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Bulked up Nikola Jovanovic impresses in China

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Kory Mortensen/Utah Athletics

SAN FRANCISCO – It’s not easy being a freshman forward in the Pac-12 basketball landscape. You’re still growing into your body, and you have to go up against seniors who are grown men.

USC’s Nikola Jovanovic was one such newbie last year, leading all Pac-12 frosh in field goal percentage. But with 7-2 center Omar Oraby no longer clogging up the Trojan middle, he knew he had to bulk up.

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And he did. With 25 more pounds of muscle on his frame gained over the last year, Jovanovic took his talents to China and flourished with the Pac-12 All-Star team. He led the team in scoring at 11 points per game as the Pac-12ers went 3-0 against Chinese universities and pro teams, and he achieved that success by backin’ that thang up.

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“I was able to show my post moves. Going forward in the season, I knew I was going to be the tallest guy on my team,” Jovanovic said Thursday at 2014-15 Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Media Day. “I was trying to be better in the post and also be a more consistent shooter. I think I proved it well.”

It helps when you have Jovanovic's work ethic. USC coach Andy Enfield and staff put the post through an offseason program to help build up his weight to 230 points and improve his skill level, and the results showed overseas.

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“Out of all the players I’ve coached, he’s in an elite group of the right attitude and hardest working players. He deserves a lot of credit,” Enfield said. “He is now able to hold his position, finish in the lane, elevate, rebound. He has also worked on his perimeter moves.”

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