Nikola Jovic had the Miami Heat locker room abuzz after Thursday night’s 109-80 exhibition victory over the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center, and for more than the first-round pick out of Serbia closing with 10 rebounds and five assists.
Instead, it was the reaction to what coach Erik Spoelstra had revealed moments earlier about the skilled 6-foot-10 19-year-old.
“He’s extremely unique,” Spoelstra said, before turning his attention to Friday night’s exhibition against the Memphis Grizzlies at FedExForum. “And he’s so young. To put it in perspective, he’s still waiting to do his final exam to graduate from high school, and doing that over Zoom.”
That essentially was the reaction from teammates, once Spoelstra’s revelation circulated.
Backup center Dewayne Dedmon was taken aback, with the 33-year-old big man incredulous about a teammate young enough to have yet to complete high school.
Jovic: “I was supposed to finish it this summer.”
Dedmon: “Supposed to?”
Jovic: “I’m finishing.”
Dedmon: “So you not even graduated high school?”
Jovic: “I’m finishing it right now.”
Dedmon: “And you in the NBA?”
Dedmon: “You know you can’t go from high school to the pros?”
Jovic: “You can do it from Europe.”
With that, head shaking, Dedmon headed for the team bus, leaving his Serbian teammate to explain.
“They were doing it when I was doing the draft workouts,” he said of his high-school finals while he was working in Miami ahead of the June draft, “so I didn’t have time, especially because of the time difference.”
There will, Jovic said, be a diploma.
“It’s not that hard,” he said of his lone remaining test. “I need to take it. I don’t have time to take it right now.”
But he has reason to make sure it is completed sooner rather than later.
“My mom,” he said, “she wants me to finish school.”
While the NBA draft rule is written with high school in mind, it actually requires a player to be at least 19 in his draft year. Jovic was born June 9, 2003.
“As soon as I get some time, I’ll do it,” he said, having been in Miami since August preparing for his inaugural NBA season after playing professionally in Europe, “as soon as I get in contact with my teachers and stuff. Like I said, the time difference.”
And there will be more.
“I”m really glad I’m finishing it now,” he said. “I’m looking forward to doing something else after this, some college or something.”
All of which made his comments about his first NBA road game all the more fascinating.
“In high school, I used to go home and watch some of those guys on TV or on YouTube,” he said, “and to play against them is different.”
As in this year in high school.
To Spoelstra, it is a whole new world with the lithe 205-pound No. 27 pick.
“We’ve had a lot of different developmental projects over the years,” he said. “He’s a little bit of a unique one. We haven’t had a European so young. But his skill set is unique. Because of his size, he’s really just starting his weight lifting program with us for the last six weeks. So we won’t even see the benefit of that until next summer.
“But his ability to handle, to shoot, to put the ball on the floor, he’s a really good passer. That’s probably, at this point, his best skill. And he’s developing all the rest of it.”