Welcome to Interview #56.
I am pleased to share with you the wisdom of NCAA Women’s Basketball Coach of Georgian Court University, Jasmina Perazic.
Coach Jasmina Perazic has had incredible success on the hardwood as both a coach and a player.
Enjoy reading this wonderful interview with someone who has been inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, played a year in the WNBA, an Olympic medal, European Championships MVP, appeared in a final four, had her college jersey retired and whose very fibers pursue excellence for herself and her team.
What are some ways that recruits can get you to take an interest in them?
Introductory personalized email hopefully not written by a parent. It should include prospective student athlete’s academic information and game schedule. When I go out to watch games, I love to see players who play with a lot of energy and enthusiasm. I always notice players who run back on defense. Defensive mind set is so rare. I love to see players who know how to make their teammates better. Passing is almost impossible to teach.
What are a few of the most common mistakes that prospective-student athletes make in the college recruiting process?
I have noticed that players want to be on teams, make teams, be offered scholarships by teams, but they are not as interested in making teams better, being impact players on teams. I would love to hear a player say: “coach I can make your team better.” Instead we always hear from coaches and student athletes: “I can play on this or that team” or “I/she can play on your level.” That could be the worst thing for me to hear.
What is our level? Whatever that maybe no coach wants the status quo. We want to get better. And the key to getting better is not just trying to find better athletes or better players, but finding student athletes with a better mind set. Student athletes with the solid work ethic. Student athletes with “never give up” attitude. Student athletes that will be open to learning.
Just about anyone can play somewhere, but who can make an impact on a particular team? Who can bring positive energy and great work ethic when things are not going as well as planned? Who can stay positive and continue to work even if they are not getting playing time? Those are the athletes that help create exceptional programs. Those are the athletes that can have a positive impact on any team on any level.
Should prospective athletes bring up scholarships with coaches or wait on the coach to initiate that discussion?
I personally like student athletes and parents who are straight forward. I like honesty. The topic of money should not be taboo. Education is not cheap. I definitely wouldn’t mind if they bring up the financial topic first. I usually try to bring it up right away so that I am not wasting anyone’s time. I would never want to string someone along. I want them to have all the facts so that they can make the best decision possible for their daughter and for their family.
For an NCAA DII school, how and when are scholarships offered? How much time do athletes typically have to respond?
We usually finalize our recruiting during the early signing period, but each year may be different. There will be different recruiting needs each year. Things also can change during the year and some scholarship money could become available late. I don’t plan on ever putting pressure on someone to sign. I believe that just like student athletes want to be wanted, we also want student athletes who want to be here.
There are some amazing athletes out there, but there is so much more to building a team than just picking the best players. Nothing can replace great synergy that a team can have when a group of people are there for each other. Spring signings for the sport of basketball are not very likely to happen at the DI level. They are somewhat likely at the DII level.
How do you use social media when recruiting? What is your advice to recruits about social media?
I don’t specifically use social media for recruiting purposes. I do use social media to promote our school, our team and to send positive messages to anyone who might be interested in learning and improving.
Social media provides a great platform for spreading and for gathering information. It should be used for positive things only.
I don’t go out of my way to check on anyone. I have an extremely positive way of looking at things. I never look for negatives but it always amazes me how easily and how quickly negative information spreads. If there is one person anywhere in the World that you wouldn’t want to see something you posted on Social Media, you shouldn’t post it at all.
What are some things that would keep you from recruiting a player?
Here are my top 15:
1. Looking over/listening/paying attention to a parent or anyone else in the stands/sidelines
2. Showing frustration during games
3. Giving up
4. Arguing with referees
5. Not being encouraging toward teammates
6. Making fun or taking unnecessary advantage of weaker players on the opposing team/bad sportsmanship
7. Checking the phone during the conversation with our coaching staff on an official/unofficial visit
8. Parents instead of student athlete taking over the conversation during an official/unofficial visit
9. Not knowing anything about our school or our team
10. Not responding promptly to text messages or emails
11. No eye contact
12. Weak hand shake
13. Inappropriate postings on social media
14. Negative talk/blame/excuses
15. Cones and ladders workout video
You played and coached in the NCAA Division 1 and are now coaching at the Division II school. When you were hired at Georgian Court, you said, “The connection I felt to Georgian Court University was immediate. I fully understand the university’s aspirations, values and concerns.” Can you talk to recruits and their families about the importance of a ‘good fit’ verses the division a particular school is in?
