PHOTO | Margarita Lopez
Number 12 on the Arkansas Tech Golden Suns women’s basketball roster is Marija Bakic. If you looked her up, you wouldn’t be able to find out much about her. Her player biography is completely blank, aside from her hometown, Danilovgrad, Montenegro.
“That’s not my hometown,” said Bakic. “After I finished school elementary, before my freshman year of high school, I moved to Italy and lived there for two and a half years. That’s the town I went to school at; it’s about 20 minutes from my hometown.”
Bakic is a double major in political science and international studies with a minor in Spanish.
“I’m looking into working for the United Nations or the international justice court system or like at an embassy,” said Bakic. She plans to get her master’s degree in student advising.
Bakic arrived in Arkansas to start her junior season with the Golden Suns after transferring from Casper College, a junior college in Wyoming. As an international student, she has a few words of advice for those who are beginning college in America.
“The America I knew was from movies and shows,” said Bakic. “I went to Wyoming, and it was very conservative and definitely was culture shock.”
Bakic said the most important thing is to follow your gut.
“Know the difference between not feeling comfortable and not feeling welcome because those are two different things. Being uncomfortable is fine because you’ve got to step out of your comfort zone, but if you feel like you don’t belong, that’s a totally different thing.”
Growing up, Bakic participated in karate, earning her black belt at the age of 12. She competed and won two national karate competitions at the ages of 11 and 12. However, Bakic comes from a family of basketball players. And began playing the sport herself when she was 12.
“Basketball was never a hobby for me,” said Bakic. “It was always going to be my career in some way or another.”
“My whole family basically played basketball professionally, my brother still plays,” said Bakic. “It was kind of a you know, let’s try this, since everyone does it.”
Bakic said she’s always been passionate about basketball, and when she was offered to join the Italian national team people started to take her seriously.
“I always had a lot of confidence. People would look at me and say ‘oh that’s his niece,’ or ‘that’s his sister,’ because of my whole family, but I really proved myself throughout the years and I just said ‘why could I not do this?’”
Bakic’s family ties in basketball have been a motivating factor for perfecting her game. “As much as the last name on my back is a pride, it’s a pressure,” said Bakic.
When asked if playing professionally was something she was interested in, the answer was straight forward.
“If you had asked me a year ago, I would’ve said yes. Right now, I’m really looking to settle down and get a job and graduate.”
Bakic played semi-pro basketball for the Italian national team from ages 15-18.
“I know how that life works. I’ve travelled on jet planes to games, I’ve lived in hotels and restaurants, so I’m really not looking to go back to that.” Bakic said that experience was enough for her.
“I’ve missed so much of my life because of basketball, I just want to settle down for a while,” said Bakic. She even pointed out that with her majors, it will be easy for her to find a job that allows her to stay in the sport even if she isn’t playing.
Bakic said her biggest inspiration, on the court and off, is an aunt on her mother’s side. “She had an amazing basketball career. She actually retired when she was 41,” said Bakic. “After that, she graduated college at 44, and now she actually works for the national team federation.”
This week, the Golden Suns are headed to Shawnee, Oklahoma, to face the Southern Nazarene University Storm in the first round of the Great American Conference Championship. Bakic doesn’t really have any personal goals for the tournament. In fact, she would rather be there to support her teammates when they need her.
“I prefer having 7 assists than 7 points. I’ve proved myself throughout my career, and as a junior I find myself in the middle of just playing hard and showing the freshman what they need to know.”
To follow the Golden Suns through out their tournament play, visit www.greatamericanconference.com/sports/wbball.