Former Hawaii basketball star Stefan Jankovic enters offseason striving for NBA dreams

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SPOKANE, WA – MARCH 20: Stefan Jankovic #33 of the Hawaii Warriors shoots against Robert Carter #4 of the Maryland Terrapins in the first half during the second round of the 2016 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena on March 20, 2016 in Spokane, Washington. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Earlier this week, it was reported that the NBA would resume its 2019-2020 season with games starting on July 31st with 22 of the league’s top teams in the standings heading to Orlando.

Around the same time, the league also announced that its developmental G League was done for the season. For former University of Hawaii basketball star Stefan Jankovic, that means his 2019-2020 season was done, too.

Jankovic joined the Capital City Go-Go, the G League affiliate of the Washington Wizards, in January. He averaged five points, 2.4 rebounds and 11.4 minutes played per game in 15 contests before the COVID-19 pandemic struck.

“They kind of gave us the heads-up when we left. It was kind of news that let’s say I knew earlier than most people. Obviously, especially for my team, I just got there, maybe a month and a half,” Jankovic told KHON2’s Alan Hoshida. “It’s tough I wasn’t able to finish the season out how I wanted. My season was actually done, I had a stress fracture in my foot. They found it in the last game that we had. I’m not gonna say it worked out because it didn’t for anyone but I had the injury so my season was already done.

“I’m was just happy to at least be able to come back and showcase and prove that I didn’t need any time to adapt, it was just minutes-wise. The games that I had, the numbers were good enough where I could play.”

The 2019-2020 season was Jankovic’s second season in the G League. In the 2016-2017 season, he had stints with the Erie Bayhawks and Sioux Falls Skyforce. Between his two G League seasons, he played for teams in Greece and his native Serbia.

Jankovic believes he was finding his niche before the season shut down and still sees an avenue to play in the NBA one day.

“You’re this close, especially being a role player and finding that role. That’s the whole thing because the majority of the G League guys are gonna be role players,” said Jankovic, who is 26. “But there’s nothing wrong with that and that’s what the NBA is looking for and you can only have one LeBron (James) on a team, you can only have one Paul George, one Kawhi. Finding that one team that you can win with, that likes you and then gives you that chance.”

Jankovic declared for the 2016 NBA Draft following a junior season at UH where he was the big West Player of the Year, averaging 15.6 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. He is the most recent player in program history to exceed 500 points in a season, scoring 516 points in his 33 games played during the 2015-2016 season.

But once he got to the professional ranks, such college accolades were commonplace among the best of the best.

“Every guy on my summer league team was the MVP or the Player of the Year on their respective teams and it’s not easy, I’ll be honest,” he said. “It’s not easy being the best player on your team and then being just another guy, because that’s what you are. And then you have to carve your role.”

As Jankovic officially enters another offseason, he’s itching to get back to work and make more progress towards his NBA dreams.

“We’re pro athletes and we’re freaks of nature and everyone says ‘Wow, you’re this tall guy and you move great.’ Yeah, but I’m just like any other human,” he said. “If I don’t do anything for 10 days, same thing will happen. My body’s just like anyone else’s. We need a month where we’re working out and getting back. We’re not robots. I can’t tomorrow go to a game and think I’m gonna play good. I can’t wait to be in the gym and start to work out.”

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