Star-Bulletin Sports


Middle blocker Dejan Miladinovic has excelled on the court as well as in the classroom, majoring in international business and finance.

Master in the middle

The Hawaii blocker is also
a star in the classroom

By Grace Wen

Dejan Miladinovic has mastered a lot.

Whether it's blocking an opponent or figuring out a tricky business model, the Warriors' middle blocker doesn't look puzzled too often.

The 6-foot-7 middle blocker didn't become the Hawaii career leader in block assists (632) and total blocks (676) last year without being able to break down the opposing team's offense.

"He doesn't footwork necessarily the way I like," Hawaii coach Mike Wilton said. "But he was so experienced coming in I never really tried to change it because he was very efficient. There's different ways to do things and his way works with him.

"He's very good at reading. He's an intelligent guy. If we get him the information he needs in terms of probabilities, that just makes it all the better. The more we get to scout somebody, the better it is."

In the classroom, Miladinovic finished his undergraduate studies with a 3.8 GPA while double-majoring in international business and finance, and minoring in economics. He is pursuing his MBA this semester.

But watch him as he explains his frustrations at trying to book a plane ticket home to Krajlevo, Serbia, and it's obvious that he hasn't mastered everything.

It wasn't so much trying to coordinate connecting flights in three cities as it was the 90 minutes he spent on the phone getting it all straightened out.

It was inefficient and that's something the senior is not. In nearly every match this season, Miladinovic has worn a let's-get-this-done scowl on his face.

"He's been a model of consistency all the years he's played," Wilton said. "He's just so businesslike. He's a great kid, excellent kid. He's just a great success story.

"Anytime you have a good player, they're going to be a role model just by their actions. Guys who play the same position are naturally going to watch."

The Warriors will miss his court presence and his NCAA-leading 1.84 blocks per game. The senior has roofed too many balls to recall all of them, but it's a moment he treasures. He follows one of his blocks with a double fist pump to himself and a howl.

"I don't (remember) because every block, the moment is for itself," Miladinovic said. "I think that's the greatest. In volleyball, when you block that's a point right there. I enjoy every block."

And to think Miladinovic could have enjoyed stuffing the Warriors instead of helping them. When he decided that he wanted to study and play volleyball after high school, Miladinovic had to search for a university outside of Serbia.

"You cannot combine the two back home," Miladinovic said. "My parents wanted me to go to USC because they wanted a real good academic background. But all the friends of mine just wanted me to go to Hawaii.

"That's why it's been a lifetime opportunity. Not that many people can say they've been to Hawaii and I've been here for five years. It's basically like an extended vacation. I can say that I live here. I'm really glad that I've been here."

Miladinovic said that he's worried less and pretty much cruised since the war at home ended and his family is safer. He even succeeded in convincing his older brother Nenad to do his Ph.D. in electrical engineering at UH.

Miladinovic has a year and a half left of business school, but he may take a break after this semester.

He is tired of hitting the books and wants to travel. He'd like to visit the southern hemisphere and see Africa, Australia or South America.

"I've never had time," Miladinovic said. "The money is a factor, too, but it's mostly the time. So maybe when I'm done playing here, I'll have the whole summer off.

"I need to take a break this summer. My body needs to recuperate a little bit. I'm definitely getting old. It's taking a toll playing two, four matches a week. I will need summer to reconsider what I'm going to do next."

Miladinovic hasn't ruled out the possibility of playing professionally. He'd like to play in Spain and possibly "learn a Latin language."

"I try to plan. I don't like unpleasant surprises or anything like that," Miladinovic said. "I usually have a backup plan. I just have options now. I don't really have Plan A, Plan B.

"I've been lucky before. I don't (believe in it), but I was. How can you not be lucky to come over here? Not that I'm relying on luck again."

And he shouldn't have to with everything he's mastered.

UH Athletics

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