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Graduate student leads men’s basketball through playoff surge

From+left%2C+Bombers+sophomore+guard+Logan+Wendell+watches+as+his+teammate%2C+graduate+student+forward+Luka+Radovich%2C+protects+the+ball+from+Clarkson+sophomore+forward+Jack+Dalgety.
BRENDAN IANNUCCI
From left, Bombers’ sophomore guard Logan Wendell watches as his teammate, graduate student forward Luka Radovich, protects the ball from Clarkson sophomore forward Jack Dalgety.

As the Ithaca College men’s basketball season came to an end, graduate student forward Luka Radovich went on a tear through the Liberty League.

Radovich recorded six straight double-doubles — tallying double figures in two statistical categories — between Feb. 3 and 18 and led the team in scoring for six of the last eight games. 

Radovich has been a constant force for the Bombers this season. He has only dipped below double figures in points three times in 25 games and has recorded over 20 points 11 times. Radovich also leads the team in points, averaging 18.4 a game for the third-best mark in the Liberty League. In addition, he recorded the Liberty League’s highest single-game points total of the season, recording 40 points against Keystone College on Nov. 15. 

Radovich said the inspiration for his latest success was the realization that his time on the court is coming to an end after two seasons with the Bombers. Radovich transferred to the college in 2020 after spending his first two years at Fordham University.

“I’ve been playing basketball my entire life and it’s come down to this last couple of months,” Radovich said. “Coming into this season, I knew this was going to be my last time ever playing organized basketball, and I just wanted to make the most of it.”

Radovich shot 49% from the field and 36% from three during the regular season, while averaging 8.4 rebounds. He said he knows he has a special skill set and uses it to his advantage.

“Most of the [big men] in our league are just kind of strict big men … [that] won’t look to shoot,” Radovich said. “I can get at the top and either pump-fake and drive or just shoot if [my defender is] not there in time. … It’s knowing what advantage I can get against opponents.”

Junior guard Noah Downing said he has felt the impact of Radovich’s play on the team and said how much Radovich’s diverse skill set as a 6-feet-6-inches forward with efficient shooting allows his teammates more flexibility in their style of play.

“We complement each other really well, especially within the pick-and-roll,” Downing said. “Obviously, he can shoot and handle the ball, which is very unique for a guy that plays the five and being that size. It opens up the game for me because they’re so worried about him, [so] that opens up more shots for me. And also it makes my life so much easier, passing the ball and having him knock shots down.”

Radovich’s impact on the Bombers’ success can also be found on the defensive end. Head coach Waleed Farid said Radovich has taken a big step in his defensive game since last season and has grown in his mentality.

“His mindset in terms of, ‘I’m gonna play hard every single play,’ I think it’s obviously there,” Farid said. “I think he’s improved a lot defensively and when he’s playing defense and finishing possessions with a defensive rebound, that opens up our offense, which usually leads to opening up things for him on the offensive end. His buy-in and effort on the defensive end has helped him be able to allow our team to play faster, get more possessions and open up things for him to play his game.”

Farid said Radovich also affects the team with his lowkey, but effective, leadership. Assistant coach Matthew Smith said Radovich’s attitude on the court gives the team an advantage.

“His energy and enthusiasm really show the most,” Smith said. “He’s more of a leader by example. He’s always talking to people on the side, talking people up, talking up the first-years when they’re doing well. He’s always making sure that people are engaged and listening.”

That energy has also been noticed by Downing, who said the team and Radovich have been showing a lot of drive down the stretch.

“We see the opportunity we have and all of us are a lot more locked in,” Downing said. “I can see [Radovich] showing a little more emotion when he’s making a good play or teammates are making a good play, and I think everyone is really excited when something goes right for someone else.”

Radovich and the Bombers will be going into the Liberty League playoffs as the top seed in the tournament for the first time since 2011, looking to bring home another title to the college, with the semifinal game at 8 p.m. Feb. 24 in the Ben Light Gymnasium. With this being Radovich’s last opportunity to grab a conference title, he said he knows he will be playing for his dad, who introduced him to the game he loves.

“I’ve been playing basketball my entire life and I know how much it means to him,” Radovich said. “He’s coached me my whole life. The past couple of games I’ve been talking with him so much, he’s been telling me, ‘You’re killing it,’ I’ve been making him proud. Before every game, I tell myself I know who I’m doing this for and it’s always him.”

One of the things the Bombers take pride in is how close the team is to one another. Radovich said this year’s roster is the closest team he has ever been a part of and it would mean everything to win a title with them.

“The one team that I can say was as close as this one was my senior year high school team, and that’s because we went to a small school and we all grew up together,” Radovich said. “We played elementary school, middle school [and] high school all together, and to have that type of camaraderie and closeness with a group of guys that I’ve only known for two years — some of them only one — that is something really special and I can say that I really value that.

As the clock ticks down on his time as a Bomber, Radovich said he has been enjoying himself more on the court and is trying to savor the last games of his college career.

“I’ve been having a lot more fun at practice, trying to be more positive. It really hit me a couple games ago right before I started getting all the double-doubles. I only have like three or four weekends left of true basketball, so I really wanted to turn it up.”

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Billy Wood, Sports Editor
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