Nemanja Zarkovic is going home. Back to the place where he lived, played and grew up as a basketball player.
This Sunday, Fordham will leave for a week-long trip to Canada, where the Rams will play four games in five days against Concordia, Laval, McGill and Brookwood Elite.
Brookwood Elite is Zarkovic's former team. His former school, Montreal's College Jean-De-Brebeuf, is where the game will take place on Aug. 29. It will mark the end of what will be a special homecoming for Zarkovic, who was born in Serbia and migrated to Canada in 1998.
"It's exciting, going back to see my family and friends and going back to play at my high school," Zarkovic told Bleacher Report after Fordham's practice Tuesday night at the Rose Hill Gym.
While playing for Brookwood Elite last summer, Zarkovic averaged 20.5 points in four games against Division I college teams. This year, he returns to Canada as a Division I basketball player.
Without a doubt, the experience playing against NCAA teams and players helped Zarkovic get recruited. College coaches saw that he could play at that level.
"It's nice because I see all the hard work I put in paid off," Zarkovic said. "Last year it was the only way we could get exposure to the NCAA teams because we don't get coaches to come up north of the border to see us play. Once you play against NCAA teams, coaches can relate to that. That really helped my recruiting."
Zarkovic has fond memories of his time at Brookwood Elite. He played in the school's gym for four years, and lived four floors above the gym. Zarkovic said returning will be "kind of weird, but it will be fun."
"I was there all day and all night," he said. "That's where everything started for me. Everything I learned on the basketball floor was there with my coaches."
When someone mentions Canada, your first thought might be hockey, especially in a major city like Montreal, where the Canadiens play. But Zarkovic said basketball is a growing sport there.
"There's a lot of good basketball that's played in Canada," he said. "I know the reputation of Canadian basketball is getting much better. They've beaten some pretty good teams recently. NCAA teams [have gone] there and [lost]."
Canada, specifically Montreal, is where Zarkovic's career got going. New York City is where it will continue.
"I'm starting to know the guys," he said about spending the summer at Fordham. "I feel comfortable now organizing the team and getting the guys the ball where they want it.
"That's what I want to use these games in Canada for. Get comfortable with the guys and show them they can trust me and I can get them shots, [and that] we can win games together."
Zarkovic is heading back to Canada with specific things he'd like to see from his team.
"I expect us to move the ball a lot and not jam the offense," he said. "When I first got here, I was getting upset because the ball was just not moving. Now, it's been much better since we started practicing with the coaches.
"Just get a great foundation to start the season," he added about the trip. "It won't be perfect at all. We're a very young team and we're just starting to play together."
Zarkovic will see a lot of familiar faces in the stands next week. He'll also play against players from his old school who are now in the same position as he was a year ago. There's specific advice he'd give those guys, based on his own experiences.
"Just don't fear those teams," he said. "Everybody looks up to the NCAA. I remember a few years ago thinking there's no way I could make it there. I played NCAA teams two years ago and I was scared, I played terribly. And then the year after I was like, 'You have to believe in yourself and trust yourself.' If you're afraid to make mistakes, the worst thing that can happen is you won't get a scholarship. But if you don't try, you won't get it either."
Zarkovic got a scholarship. If you want one, you'd be wise to listen to his advice.
Quotations in this article were obtained firsthand.
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