It’s been a long road for Stefan Jankovic, and I’ve been there watching the bulk of it.
From the time that he made it to the states at Kiski Prep (along with the Bhullar brothers), I made the journey to the small private to school in Western Pennsylvania to see the three near 7-footers (Stef is 6-11) from north of the border.
Stops at Huntington Prep, Missouri and Hawaii rounded out his amateur basketball career. Following a junior season that earned him Big West Player of the Year honors as well as a trip to the NCAA Tourney, it was time to make a move.
Stef was 22 and with a diploma in hand, could have literally went to any school in the country. But his desire to continue to develop made leaving to the NBA the right move.
“I wanted to respect Hawaii for giving me a second chance and for everything they’ve done for me,” Jankovic said as to why he never considered a grad transfer. “I also felt that it was my time to enter the NBA Draft on a developmental side and that being a professional would be so much more productive for me than staying in college anywhere for another year. Just going up against all of these guys in the pre-draft process has gotten me so much better and I’m not exactly a young guy.”
Jankovic was incredibly appreciative of the opportunity given to him UH and it showed with his game. At Missouri, he was much skinnier and primarily used as a spot-up shooter.
At Hawaii, he was a playmaking power forward who created mismatches all over the court. The change of scenery proved to be beneficial for both Stafan and Hawaii, as seen by both the team’s success and his personal accolades.
“At Missouri, I was basically just a shooter,” he said. “At Hawaii, I was able to show my whole game. In high school, I wasn’t known as a guy who just shot the ball. I mean, I could shoot, but I wouldn’t even say that was a strong point of my game. Being away just kind of turned me back to the Kiski days and I was free. I was just out there hooping and enjoying the game.”
We saw the 22-year-old at the BDA Sports Pro Day in L.A. He showed no problem adjusting to the NBA three-point line with his fluid J and displayed a skill level that will make him a problem to guard for many power forwards at the next level.
The Canadian finished with an incredibly soft touch, showed how deadly he could be in the pick and pop game, and even showed his skill level on the block in front of scouts from all 30 NBA teams.
The main knock on Jankovic over the years has been his toughness, or lack thereof. This past season, he did a great job of disproving those notions, but the concerns are certainly still there.
That said, we are still looking at a skilled 6-11 forward with a Serbian passport. Why is the passport so important? Many teams in the second round have been drafting college guys and stashing them overseas in order to develop them or simply not take the cap hit.
Toss in the fact that he has plenty of experience locking up with former teammates who are in the League, and you see why he isn’t just your average college player.
Jankovic is willing to go overseas or do anything that it takes to make his dream of playing in the NBA a reality.
“Obviously, I’m going to fight and do whatever I have to do to make it to the League. I’m going to do whatever a team wants me to do, whether it be go to the D-League or overseas,” Jankovic said. “I’m playing one-on-one with Andrew Wiggins in the summer. He was the No. 1 pick in a pretty strong draft and Anthony Bennett was too. Just a couple of years ago, we were on the same team.”
Come next Thursday, Jankovic hopes that he’s going to be the next name on that list of players North of the border rocking an NBA uni.
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