Thursday, March 25, 1999

War hits close to home


OSU player is Yugoslavian

The Associated Press

        COLUMBUS — Boban Savovic's thoughts this week are cluttered with basketballs and bombs.

        While the Ohio State freshman from Serbia is busy preparing for Saturday's Final Four matchup with Connecticut in St.Petersburg, Fla., his heart and mind are also thousands of miles away in war-torn Yugoslavia.

        Savovic grew up in Montenegro, a province just north of Albania and west of Kosovo on the Adriatic Sea. His parents, Nikola and Olivera, live in the city of Herceg-Novi, within 100 miles of the most intense fighting between Serbians and ethnic Albanians.

        NATO bombings began Wednesday in Kosovo.

        “There is no fighting in the cities now. It is all in the mountains. But it is war, so they are in danger,” Savovic said.

        Savovic, 19, said he speaks to his parents by telephone twice a week, but he has not seen them in more than 18 months.

        “My family, they try to come here for a year, but they won't let them come,” Savovic said of the Yugoslavian government. “I don't know why. They just refuse them every time they go to the embassy.”

        Savovic is saddened by the fact his parents haven't seen him play since he immigrated to the United States.

        He had hoped his parents would be able to see the Final Four game on television.

        “I talk to them, but they say they won't (see it),” he said. “It won't be shown. I really don't know the reason.”

        A student visa brought Savovic to New Jersey when he was 17. As an accomplished basketball player, his only choices in Yugoslavia were to sign with a professional team that would own his rights for seven years or to enter the military.

        Buckeyes coach Jim O'Brien brought him to Columbus. At 6-foot-4, 230 pounds, he has the ability to shoot from outside, rebound and handle the ball.

        “Boban is every bit as bright a basketball player as you'll ever see,” O'Brien said.

        Point guard Scoonie Penn said Savovic has talked to teammates about the devastation in Yugoslavia but remains upbeat. He said it won't affect Savovic's play Saturday.

        “He talks about it sometimes,” Penn said. “He talks about how they're at war, and how his friends may die. Boban is a kid who's been through a lot. Boban is a very mature freshman in terms of life experiences.”

        Savovic just hopes for peace.

        “My country has been at war for the last 10 years, and I don't know why. Who knows why?” he said.

       



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