, along with some Euroleague teams. Former Arizona coach Sean Miller was involved with recruiting Borovicanin to Xavier.
Borovicanin’s decision to choose Arizona came down to his trust with the coaching staff.
“Compared to Texas Tech, I had a really great relationship with Coach Tommy and Murph and I started believing them when I chose Arizona,” Borovicanin said.
Lloyd sold Borovicanin on playing a European style of basketball under a system that allows more time for development than back home.
“I wasn’t sure I would go to college,” Borovicanin said. “When I made the decision, I thought it was better for young players to play here in college and it’s easier than playing in Europe.”
Borovicanin acknowledges that the American game moves faster and is more athletic but credits the Serbian system for instilling high IQ in its players.
Serbia’s basketball pedigree is well known. The country has a long history of producing bigs, including former Arizona forward Ivan Radenovic. Serbia is currently undefeated at EuroBasket2022, led by back-to-back NBA MVP Nikola Jokic.
Though Borovicanin is 6-foot-8, he identifies as a guard rather than a big. Growing up he modeled himself after Steph Curry.
“I think I can fit great here because I can shoot, I can pass,” Borovicanin said. “I can play off the ball, on ball.”
Borovicanin’s range as a perimeter player is on display here in this video shared by ESPN’s Jonathan Givony.
Filip Borovicanin has committed to Arizona in the class of 2022, he told ESPN. The 6-8, 18-year old Serbian from KK Beko averaged 20 points, 9 rebounds, 4.4 assists in 27 minutes in the 1MRL, where his team won the championship. Big, skilled perimeter player with good feel. pic.twitter.com/d0XiFBJ7Aj— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) April 19, 2022
While Borovicanin’s potential is apparent, he recognizes that he’s one of the youngest players on the team and that it will take time adapting to the college game.
During his first couple practices, Borovicanin said he would try no-look passes until Lloyd told him to focus on playing simple and on two feet. Borovicanin is learning to playing more off the ball as well.
“In Serbia … it felt like everything around me I was playing with the ball and it’s just me playing pick and roll,” Borovicanin said. “Here it’s like everyone playing (with the ball). You’re sometimes off the ball, on the ball. It’s not that similar, but I’m trying to get used to it.”
Borovicanin is also getting used to life in Tucson.
He balances out his time watching Money Heist and Spiderman (he’s memorized almost every scene) and searching out Buffalo wings.
He’s still undecided on ranch or blue cheese, but that will come with time. So will his contributions in a Wildcats uniform.
“I don’t know which role Coach Tommy will give me this year,” Borovicanin said. “Whether it be supporting the team from the bench or playing in a game scoring baskets and assists, I’ll try to do my best to help the team win the games.”