ANDREW BOGUT INTERVIEW
By Katarina Tepesh
New York â€“ When Milwaukee Bucks played in Madison Square Garden on April 14 in front of the sellout crowd of 19,763, every Bucks player, including Andrew Bogut, was gently booed when the player introductions took place against the New York Knicks. That is basketball, New York style, where the Knicks are the center of the basketball universe and carry thousands of loyal New York followers. However, that the Knicks have been losing almost the entire season, and expectedly lost to the Bucks by the score of 97-80.
The game was thrilling and Andrew Bogut played one of his best games of the year, scoring 18 points. The next night, Bogut scored career-high 24 points and 12 rebounds against the Atlanta Hawks.
Bogut was born on 11/28/1984 in Melbourne, Australia to Croatian parents. Last year, the forward/center was the first overall pick in the NBA draft by Milwaukee Bucks. â€œThis is a dream come true for me,â€? said Bogut. â€œIâ€™ve worked extremely hard to get to this point and Iâ€™m honored to be a member of the Bucks. I look forward to a successful NBA career.â€?
His talent and imposing stature of 7-0 / 213 centimeters and 245 lbs, promises to help him achieve his goal. As a rookie, Bogut averages 9.4 points, 7.0 rebounds and 2.3 assists.
A starter for the 2004 Australian Olympic Team in Greece, Bogut was a star in Athens Olympics, where he averaged 14.8 points and 8.8 rebounds in five games. He was named Most Valuable Player of the 2003 FIBA Junior World Championships in Greece.
At age 20, Bogut was named the consensus National Player of the Year in 2004-05 out of the University of Utah. As a sophomore, he ranked 19th in the NCAA in scoring 20.4 ppg and 2nd in rebounding 12.2 RPG in 35 starts for the Utes. That year, he was named First Team All-American by the Associated Press.
K â€“What is your assessment of your game so far?
â€œMy rookie season has been up and down, inconsistent. Iâ€™m looking forward to improving. During off season I want to work on everything, improve jump shot. We have had one of the toughest schedules in the NBA. Constant traveling and being on the plane so much, even if it is first class, itâ€™s hard to get used to.â€?
K â€“ Do you feel a lot of pressure, especially now with the playoffs?
â€œKind of. There is no excuse. We got some key wins against some good teams, but we also struggled against some lower-ranked teams. We need to beat up on them when they come into our house.â€?
Andrew is excited about his future, while Australians and Croatians are happy, celebrating Bogutâ€™s talent, personality and work ethic. â€œMy Croatian parents have raised me strictly and disciplined me a lot. I love Croatian food, especially noklice which is semolina dumplings in soup. I hired a Croatian woman to cook for me when Iâ€™m in Milwaukee. I also like to listen to Croatian music. I will be in Croatia for a couple of weeks again this summer. Iâ€™ll spend some time probably in Zagreb, visiting my family and on the island of Brac.â€?
In Bogutâ€™s family, team work prevailed and it paid off. Andrewâ€™s success is even more impressive considering that his father, Miso, who is from Osijek, is not a coach or trainer. He ran an auto shop in Melbourne when Andrew was growing up, and the younger Bogut remembered some lean times for the family.
His mother Ankica is from Karlovac, now working as a volunteer in the community helping kids from Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina with the English language. â€œMy mom always helped my dad with business and my sister Michelle works as a secretary and studies real estate.â€?
Bogut has worked as a waiter in a Salt Lake City sports-themed restaurant to help pay his rent in college. He said he chose that line of work so he could better relate to the average American.
The first wave of Croatian migration to Australia was precipitated by the news of the discovery of gold in 1851. Andrewâ€™s parents left Croatia for Australia in the early 70â€™s.
Photos of his parents pride and joy and of grandmotherâ€™s Helen Jurisic beaming smile was widely circulated during Bogutâ€™s selection as No. 1 on July 1, 2005.
While his family connection to Croatia is close, Bogut prefers to stay clear of turbulent Croatian politics. â€œThe war is over; itâ€™s been over ten years. Itâ€™s tough obviously. Itâ€™s a war-torn country.â€?
