A position-by-position preview of the 2012-13 basketball Mocs begins with a look at the UTC centers. Coming up ...
Wednesday: Power forwards
Thursday: Small forwards
Friday: Shooting guards
Saturday: Point guards
Sunday: Coaches and staff
Drazen Zlovaric sacrificed seeing his blood relatives to help his basketball brothers.
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga center spent the entire summer in the Scenic City instead of flying home to Serbia, where he could have hugged his parents, hung out with relatives and conversed in Serbian.
Zlovaric sheepishly admitted that he took one week off to rest his 6-foot-9, 220-pound body. But he spent the rest of the hot and humid months in the weightroom or the Chattem Practice Facility preparing for his senior season under coach John Shulman.
"I sat down with Coach after last season and we talked about [2005 Southern Conference tournament MVP] Mindaugas Katelynas, and Coach compares me to him," Zlovaric said. "Coach told me he didn't have a good junior year, and we came to agreement that I should stay here.
"After last season, I wanted to make sure on my part that I did anything possible to get better. It's hard not to go back home after one year, so it will be two years before I see them."
Much of the anticipation of the upcoming season surrounds five freshmen. But success this season will come from the inside, beginning with Zlovaric.
He is one of the Mocs' captains and their leading returning scorer after averaging 10.2 points last year, and was the leading rebounder on the 11-21 squad with an average of 6.4 per game.
"I'm expecting an awful lot out of him," Shulman said. "He sacrificed an awful lot for our team. He said, 'Imagine not seeing Max [Shulman's son] for two years,' and that's how much he's put into it."
Sophomore Jared Bryant (6-7, 240) will be first post off the bench. He played in 29 games and started once. He averaged 3.2 points and 2.7 rebounds as a freshman.
"I feel like I've improved my game so much over the summer and this season," said Bryant, who will be squeezing tennis balls most of the upcoming days in order to improve his hand strength. "I've grown up, matured and got stronger and smarter. I can now shoot mid-range, and my free throws are much better, and I'm starting to read defenders better."
Junior Sam Watson (6-7, 245) redshirted last year and underwent surgery at Baylor University to correct a shoulder issue that involved removing a rib. He started 11 games as a walk-on during his freshman year and was rewarded with a scholarship this summer.
"Sam had a great scrimmage the other day, and he's reliable and responsible," Shulman said. "It's like having an offensive lineman knowing he's going to take care of the blind side."
Contact David Uchiyama at email@example.com or 423-757-6484. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/UchiyamaCTFP.