Nick Rakocevic shows a maturity beyond his years. It shines through in his ability to stay positive during adversity.
After winning an Illinois state championship with Westchester St. Joseph’s last winter, the 6-foot-9, 200-pounder struggled through an injury-plagued AAU season. He watched as the no-sympathy scouts dropped him down recruiting rankings from a consistent place in the nation’s Top 100.
The bumpy road has fueled Rakocevic. Instead of hanging his head, he focused it on the future.
"I think, overall, I really didn’t have the spring or summer I expected to have. But it’s OK. I had some great experiences and I’m just excited that it’s over so now I can get better," he said.
The problems started in the spring when Rakocevic sprained his ankle. They escalated in June when a car accident left him with a minor concussion. He then suffered a second degree burn on his back in July.
"I was never really 100 percent the whole AAU season. I just never found a rhythm. But I know it’s all going to make me stronger fighting through these injuries," he said.
Rakocevic cut his list of prospective schools to 10 in late June. The group included Iowa, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Indiana, Creighton, UCLA, USC, Miami, Virginia and Texas.
"I’ll probably get it down to five or six in August or September then I will start making official visits," he said.
The Hawkeyes have held a long-time interest in Rakocevic having offered him a scholarship more than a year ago. That interest did not wane during his tough AAU campaign.
"I love Iowa. Coach (Fran) McCaffery and Coach (Sherman) Dillard were at almost every single game of mine in July. They are making me feel like a top priority and I love it," he said.
Rakocevic switched from the Nike EYBL to the Adidas circuit between AAU sessions. The Hawkeyes followed.
"They keep telling me how much they want to see me in a Hawkeye uniform and how happy they would be if they had an opportunity to coach me. Like I said, they were really making me feel like a top priority," he said.
Asked what Iowa’s chances were of making his next trimming of programs, Rakocevic exclaimed "Very good!"
And when you consider the things high on Rakocevic’s wish list, the Hawkeyes offer him what he wants.
"The relationship with the coaching staff is important to me. I also would like a chance to play right away," he said.
He likes the Iowa coaches and playing time will be available for bigs in the 2016 Class.
Rakocevic said he might unofficially visit some schools in August but does not have any trips set as of yet.