Bogut said he wasnâ€™t even a fan of any Australian players when he was growing up playing basketball, rugby, soccer and tennis. One of his idols is late Drazen Petrovic. â€œWhat impressed me most about Drazen was his work ethic. He was always motivated to improve his game. I hope that I can be true to Drazenâ€™s example of work.â€? Bogut visited Petrovicâ€™s grave on first visit to Croatia in 2003.
Andrew was quoted on Miami center Shaquille Oâ€™Neal, â€œHeâ€™s going to be looked at like George Mikan; he is going to have a legacy that will carry on forever.â€? The quote came about during the 2005, when Shaq ended up paying for Mikanâ€™s funeral. Mikan was born in the United States to Croatian parents.
George Mikan was first superstar and the ABAâ€™s first commissioner. At six-foot-ten and 240 pounds, Mikan was a dominating force that altered the history of the game. â€œMikan was a fundamentalist,â€? adds Bogut.
Bogut admires other players of Croatian descent currently in the NBA, saying that Kasun from Orlando Magic, Planinic from New Jersey Nets and Giricek from Utah Jazz, â€œare all solid players.â€?
As for other Milwaukee Bucks players, Bogut said, â€œWe have some great guys on the team, great characters that make traveling much more fun. Iâ€™ve been hanging out with guys like Toni Kukoc and Jiri Welsch on the road. Thatâ€™s been my group of guys that I get together with and have lunch and dinner with before games. Theyâ€™re a lot of fun.â€?
In the beginning of the NBA season, Bogut said, â€œScoring isnâ€™t going to be my role too much this year, so Iâ€™m just trying to get the rebounds, steals, blocks and assists.â€? Since then Bogut has been dealing with critique. As a rookie he has been closely scrutinized, as the Leagueâ€™s first pick usually is.
â€œBogut has made a nice contribution to the Bucksâ€™ success, perhaps not of the level production that would be expected of a No. 1 overall draft pick,â€? said one critic.
Another stated, â€œNo one questions that Bogut is a good player with the potential to be great. But whether he is worth the No. 1 pick is a matter of debate.â€?
On the court, the Milwaukee Bucksâ€™ mission is to play hard and pursue victory. Off the court, the Bucks mission is to contribute to a better quality of life in Milwaukee and Wisconsin and to positively affect the lives of all people in this community.
During 2005, Bogut decided, â€œIâ€™m going to make a lot of money in my life and I donâ€™t need it all. If I can give back to people who have nothing, especially young people who might be stuck in crime or drugs, maybe putting a basketball in their hands will get them out of that.â€?
According to Bogutâ€™s agent, David Bauman from SFX Basketball, Bogut would probably earn $26 million over five years and $100 million during his career.
When asked about his charity Andrew Bogut 4 Foundation to benefit underprivileged youth in Australia, Milwaukee, Utah, and Croatia, Bogut said, â€œIâ€™m working on it trying to set it up. Itâ€™s kind of hard, Iâ€™m so busy. We will do camp sometimes next year in Croatia and Australia. I have other plans for the future. This summer, Iâ€™m so busy getting ready to play World Championship in Australia.â€?
Bogut has already donated $125,000 to University of Utah to buy new lockers. He also distributed gifts to kids in Milwaukee during Christmas 2005.
â€œFinancially, Iâ€™m taking care of my family and friends who were there when I needed them,â€? explains Bogut.
Andrew has played all 82 NBA games despite a broken nose suffered on November 23 against Philadelphia. He underwent surgery and had to wear a face mask which he hated and was planning on lighting it on fire. Later, once he took it off, he changed his mind. â€œI think the plan is to auction off the two masks and raise some money through my foundation for basketball camps.â€?
Besides basketball, Andrewâ€™s passion is to watch Seinfeld, a long-running TV sitcom, and the Sopranos, a drama series about a New Jersey mafia family. â€œI have a DVD player now watching movies to keep me amused and keep me sane when Iâ€™m on the airplane for so long.â€?
Fans can read Andrew Bogut blog at www.bucks.com