Mee-slav Bro-Zoy-Ah. After Nova Nation spend much of last year working on that pronunciation, a new turn of events means that Wildcat fans can give their tongues a break. The 6-4 native of Zagreb, Croatia announced this morning that he would seek a transfer to another university to finish his collegiate career.
Brzoja appeared in 17 games for Villanova last season and only earned a grand-total of 41 minutes. He came to America in 2011 and played one season of high school basketball at Traders Point Christian Academy and was initially committed to attend Northwestern University. Bill Carmody's program couldn't get Brzoja admitted to the elite private school in Chicago, however, due to some issues with his Croatian school records. When that disappointment landed, it seemed that former Villanova assistant Fred Hill pointed the guard in Jay Wright's direction.
"Mislav is a great teammate and outstanding student who was a big part of our team's success last year," stated Villanova head coach Jay Wright. "He is interested in pursuing a more prominent role with another program and we support his decision. We want what's best for Mislav."
As a freshman, he scored only 2 points, grabbed just 6 rebounds and had 4 assists in limited action. At the FIBA U19 World Championships in the Czech Republic, however, the guard started for his homeland and averaged 12.7 points per game -- second only to superstar Dario Saric on his team -- while playing 26.8 minutes per game. He connected on 40.9% of his attempts from deep and 52.2% overall. He averaged 6.6 rebounds and 2 assists per game as well.
He scored 22 points against a Spain team that ultimately won Group E, and helped bring Croatia out of the group phase and into the Final Eight of the tournament, where they finally fell 66-73 against silver-medalist Serbia.
The incongruity between his success as an international player versus his opportunities on the Main Line may have been a driving factor for Brzoja's decision. While the FIBA game is undeniably different from the American college game, it is arguably close enough that a skilled player should be able to translate better across that boundary.
Brzoja's initial interest from Northwestern may have been a better basketball-fit than Villanova. Carmody's Princeton-style offense would have created opportunities for Brzoja that he might not otherwise see in Jay Wright's 4-out style. There is no news yet on where Bzoja might land, but the Croatian sensation will likely follow the best offer of playing time out there.