Vucevic has come a long way since he first met DeRozan at USC

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Detroit Pistons forward Saddiq Bey (41) runs into the defense of Chicago Bulls center Nikola Vucevic (9) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021, in Detroit.

    Detroit Pistons forward Saddiq Bey (41) runs into the defense of Chicago Bulls center Nikola Vucevic (9) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021, in Detroit. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 10/20/2021 7:26 PM

DETROIT -- Before Wednesday's season opener, Nikola Vucevic reflected on his college reunion with DeMar DeRozan. The two were freshmen teammates at USC way back in 2008-09.

"It's funny, but when I got to USC, I didn't speak much English and I was very shy," Vucevic said. "So it's funny, DeMar would say, 'When you got to USC, you wouldn't say anything. Now you're talking.' So it's interesting to see how we both kind of grew as people and players. It's just funny to reflect on how we were then and how we are now."

 

Vucevic said one problem back then was he took his final year of high school in the United States, but didn't learn English as much as he should.

"What happened was, there was a lot of guys from France and they all spoke French," he said. "Since I speak French, we spoke French a lot. I knew English, but not the way I should have. And it was just for a year. So (USC) was a whole new environment for me."

These days, an accent is barely noticeable when Vucevic speaks. He was born in Switzerland and spent 10 years in Belgium growing up, but always went home to Montenegro in the summers. His dad was a professional basketball player who played for teams in Belgium and Switzerland.

"When we got to USC, he was a big star, projected to be top 10 pick and I was just pretty much happy to be there at first, trying to find my way," Vucevic said.

"He has three kids now, he's an older guy. Same for anybody, you hope 10 years later, you grew as a person. Obviously he's more mature and you see the experience he's been through and everything that he knows. As a player, he's added so much to his game. In some ways, still the same guy -- humble, fun to be around, pleasant guy, likes to hang out and have fun."

Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

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