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Nikovic picks Queens College

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Enees Nikovic’s greatest strengths on a basketball court are his soft hands and quick feet to go along with a 6-foot-7 frame. He’s quite the decision maker, too.

The Park Slope, Brooklyn, native’s decision to transfer from Murrow to Midwood in order to get one season of varsity basketball couldn’t have worked out any better. He helped the Hornets win their first boys’ basketball championship of any kind since 1968 and Saturday night he verbally committed to Division II Queens College.

“A lot of people didn’t think I would get this far,” said Nikovic, 17, who plans to study medicine and averaged 15 points and 15 rebounds per game during the regular season. “To get this far and have a scholarship makes me that much more happy and that much more excited. I’m happy I saved my parents money — that was the main goal. I wanted to have a good education without putting my parents through any debt and basketball helped me do that.”

Nikovic chose Queens College over interest from NJIT, Dartmouth and C.W. Post, among others. Queens College Coach Kyrk Peponakis and Assistants Wayne Zweigbaum and Kirk Liddelow began recruiting Nikovic early in the season and never wavered in their pursuit.

“I like that they’re close, my parents can come watch me play. Queens College gives me an opportunity to play right away,” he said. “They told me if I work hard, there’s no reason I can’t start as a freshman. I like that they were at my first varsity game all the way to the state semifinals. That’s why I picked them.”

Midwood Coach Victor Gjecaj raved about how much Nikovic improved from November until April, from hardly being able to dunk to jamming flat-footed. He worked on a baby jumper, refining his footwork and shot-blocking ability. But the coach thinks his progression has just started, since he has such limited basketball experience.

“They’re really going to love him at Queens College because he’s just going to get better and better and better,” Gjecaj said. “If he was a few inches taller, he would definitely be playing Division I. He’s skilled and he’s got a high ceiling. He can dominate as a big man in that league.”

A year ago at this time, playing college basketball at any level wasn’t even on his mind. That changed when Nikovic made the scholastic team for the Empire State Games. He felt he was as good as all his teammates, but was lacking the proper coaching and game experience. He played AAU over the summer with the Long Island Lightning under Cardozo Assistant Bruno Cotumaccio, who told Nikovic he could be a scholarship player with a little work. It was at that point he opted to go to Midwood.

Nikovic was embraced with open arms — the talented big man was the missing piece — and he enjoyed a memorable season that just got better.

“It makes me feel great, like transferring was the right move,” he said. “I feel like as a team we accomplished a lot and everybody individually accomplished what they wanted — Bryan [Smith] got his scholarship, I got mine and I know a few guys are looking to play basketball after high school. I’m happy for everybody.”

Updated 10:56 am, October 12, 2011
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