Suddenly, Gadzuric Making a Lot of Noise


Dan Gadzuric has the bite. Now, he just needs the bark to go along with it.

That’s what UCLA basketball players think when it comes to their 6-foot-11 junior center. They want him to scream when he throws down a thunderous dunk, or howl with delight when he swats a shot into the third row.

“When teams find out he doesn’t yell, they just attack him,” guard Billy Knight said. “But when he yells--like in the Arizona game when he was dunking and yelling, getting the crowd hyped--that really makes him play better. A lot of guys will say to me, ‘Dang, that guy looks mean. He’s a beast. He’s like Godzilla.’ If he starts to yell and stuff, it just backs that up.”

But Gadzuric was born and raised in Holland, and he didn’t get serious about basketball until he was a teenager. He played at Governor Dummer Academy, a tiny preparatory school in Byfield, Mass. Before emigrating to the United States, he had finished technical school and was dead set on starting a career as an auto mechanic. So forgive him if he’s a little slow to pick up the finer points of excessive celebrations.


“I have a European style,” Gadzuric said. “I guess it takes people a while to get used to me.”

European style or not, Gadzuric looked like an All-American last Thursday when he matched his career highs with 22 points and 17 rebounds in an overtime victory over eighth-ranked Arizona. He played 41 minutes, even though his badly sprained ankle was supposed to relegate him to spectator status.

Although his left ankle remains sore and kept him out of practice this week, Gadzuric expects to play against Oregon tonight at Eugene, Ore. The Bruins, riding a five-game winning streak, are hoping to get some help from him--but, as always, they aren’t expecting much swagger.

“Dan’s a gentle giant,” assistant coach Michael Holton said. “He’s very mannerly, soft spoken, and even has the ability to be unassuming off the court. But on the court, when he exerts himself, clearly he’s one of the most dominant forces in the college game.”

It was another Bruin assistant coach, Jim Saia, who recognized Gadzuric’s potential when he saw tapes of him playing in a Governor Dummer game. Saia started the recruiting process, convinced Gadzuric to make a visit to campus, and the rest was a soft sell.

“He got to L.A. and just fell in love with the city,” Saia said. “He liked the [basketball] program, the school, the whole package. He wasn’t going to go to Kansas or Kentucky because they don’t have the city life that we have.”


And Gadzuric loves the city life. When he goes home to The Hague to visit his family, he’s a nightclub night owl and a disco devotee.

“Most basketball players listen to rap or hip-hop,” Knight said. “He likes a lot of techno music. I was like, ‘Man, what is this stuff?’ I started listening to it when I was driving around with him. I got used to it. Now, I’ve got some techno music of my own.”

Gadzuric’s ethnicity is just as eclectic. His father is from the West Indies, his mother Yugoslavian. They keep close tabs on his basketball career and took pains to prepare him for living abroad.

“You’ve got to be careful,” said Gadzuric, 23. “I came alone, and my parents are on the other side of the ocean. So you’ve got to be really careful and alert of people. I’m cautious. For me, it takes a lot of time to build trust in people. It’s a good defense mechanism for me.”

Those who know him well say he’s just as he appears--easygoing around the clock. This much is obvious: He’s not a typical big man. First of all, he’s the fastest guy on the team. He has the shoe size (13) of a much smaller man and is remarkably graceful for his size--thanks in part to his childhood love of soccer. More important, he thinks like a guard.

“Dan’s smooth,” point guard Earl Watson said. “He’s not a normal big man. He’s more perimeter-oriented. He’ll step out, he’ll get steals, he’ll finish the break. He has a lot of skills on the perimeter a lot of people don’t know about.”


Gadzuric also is wildly inconsistent. He looked like a scrub against North Carolina, then, a week later, made all eight of his shots with six double-fisted dunks at Purdue. His game is growing by the day.

“In terms of basketball skills, he’s had farther to come than anyone else in our program,” Coach Steve Lavin said. “Because he didn’t have the benefit of playing basketball in our country against top-notch competition.”

Said Holton: “He used to yell a lot when he first got here, but we weren’t sure how to take it. We weren’t sure if he was mad at himself, mad at us, or what.”

Why the uncertainty?

” He was yelling in Dutch.”