Filip Djukic is hoping to lift the Miles Macdonell Buckeyes varsity boys’ basketball team after a slow start to the season.
The Buckeyes, sitting at 3-3 in Kilcona Peguis Athletic Conference (KPAC) play after a 75-54 win over Murdoch MacKay Collegiate on Jan. 22, were glad to make it back to the break-even mark after starting the season 0-3. The team’s first three games came against Kildonan-East, Maples, and Mennonite Brethren, who have a combined 17-2 record so far this year, with Maples’ lone loss coming to Kildonan-East. Their three subsequent victories have come against teams that have combined for three victories all season.
If the Buckeyes are to make a run and push themselves into KPAC’s elite class, a lot of it will be on Djukic’s back. The 6-3 forward is Miles Mac’s premier scorer and rebounder — traits that helped him nab the Home Run Sports Urban High School Athlete of the Week honour on Jan. 14.
"It was a slow start, but right now, we’re playing really well. We’re getting our guys going," said Djukic, a Grade 12 student who serves as Miles Mac’s co-captain alongside Daniel Chuckrey.
Djukic, 17, missed the win over Murdoch MacKay with a concussion, but it was the team’s last game before examinations. Head coach Jeff Shaddock hoped to have him back in the lineup for the Buckeyes’ Feb. 3 matchup with River East, and noted Aaron Strempler has particularly stepped up in Djukic’s absence.
Djukic strives to be a strong attacker, attempting to create offence by charging to the rim, drawing fouls, and scoring easier points. Though he has a high-level skill set, Djukic prides himself on being one of Miles Mac’s vocal leaders as well.
"Intensity (is a big part of my game) — getting the guys going," he said. "(If you’re) getting everybody on the same page, then there shouldn’t be a problem."
Shaddock agreed, noting even with Djukic being sidelined, he’s the first to give a boost to teammates.
Djukic feels that the Buckeyes have what it takes to get back into the KPAC mix, and, he hopes, a chance to play for a provincial title.
"We’re not the strongest skill set team, but we are a team. We play hard together — the game isn’t about individuals, it’s about the team," he said.
Shaddock, meanwhile, appreciated the opportunity to face off with three strong squads — two of which have been in the Manitoba High Schools Athletic Association’s Top 10 all season.
"It lets our guys know where we need to improve. It lets us know where we are at the beginning of the season, and it’s a good gauge of where we want to be at the end," he said.