Who was that mystery man?
He resembled Marshall University’s Goran Miladinovic. He was the same size as the Thundering Herd’s 7-foot, 235-pound sophomore center. He even wore the same No. 50 jersey.
He sure looked like Miladinovic.
But he certainly didn’t play like the Montenegro native performed in his previous 43 games in a Marshall uniform.
Not at all.
The Miladinovic who scored 10 points and grabbed eight rebounds in only 13 minutes of playing time in Marshall’s 87-67 victory at Old Dominion Saturday night played like a much, much different performer.
So where did this Goran Version 2.0 come from?
“Um, I don’t know,” said Miladinovic. “Maybe I found myself at Old Dominion.”
If so, it was a find an archeologist would claim. Miladinovic was so much more aggressive and physical … why, he even posted up with bent knees and called for the ball.
That’s why Miladinovic finished with 10 points on 5-of-10 shooting and eight rebounds in only 13 minutes. It was by far the best performance of his young career.
The question is: Did Miladinovic also realize he was playing differently than before?
“I mean, it doesn’t seem that way to me,” said Miladinovic. “But I guess since [Old Dominion’s] centers are really high-energy centers, I was trying to match their energy. I guess that’s what motivated me even more to play like that.”
Whatever the motivation, MU veteran coach Danny D’Antoni just hopes Miladinovic’s last performance was merely a preview of things to come.
“I thought the whole game he missed some chippies,” said D’Antoni. “But I don’t judge him on his shot-making ability, I judge him on his energy and how high he can keep his energy levels up in order to play in a game. In this game, he seemed much more assertive.
“I almost got tickled at him getting a technical [foul] trying to do a chin-up [on the rim]. But he went in and threw a pretty tough shoulder-turn on their center. He was active.”
More active and, yes, more physical than the 20-year-old had ever demonstrated.
“You know what?” said D’Antoni. “It’s really his decision. This isn’t a coaching decision. This is his decision that he can play at this level and keep the energy level. He needs to keep this energy level at a certain height.
“Then he becomes ... you know, a lot of people like they did with [former Marshall post player Ajdin] Penava. Fill up the chow wagon, you’re going to be eating a lot of words.
“So he showed you a little bit of that this entire game. But finishing the plays in the second half, he looked more impressive.”
Indeed, he did.
And yes, Miladinovic saw that when he watched the game film.
“Yeah, I did,” he said. “I mean, I don’t know how to say this. It’s not like I don’t feel like I can’t do that. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I’ve been told it’s all mental. And I guess it really is. I don’t know.
“I feel like I’m playing like that, but I guess when I watch the film later it’s actually not like that, so I just need to be more consistent in playing hard like I did the last game.”
The concept Miladinovic needs to embrace is now he has proven he’s capable of playing at this level.
That’s the quintessential point.
Miladinovic has done it once and he is indeed capable of doing it again.