Sasha Stefanovic will do something in the coming days that he’s wanted to do his entire life.
The 2017 Crown Point graduate will play for the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Summer League, which starts in Las Vegas on Thursday.
“It’s been my dream since I was little to put on an NBA uniform,” he said. “Even though it’s the summer league, it’s still a tremendous honor and something I’ve really been working toward.”
His deal with the Spurs was announced after he went undrafted on June 23. But Stefanovic, who wrapped up his college career at Purdue earlier this year, was aware of both circumstances earlier in the day.
“That afternoon, my agents told me about some options, and we committed to a spot before the draft happened,” he said. “I’d assumed I was going to be an undrafted guy, so I figured it was better to have something in place before all of the craziness of people trying to get spots.”
Stefanovic was training in Miami but arrived in San Antonio on June 26 for the start of a brief training camp before the Spurs’ summer league team departs for Las Vegas. Among the people Stefanovic has met since heading to Texas is Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, who was born in East Chicago and graduated from Merrillville in 1966.
Stefanovic said those shared Northwest Indiana roots came up during their brief conversation.
“I introduced myself, and then I mentioned we were kind of a town away from each other,” Stefanovic said. “It was really cool to meet him. He was very kind and welcoming.”
Stefanovic said he hopes to find a professional league for next season, regardless of where it is.
“I’ve been working on different parts of my game, trying to broaden it from not being just a standstill shooter,” he said. “I’m always working on my shot, whether that’s coming off screens or whatever it may be — the different types of action I’ll see at the professional level. I’m just trying to be better across the board.”
Stefanovic has been down a similar road before. He started off as a redshirt freshman at Purdue before working his way up the depth chart to start all 37 games in his senior season.
“Whatever team I eventually play for, I’ll be at the bottom of the totem pole,” he said. “So I’m working on the things that’ll get me more playing time.”
When Stefanovic plays in those summer league games in Las Vegas, he’ll have at least one familiar face in the crowd: Crown Point coach Clint Swan. Calling it “pure dumb luck,” Swan said he and his wife, Kim, planned a trip to Las Vegas that overlaps with the summer league schedule.
The same thing happened seven years ago, when the Swans planned a trip there while Stefanovic and Grant Gelon — a 2016 Crown Point graduate who played for Indiana and Bethel in his college career — were playing in an AAU tournament.
“I promise I’m not the one who scheduled the trips,” Swan said with a laugh. “But we’re excited to be out there and see him play.”
When Swan attends those games, he knows he’ll see a much different player than the one who graduated from Crown Point five years ago.
“I didn’t think he could get his shot off much quicker than he did in high school,” Swan said. “But he does it even quicker now. There’s more polish to his game.”
After the summer league concludes, Stefanovic’s road is still to be determined. The only specific thing on his schedule is a return to Crown Point to host the Sasha Stefanovic Shooting School on July 27 and 28.
There are multiple leagues in the U.S. where Stefanovic could play, or he could follow in the footsteps of his father, Lou, who was drafted by the Seattle SuperSonics in 1985 and played professionally in Europe.
Stefanovic said he has signed with agencies in the U.S. and Europe to keep every possible option available. Through his family ties, Stefanovic also could represent Serbia in international competition.
“I’m closing no doors to opportunities,” he said. “Just seeing what happens and moving forward from there.”
Dave Melton is a freelance reporter for the Post-Tribune.