Angel Rodriguez will be tough to replace at point guard next season, but the University of Miami on Wednesday got some help. The Hurricanes signed Dejan “DJ” Vasiljevic of Australia, a 6-2 combo guard who has been a standout for the Australian youth national teams.
The women’s team also signed an import — 6-1 guard/forward Sarah Mortensen of Denmark, who played her senior high school season at Long Island (New York) Lutheran.
Vasiljevic chose UM over Stanford, Louisville, Cal, Louisiana State and Washington State. He is expected to join the Hurricanes in mid-May, attend summer school and compete for playing time with returning guard Ja’Quan Newton, transfer Rashad Muhammad and freshman Bruce Brown.
“The reason I chose Miami was because it was the best fit for me in terms of basketball and academics,” Vasiljevic wrote the Herald in an e-mail. “Coach Larrañaga and his staff have done a great job over the years in player development but also winning games in the toughest conference, the ACC.”
He said he arrives on campus May 14 and enroll in summer school. “I can't wait to begin my new life as a hurricanes student athlete,” he wrote.
He averaged 13.3 points and 3.1 rebounds in the 2015 FIBA Under-19 World Championships last July.
“Understandably many will wonder why I passed on such a great opportunity to be involved with the Stanford program, but I felt that choosing Miami would provide me with a necessary balance in terms of my athletic and academic developments and allow me to reach my professional goals,” Vasiljevic told Fox Sports Australia when he orally committed to UM in January.
“Also being part of a team competing in ACC played its role. What stood out the most about Miami was their coaching staff and their clear vision about future directions. … An opportunity to work with the program closely aligned with professional basketball programs and work with professional players in the offseason was an added bonus.”
UM coach Jim Larranaga sees Vasiljevic -- of Serbian heritage, born in Calgary, Canada; raised in Melbourne, Australia -- as a player who can contribute as a freshman.
“DJ is a tough, hard-nosed defender with a unique set of offensive skills which allows him to fill up the basket from deep range,” Larranaga said. “He has a high basketball IQ and a great feel for the game. We like recruiting student-athletes who come from winning situations and DJ has proven himself to be a great competitor in championships on the international level.”
Mortensen was named Long Island Player of the Year after leading the Crusaders to a 19-5 record and the AA state title game. ProspectsNation.com ranks her as a four-star prospect and the No. 15 international player in the Class of ’16.
“She consistently, 100 percent of the time, battles,’’ UM coach Katie Meier said of her new signee. “She wins the little fights on the basketball court. She’ll win the box out. She’ll sneak by someone and get a backdoor cut. So, mentally, she’s always competing on little things. I think it was a huge need for us to bring in someone who can have that mental intensity.”
Mortensen has played in three international competitions for her country, most recently the 2015 U-18 European Championship Division B. She averaged 14 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.6 assists over five games.
“She is very, very smart and very crafty,” Meier said. “She looks real skinny, but she plays stronger than she looks. Then, she can take and hit any shot to win the game. She can take a trail three and she’ll get an and-one in the paint. Her shot chart is very versatile. So, she’s just perfect for our system. We’re really excited.”
Other newcomers to the 2016-17 team are transfers Shaneese Bailey (FAU) and Neydja Petithomme (Auburn), who becomes eligible after final exams in December 2016.