Few back in his home country of Croatia thought that the skilled big man would even be able to play at the Division II level, never mind start for a Top 25 team.
“There’s a lot of people in Croatia that told me I’m not good enough to even be on a roster anywhere,” Ante Brzovic revealed.
Brzovic’s goal was to play in the D-II ranks, and with the help of an agent back in Croatia, he landed at Southeastern Oklahoma State a year ago, where he averaged 17.8 points and 11.0 rebounds.
“There were a lot of nervous people in my family when I came to the United States,” Brzovic admitted. “I was nervous as well. I didn’t know how it was going to turn out.”
Not only was Brzovic’s talent questioned, but he also arrived having minimal familiarity with the English language.
The plan was to play two seasons at Southeastern Oklahoma State, but that changed with his instant success at the D-II level. Brzovic put his name in the transfer portal and received some interest from nearby Oklahoma, and mid-majors such as Montana State, Sam Houston and Stetson, but after a visit to Charleston in April — it was a wrap.
“Charleston made me feel like I was their first option. It was a no-brainer for me after I visited,” Brzovic said. “I felt something special about this place. Their presentation, they did a really good job of recruiting me. I felt like this is where I could see myself and where I could be a good fit. It was my first option from the beginning.”
Brzovic has given Pat Kelsey and Charleston a different look up front as a player who gives both size and skill. In a loss to North Carolina in the second game of the season, he went for 15 points and was 3-of-5 from deep. He went for 22 points and 12 boards in a huge overtime road win against CAA favorite Towson on Dec. 31.
“His sport IQ is through the roof, he’s so intelligent, has a great feel, and can really pass,” Kelsey said. “And everyone loves him in the locker room. And you can throw him the ball in the post and he can make a play.”
“Everything from now on is a bonus for me,” said Brzovic, who speaks terrific English after just two years in the country. “It’s a blessing playing D-I and having the season we’re having so far. I’m just enjoying every second of it.
“Not a lot of people saw me being here,” he added. “I know a lot of guys couldn’t even believe I could play at D-II.”