Texas Tech forward Dejan Kravic possesses skills not many players his size are equipped with.
The 6-foot-11 junior provided a prime example during the first half of Tech’s 84-75 win against Jackson State on Monday.
Kravic caught the ball at the top of the key, darted to his right with a quick crossover dribble, absorbed contact by 250-pound Willie Readus, banked a soft runner in off the glass and drew a foul. An 80 percent free-throw shooter, Kravic sunk the freebie to complete the three-point play.
“He’s so versatile,” Tech coach Chris Walker said. “We’ve only seen a shell of what Dejan is, and I think he’s only going to get better.”
The next step in that progression for Kravic is using his long, athletic frame to go through the opposition as often as he goes around it. Kravic is second on the team in scoring at 13.5 points per game, but he knows the six rebounds he’s averaging aren’t enough.
With his combination of size and athleticism, Walker said Kravic should be a double-double threat each night.
“It’s not in his nature,” Walker said, “and he’s really trying to be more physical.”
Kravic played his first two years of college basketball in Canada much like a guard, running the ball up the floor, taking defenders off the dribble and even defending on the perimeter. Some of those skills can be attributed to Kravic not hitting a major growth spurt until ninth grade, giving him plenty of formative years to form deft ball-handling and an impressive shooting touch.
But while Tech is aiming to be a run-and-gun unit this season, there is no escaping the bruising, low-post battles that are a major part of the American college game.
For Kravic, that has meant altering the way he uses his body, as well as adding muscle to it.
“For me, I need to establish position,” said Kravic, who has packed on more than 20 pounds arriving in Lubbock last year and now weighs in at about 240. “That’s the biggest thing. I’m standing straight too much. If I can just get lower than my opponent, I can be more effective that way.”
There have been glimpses of strong interior play from the near 7-footer. Kravic blocked five shots against Jackson State, the second time this season he’s reached that total. It’s an element the Red Raiders lacked a season ago.
“I’ve got to use my length for something,” Kravic said of his shot-blocking prowess. “It’s something I take pride in.”
He wants to be able to take pride in his work on the glass, too, and it’s an area the Red Raiders will need him to improve as the season goes on in order to compete with the powerful front lines of the Big 12 Conference. Against Jackson State, Tech surrendered an eye-popping 23 offensive rebounds.
“We didn’t push enough under the basket,” Kravic said. “We’ve got to work on that. We’ve got to pursue our man, push him out and then just get the rebound.”
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