I believe that no matter what, it is up to the student athlete to do their best to adjust. I know it is not easy, but it is the best way. So many look for an easy way out. Every school has its positives and its negatives. Small schools can provide student athletes with better academic support and fewer distractions.
As far as athletics are concerned everyone needs to do a little homework. How does the team play? What kind of defense? What kind of offense? Do they run a lot of sets? Do they seem to take quick shots? A lot of 3’s? What type of player is playing in my position? What year is that player? Does the coach believe in playing the freshmen? What long term goals does the coach have for me and for the team/program? What will my role be in all of that? Answers to these questions can give an incoming student athlete a much better idea of what to expect. Players get better in practices, but the opportunity to play in games also adds to their overall progress, sense of value and their confidence.
Now I want to turn the interview a bit more personal. It is not often prospective college athletes and their parents have the opportunity to hear the wisdom of a coach who has had such a storied playing and coaching career.
You were an All-American at the University of Maryland, leading the Terrapins to three ACC Championships and a final four appearance.
What was your own recruiting experience like that ended up in you playing for the University of Maryland?
I am really not the best example of how to recruit, be recruited or how to choose a school. It was long ago before the internet. My high school coach kept insisting that I go to the United States for college. He sent my game film to few schools and one of them was University of Maryland. Coach Chris Weller (Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame Coach) decided to offer me a scholarship.
My decision to accept that scholarship had very little to do with basketball or even academics and much more to do with the location. I couldn’t wait to see the White House and the capital of the U.S, Washington DC. I couldn’t “Google” University of Maryland then. Sorry “Yahoo” and “Bing” and such. I didn’t know anything about the school system in the US so when I arrived I definitely experienced a cultural shock.
I never shied away from challenges, I actually kept looking for them. Achieving anything in an easy sort of way never interested me or satisfied me. I knew that University of Maryland was in the Championship game the year prior and since I thought I was the best player in the Universe, I thought why not go to Maryland, help them win the Championship and show off a little. A few weeks after my arrival I realized that what I was thinking and what the actual reality was, were two opposite things. Completely opposite.
Not only was I not the best player in the US, I was not even the best player on my team. Far from best. I guess that was when I also realized that there are many really, really good players in the Universe with most of them being in the US. Since there are always many positives in every negative, not being the best player, not getting much playing time, not playing well when I got playing time were all positive things. They are the things that motivated me and challenged me. Those are the things that made me decide to come back for my sophomore year. The best decision I ever made.
I wanted to come back and prove how great I could be. I wanted to become the player that impacts the game in a positive way. I wanted to be the best that I was capable of becoming. I wanted to be the best teammate. The truth is, you are not a great player until you make other players around you better.
When I tell others how much I would work on my game, I think no one believes me. During the school year I would put at least 2 to 3 additional hours after practices almost every day. During the summer I spent regularly 6 to 8 hours a day every day working on my skills, running, lifting, playing 1 on 1, 2 on 2, 3 on 3, 4 on 4 and 5 on 5 but always playing with a purpose. Always learning. Always adding some component to my game. Always getting better and always being in shape.
How did you change as a person between when you entered Maryland as a freshmen and when you graduated as an All-American and team leader?
The change that happened and the change that was crucial to all my success was so simple. It is amazing how some of the best things in life are the simplest things. My college coach, Chris Weller was instrumental in shaping my life. She opened my mind to learning. That was it.
Amazing things can happen to all of us if we would just open our mind to new things, to new ideas, to new thoughts, to new ways. That doesn’t mean that you have to abandon everything that you know. You don’t abandon old ways of doing things if they are still efficient and work well. You just constantly look for ways of improving yourself and helping others improve and continue to learn. Open mind is key to making this World a better place.
When they raised your #4 jersey to the rafters, retiring your jersey and even now years later, what stands out in your memories of playing college basketball?
What stands out the most is the team atmosphere that we had. We were so there for each other. It was a beautiful feeling that I never had a chance to experience again playing on other teams. I am definitely doing my best to create that kind of team atmosphere on teams that I coach.
During and after college, 1980-1992 you wore the National team jersey for Yugoslavia. In 1997 you spent a year in the WNBA with the New York Liberty. How did college athletics prepare you for this level of competition?
I had a great college coach. One of the best teachers of the game. Coach Chris Weller made all my success in basketball possible. She taught me everything about basketball including the most important fundamentals of spacing, timing and angles.
She also taught me and she taught all of us who played for her the most important life lessons. We learned accountability, respect, perseverance, hard work, responsibility, understanding, compassion, empathy, tolerance and patience. I was ready for any challenge in life. As I mentioned earlier, anyone can achieve great things in life as long as they open their mind to learning. Never stop trying to learn and get better!
