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USC basketball: Danilo Dragovic impressed his high school coach

August 24, 2011 |  2:30 pm

USC Danilo Dragovic, the newest member of the USC men's basketball team, didn't play a single game for North Hollywood Harvard-Westlake because of some eligibility issues following his move from Serbia. 

But from what Wolverines Coach Greg Hilliard saw in practice, the 6-foot-5 combo guard was impressive.

"He was by far our best outside shooter with the most range," Hilliard said by phone Wednesday. "He could handle with either hand and finish with big dunks at the rim." 

How impressive is Dragovic is a shooter? 

To answer that, Hilliard relayed this story.

Hilliard's practices include a drill in which players have to make five shots from eight different spots on the floor in less than four minutes. Well, Dragovic made all 40 shots and then he moved into what they call "plus time," where he tried to make as many shots as he could before his time ran out. He made 25 more, which tied the drill's all-time record set by forward Renaldo Woolridge, who plays at Tennessee. 

"I've seen some good shooters but he can really shoot," Hilliard said. 

Hilliard said Dragovic also has a good work ethic. He'd come to the gym every day before school starts at 6 or 7 a.m. And he'd be there late that night. 

"Coming from [Serbia], it's not like our kids," Hilliard said. "He really was committed to being the best player he could be, hoping he could maybe reach the NBA someday."

But in Serbia, offense tends to be much more of an emphasis than defense, and Hilliard said his North Hollywood team reminded Dragovic of that often.

"That was our constant joke," he said. "We could get him really ticked off and he could play really great defense because he was really athletic."

Dragovic did run track at Harvard-Westlake and Hilliard said he was one of their best runners.

"He can run all day," he added. 

Still, there was a question about how he'd perform in games.

"His decision-making is one area we never got to see, under pressure what he would do," Hilliard said. "Potential-wise and skill-wise and work ethic, he had that, big time."

Because Dragovic had little game experience, Hilliard said many college coaches weren't interested.

"I think if he had played he would have had a choice of many Pac-12 schools," Hilliard said.

UCLA may have had a connection, with Nikola Dragovic being Dragovic's older brother, but USC also had a connection in former USC forward and recent NBA first-round draft pick Nikola Vucevic, who is Dragovic's cousin.

"The USC kid really helped with the coaches, telling them a lot about Danilo and how good he was in the youth program over there [in Serbia] and they got very interested."

RELATED:

USC basketball: Trojans add Danilo Dragovic as a walk-on

-- Baxter Holmes

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