Meet the Freshmen: San Diego’s Vasilije Pusica


The Toreros are continuing two trends with the signing of Serbian Vasilije “Vasa” Pusica: adding international prospects to the roster while also continuing the legacy of quality guards that have carried the Toreros in recent years. Like many of the recruits Bill Grier has brought in for the upcoming season, Pusica is a high-upside combo guard who figures to be part of the crop of players who will carry the team after the departures of Johnny Dee and Chris Anderson at the end of this season.

Pusica respresents a lot to be excited about thanks to his wealth of experience playing for a top high school in America while also getting experience with the Serbian national team. Like Duda Sanadze before him, Pusica could hit the ground running thanks to his big game experience and make a quick impact.

At Sunrise Christian Academy

Vasilije Pusica is a native of Belgrade, Serbia, but he spent his high school career in America playing for Sunrise Christian Academy in Kansas. Like fellow USD recruit Khalil Bedart-Ghani, Pusica comes from one of the better high school programs in the country. He averaged 9.3 points and 5.0 rebounds for a Sunrise team that went 17-4 and finished ranked No. 14 in the country by USA Today. Pusica also played for the Serbian Junior National Team, considered one of the top European teams. Pusica helped lead Serbia to the 2013 Under-19 League gold medal, and averaged 7.2 points and 3.2 rebounds per game while playing in the Under-18 European Championships.

Pusica received interest from a number of major schools including Nebraska, Creighton, and Providence. He also received interest from up-and-coming West Coast Conference contender Portland. He ended up signing with the Toreros in late March around the time USD recruiting was in full swing.

Impact at San Diego

Similar to the other incoming freshman guards this year, Pusica is a versatile guard who will be tasked with trying to replace Johnny Dee and Chris Anderson. However, Pusica most closely resembles combo guard Duda Sanadze. After redshirting his first season at USD, Sanadze revitalized the Toreros this past season with his versatile play and aggressive style. His ability to shoot the outside jumper and drive to the hoop is something the Toreros lacked in past years, and the impact of having a player like that showed up in a big way. By bringing in multiple combo guards who have the finesse to run the point and shoot the outside shot while having the size to get rebounds and drive inside, the message has been clear the Grier wants to fill out his roster with more of these types of players.

After not having much depth in this area behind Sanadze, this is a wise move. Some will ask why there were not more frontcourt players in this recruiting class considering the strength of the current Toreros backcourt and the loss of impact big man Dennis Kramer, but the strategy is a smart one considering the limitations of being a smaller WCC school.

Quality big men are a rare and valuable commodity, and only the top programs can consistently recruit them. The conference as a whole does not boast many quality big men outside of the major powers of BYU, Gonzaga, and Saint Mary’s. Like most WCC schools, the Toreros make their impact with quality guards. They complement them with combo guards who can play the forward positions and quality big men where they can get them. The complementary positions are still solid with returning players like Sanadze, Brett Bailey, Simi Fajemisin, and Jito Kok. Plus the addition of Brandon Perry after transferring from Cal State Northridge and sitting out a year as a redshirt means the inside should be well taken care of after the loss of Dennis Kramer.

In reality, the backcourt is where the Toreros needed to add depth. Dee and Anderson are both done after this season, so combine that with a lack of combo guard depth behind Sanadze and the strategy was clearly to add players who can fill all the various roles the Torero guards play.

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As mentioned, Pusica will slide into more of a Sanadze role than trying to totally recreate the smooth shooting of Dee or the playmaking abilities of Anderson.

At 6’3”, Pusica has good size for a guard and shows it with decent rebound numbers. While his scoring numbers aren’t flashy in the single digits, the Toreros are likely projecting the future and see a guy who could split time as a guard and forward and develop into a double-double kind of player.

Grier has complemented him on his high basketball IQ, and he has the ability to play all the guard positions. While he might be best suited in the third guard role like Sanadze, it’s possible he could flash his skill for assists and end up stepping into an Anderson or Dee type of role if needed. Pusica has at times shown his dangerous ability to do it all and has triple-double potential with points, rebounds, and assists.

A lot of that will be left to this upcoming season as Pusica and the other young guards fight for time behind the current starters. Like Khalil Bedart-Ghani and Marcus Harris, it will be up to Pusica to decide what role he will acquire and how much playing time he gets this season. If he can impress and find a role, Pusica could see time as a rotation player right away.

If he needs time to develop he may have to wait until Anderson and Dee depart and hope to make an impact starting in the 2015-16 season. Either way with so many options thanks to this versatile recruiting class, the Toreros backcourt should be in good hands for years to come. And if Pusica can show the same polish and aggressiveness that Sanadze developed from good national team experience, he could be making an impact very soon for the Toreros.