What do you say to young ladies who aspire to play at the highest levels of their sport?
Don’t compare yourself to anyone else but learn from everyone. Learn from their successes and from their failures just like you learn from yours. Be unique. Be confident. Believe in yourself. Get better every day. Attack your weaknesses, but always work on your strengths. And you must stay motivated.
Many go through moments of great inspiration and great motivation, but that only lasts a few days, a few weeks, a few months or a few years. The process to greatness is never ending, but the process itself is rewarding and so much fun. If you have a purpose to everything that you do you will stay on course. You have to know your why. You must stay consistent with your effort. Don’t be outworked. Be passionate. Be exceptional with everything that you can control! Do it because you love it!
Can you give us examples of how meeting the demands of collegiate athletics has prepared your former players in their lives after college?
First thing that everyone has to learn and get better at, after the initial shock of nothing being as you imagined it, is time management. Time management in college is actually easy and yet difficult. It is difficult because for the first time much of it is up to you. You have more freedom than ever before.
You have great intellectual potential. You are smart but not wise which makes all of the freshmen and sophomores prone to debacles in the beginning. This is why all young people will do better with the right guidance and the right mentoring.
And then we have each game as an example, as microcosm of actual life.
In just a few minutes of each game you can feel the highs of success and the lows of failures. If for a moment you ponder too long on each you lose many opportunities. There is always the next play. You always keep going.
When you have a purpose to things you do you will have motivation to do it. When you have motivation, you will work hard. When you don’t allow anyone to outwork you, you will have confidence. When you do things with confidence you will find success. With
the right guidance you learn that through perseverance and through believing in yourself everything is possible. This is how all of our players will find success after college.
What is the nature of your relationships with your current players?
I am a little bit of a mother, a little bit of a friend and little bit of Bobby Knight to them. They know that I care about them and they know that I know. Which is a start because I need them to know that they don’t know so that I can teach them. It is impossible to learn if you think that you already know. We have a great relationship, but that question would probably be better answered by one our players. Remember, I mentioned earlier that I always see positive in everything, so I think everything is always great. I do love our team.
How does the relationship change over their lives as they move onto careers and families of their own?
I will always be there for my players with advice, with support or to make them laugh. I think I am very funny and quite good as a comedian even though the players don’t always think so. What do they know? We can sort of become more like friends even though I think they brought out motherly instincts in me that even my daughter can’t recognize. That is probably because I have such a great group of young women on this team. I want to help them realize all their dreams; reach all their potential; I want to further fuel their enthusiasm and passion for life.
Bonus Question: Is there anything important that you would like to share directly with high school athletes or basketball players in particular as they navigate the recruiting process?
Try to look at yourself first. What are the things you are looking for in college? Will you feel comfortable going far away from home? Would you feel comfortable staying very close to home? What majors are you interested in? How does your major fit in with playing your sport in college?
There are some very demanding majors and majors that are extremely time consuming. How will that fit with your athletic schedule? Nursing, engineering, pre-med, education majors come to mind. Know yourself as much as possible first and then find as much information about the school as possible.
Talk with students and talk with current and if possible former players.
Go where you will enjoy campus atmosphere; where you will be able to excel academically and where as a basketball player you are not only wanted, but very much needed.
Here is Coach Perazic’s Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame acceptance speech.
Next, take a look I want to be a Big Fish in a Big Pond
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As a Coach:
2005 – 2010 High School Coach Washington DC area
2009 WBCA National Coach of the Year
2010 Gazette Newspaper Coach of the Year
2010 Washington Catholic Athletic Conference Coach of the Year
2010 WCAC Champion with Elizabeth Seton High School
2010 – 2014 Assistant Coach/Recruiting Coordinator Monmouth University
2014 – Present Georgian Court University, Lakewood NJ NCAA Division II member of the Central Atlantic Athletic Conference (CACC)
Team has won the CACC Sportsmanship Award 2 years in a row
As a player:
University of Maryland 1979-1983
Retired jersey #4 in 1983
Yugoslavian Olympic Team 1980 (bronze medal), 1984, 1992 (did not participate due to UN sanctions)
World University Games 1983 (bronze), 1987 (gold)
European Championships 1983 (MVP), 1985, 1987 (Silver medal, Best Five of Europe)
Various European Teams
1997 NY Liberty, WNBA
2002 University of Maryland Hall of Fame
2014 Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame