By Fatima Halloum
When Dejan Vasiljevic ruptured his achilles tendon while playing for the Sydney Kings in the National Basketball League in 2021, it could have been the injury that ended his career.
Playing in his first season for the Kings, Vasiljevic was making an impact back in his home country having returned from college in America.
“I was having a great season…and just tearing the achilles while making the same move I made pretty much my whole life, that kind of set me back a little,” he said.
Vasiljevic, who was raised in the Wyndham, credits his “great support system”, his parents, sister and a few close friends, for helping him maintain a positive mindset while he recuperated.
“I’ve seen too many professional athletes come back even better from certain types of injuries,” he said.
“So for me, it was just about embracing a very serious injury and making sure it never happens again.”
He returned to the court during the 2021-22 season and played a key role as his helped the Kings claim the NBL title, beating the Tasmania JackJumpers in the grand final series.
Having regained his confidence on the the court, Vasiljevic will this month showcase his skills in Las Vegas, playing for the Phoenix Suns in the NBA Summer League after being robbed of the opportunity on multiple occasions.
“When I came out of college in 2020, obviously COVID kind of disrupted that and last year I had my torn achilles,” he said of not playing in the Summer League before.
“I finally get the chance to go over and show scouts what I can do and just play my game.”
An NBA contract is what Vasiljevic is fighting for, but the 25-year-old says he isn’t choosy when it comes to achieving his basketball dream.
“Only 400 people get to play in the NBA, so you gotta fight for every spot and every chance you get, I wouldn’t even mind what team as long as I get the chance to be able to play,” he said.
Amidst the pressure from roaring fans and eagle-eyed coaches, Vasiljevic says he’s “kind of used to” the heat that comes with being a sportsman.
“I think when you’re a professional athlete there’s always pressure to perform and win games,” he said.
“It’s just another game and an opportunity for me to take the next step in my journey.”
If he fails to score an NBA slot, Vasiljevic is happy to come back to Australia, continue playing for the Sydney Kings and keep trying to prove his potential. Vasiljevic recently signed a three-year contract to remain at the Kings.
“I look forward to seeing what the next 10 to 15 years for me looks like,” he said.
For now, Vasiljevic will continue to live by his motto and enjoy life day by day, not think too far into the future and be in the present.