For two New Mexico State men’s basketball players, summer was not part of the offseason but a continuation of practicing, traveling and playing in front of excited fans. It meant doing all that and more while competing in international tournaments for their native countries.
Over the summer months, Daniel Mullings and Matej Buovac gained playing experience they expect to put to good use for the Aggies.
Mullings, a Canadian from Toronto, is a junior guard studying sociology at NM State. Buovac, who hails from Zagreb, Croatia, is a sophomore forward, who is majoring in international business.
Mullings played on the Canadian Development Men’s National Team, and the team traveled to China for an exhibition tour in preparation for the World University Games in Kazan, Russia. It was his first opportunity to play internationally.
“It was a great summer for me,” Mullings says. “I was able to play and travel to different countries and meet new people in those countries.”
Buovac is an old hand at international play, with previous experience in the 18 and under European Championships and 16 and under European Championships. This summer, he played for his national team in the Sportland Under 20 European Division A Championships in Tallinn, Estonia.
“This was my third summer playing internationally for my national team, so there weren’t any surprises for me,” Buovac says. “It was about getting more experience and trying to get as far as I could with my team.”
Both players agree that international play is different than the college game.
“I think here it’s a little bit faster and more physical,” Buovac said. “In Europe, it’s based more on tactics and mental preparation. But it’s all the same; basketball is two baskets and 10 guys playing at each other.”
“My perspective is different from his, because he is used to playing internationally,” Mullings adds. “We are used to not playing as physical as they do internationally, because you can’t get away with a lot in the NCAA. Referees here are quick to call a lot of fouls, whereas, overseas they let you play through a little bit of the contact. So it’s not that much different, but it is something I had to get used to, and the team had to get used to.”
Mullings helped the Canadians to the bronze medal game and 6-2 overall record. He started in seven games and averaged 10.5 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. He also contributed 16 assists and 13 steals, while shooting 52.5 percent from the field.
Buovac averaged 9.2 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game. He shot 39.1 percent from the 3-point line (18-of-46). Buovac and the Croatian team posted a 3-6 overall record.
Both Mullings and Buovac aspire to continue competing internationally with the ultimate goal of representing their countries in the 2016 Olympics.
“My name is on the radar now for Canadian basketball so going forward and for the future, hopefully, if I have continued success, I will have the chance to represent them again,” Mullings says. “Obviously, I would like to play in the Olympics. That would be a big goal and honor for me.”
“It is always a special joy for me to play for my country,” Buovac says. “The Olympics would be on the top of the list.”
With a summer consumed with basketball, the duo hopes to convert their additional experience into success for the Aggies in the upcoming 2013-14 season.
“It was a lot of basketball, which will help me during my sophomore year here,” Buovac says. “My goal was to get better in all aspects of the game, and I hope I can translate that now to college basketball.”
“Playing internationally will help me this season definitely as far as me viewing the game from a mental perspective,” Mullings says. “I learned a lot of things from the coaches I was able to play under especially Jay Triano, who has been involved in the NBA and Canada basketball. He showed me a lot of things and a lot of the tricks he uses in the NBA.”
In the 2012-13 season, Mullings and Buovac helped the Aggies to a WAC Tournament Championship en route to the 20th NCAA Tournament appearance in school history.
Mullings was NM State’s leading scorer with 13.8 points per game, and he posted team-high marks with 91 assists and 79 steals. Additionally, he earned second team All-WAC, WAC All-Defensive and WAC All-Tournament team honors. Buovac played in 12 games in his first season in the Crimson and White.
He hopes his second college basketball season goes as well as his experience playing for Croatia. “It was a 10 out of 10,” Buovac says of his summer. “I really had fun. I got better. I saw my family. I saw my friends. I played for my country, and you can’t get better than that.”