By the time Dusan Ristic left Serbia after New Year’s, the 7-footer was so impressed with Arizona that he didn’t even want to talk to any other schools.
Then he visited campus last weekend with his parents and it was obvious where he should go. Ristic formally announced Saturday he would play for the UA next season, after he played his final home game for Sunrise Christian Academy of Wichita, Kan., on Saturday.
“I think they have amazing facilities for basketball and everything I need to become a better player,” Ristic said. “It was amazing, really. I had some photos and videos of Arizona, but when I was in Tucson, I saw amazing basketball facilities, a beautiful city and everything was very nice.”
Although Ristic actually played club ball with former UA forward Ivan Radenovic, he said it was UA associate head coach Joe Pasternack who first interested him in the idea of coming to play at Arizona. He said Radenovic did speak highly of the Wildcats, however.
One reason Radenovic arrived at UA from Serbia a decade ago was to avoid signing a long-term pro deal at home, leaving him freer to pursue other options, but Ristic said he could have signed a deal for only five years.
Instead, though, he opted to leave because he said he felt he would develop better in the U.S.
“My former coach said I needed to decide if I wanted to play pro basketball in Europe or go to the United States,” Ristic said. “I decided to go to the States and play college basketball because I think I can improve my skills the best way.”
Ristic said Arizona also has a playing style that is similar to his former Serbian team, allowing him the potential to pick and roll.
Ristic is 7 feet and about 240 pounds, Sunrise Academy coach Kyle Lindsted said, with good hands and feet.
“He’s going to have to work on becoming more physical, stronger and more athletic, but he’s got a great feel and touch for the ball,” Lindsted said. “He’s got some things to work on, but he’s got a lot of skills.
“He can play away from the basket, but he’s actually real skilled on the block, and offensively he’s really good. He’s just got to get more explosive, but that’s me being real picky.”
Ristic was projected as a first-round NBA pick in 2015 according to Draft Express. He was dropped from that projection last week because, Draft Express president Jonathan Givony said, Ristic is likely to spend more than one year in college.
“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that,” Givony said. “He’s only 18 years old.”
Ristic said he didn’t have a timetable for how long he wanted to play college ball.
“I just want to improve my game,” he said.
Ristic gives the Wildcats a four-man class so far for 2014, joining guard Stanley Johnson, forward Craig Victor and juco guard Kadeem Allen. The Wildcats are two over their scholarship limit for 2014 but are expected to lose at least two players early to pro ball this spring.