There’s a saying that true change comes from within, and that’s exactly how Mocs senior Drazen Zlovaric has managed to turn things around in his final season at Chattanooga.
He talked out his troubles with everyone short of Dr. Jennifer Melfi, but the big man from Novi Sad, Serbia, didn’t find an answer until he had one of those heart-to-hearts with himself.
“There was 10 or 11 games left, and I just had a little talk with myself,” Zlovaric said. “I’ve got nothing to lose. It’s senior year, and for me to help the team, I just have to let go.”
That’s exactly what he’s done, and the results have shown up in his stat lines.
“It was a battle in my head,” he said. “ ‘I don’t want to mess up; I want to do everything perfect,’ and when you play that way it’s really hard to produce.”
The 6-9 center has averaged 14.0 points and 6.5 rebounds over the last four games, beginning with his 10-point, 10-rebound performance at Georgia Southern on Feb. 2.
Zlovaric scored 18 in last week’s 86-79 win over The Citadel—his most against a Division I opponent this season—then dropped 15 in Saturday’s loss to College of Charleston.
“I feel like I put way too much pressure on myself for senior year,” he said. “After my junior year I just wanted to do it all. I didn’t want to go home. I stayed, I worked out. I did all the right things, but there were zero results.”
Zlovaric somehow managed 13 points in Monday’s 62-59 overtime victory over Samford, which included the team’s only field goal in the decisive overtime period, banking in a hook shot with 4:01 left to put the Mocs on top 57-55.
“They zoned us the whole time and that makes it difficult for him,” UTC head coach John Shulman said. “He had a horrible start but he found a way; he found a way to score.”
Zlovaric, who finished with seven rebounds, brought down a team-high four offensive boards, and scored six of his points on second-chance opportunities.
“I can’t tell you we did a great job executing and threw him the ball,” Shulman said. “He did a great job getting to the offensive glass and getting some cheap buckets. I can’t draw that up as a coach.”
What makes Zlovaric’s performance even more impressive is that he did it all in just 27 minutes of action. He was on the court for just seven minutes in the first half, and sat on the bench with two fouls for the final 8:22 of the opening period.
“It was frustrating,” Zlovaric said. “Maybe I’m biased, but I feel like every time I foul somebody it’s kind of in between foul—not like all the way. Then I get a little frustrated and start talking in Serbian.”
He picked up his third and fourth fouls in the final four minutes of regulation, but was on the floor for the entire overtime period. That alone is evidence of Zlovaric’s progression in recent weeks.
“We would never have had Draz on the court in this type of game,” said Shulman. “We’d have Sam Watson out there or somebody else. (Zlovaric) did a great job.”
Michael Murphy covers UTC athletics for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelNooga.