When you see him put his head down, charge full speed towards the basket and collide with an opposing player, you’re watching a part of the game that comes very naturally for Tom Vodanovich. It’s the other phases of the game that has been a continuing learning opportunity for the freshman forward.
The Wellington, New Zealand native started playing basketball his freshman year of high school after he was recruited to play following a rugby injury. A lifelong rugby player, Vodanovich plays with the intensity and physicality of someone who has spent their life on a rugby pitch. When asked about his physical nature, Vodanovich will laugh, “The coaches will say that I’m very passionately physical in the game.” So far, that physical attitude has served him well as he’s broken into the starting lineup, often times playing in the power forward position.
As he has continued to improve and grow as a player, Vodanovich has shown the versatility to play as an undersized power forward, but also a powerful small forward with three-point range. This versatility has allowed JMU to utilize him in multiple positions in different lineups. The development of his outside game also caught the eye of the New Zealand National team coaches. In 2012, Vodanovich joined the Junior Tall Blacks U-19 National team for a month long tour of Germany and China. He served as a captain on that team and learned valuable experiences. “We grew as a team and showed lots of improvement. We had great coaches and I learned to become more of an outside player instead of an inside player and that helped me get over here.”
When asked about the decision to come to the United States, Vodanovich talks about fellow countryman and current Oklahoma City Thunder Center, Steven Adams. “When you see him and a few other people started heading overseas it motivated a lot of people and saw it was possible if you work hard,” said Vodanovich.
While he still is adjusting, he continues to grow and improve as a player. “It’s a lot more physical over here. As freshman it’s a lot different from what we were playing against last year. Everyone is as big and tough as us. The speed it’s much quicker, everything is a lot faster.”
The ability of Vodanovich to continue to improve as a three-point shooter, while maintaining his presence as a physical defender and tough rebounder, will be crucial to the Dukes this season. When asked about the opportunity to come to JMU and play right away, Vodanovich is forward, “We love the opportunity to play. We have a lot of growing to do as a team and we have to work harder with our team being so young. We’re getting the opportunity to play and we have to prove that we have the right to be out there.”
It’s an opportunity that he will handle the only way he knows how, by charging full speed ahead.