The many college basketball recruiting analysts across the country linked the Dayton Flyers to a number of transfers in the days after the 2022-23 season ended, and there were numerous incoming freshmen in the 2023 class UD targeted over the last couple of years.
No one mentioned the name Vasilije Erceg, a 19-year-old, 6-foot-10 forward from Novi Sad, Serbia, until Friday when he committed to Dayton. Erceg himself hadn’t talked to Dayton coaches until earlier in the week.
“It was a matter of three or four days since everything started with Dayton,” Erceg said. “It really was a instant thing when I when I heard about Dayton. I got to talk with the coaches, and I guess you could say it was spontaneous.”
Brandon Goble, the co-owner of VerbalCommits.com and someone who know Erceg’s game described the commitment on Twitter as a “monster get”
Dayton still has at least four scholarships to work with on the 2023-24 roster after losing Mustapha Amzil, R.J. Blakney and Richard Amaefule to the transfer portal this week. It had one potential transfer, 6-9 center Payton Sparks, of Ball State, on campus this weekend, according to a source.
Erceg responded to a message from the Dayton Daily News on Instagram one minute after receiving it at 9:30 p.m. in Serbia. He then talked about how he came to pick Dayton and his basketball journey.
Erceg has never been to the United States, much less to Dayton. He plans to arrive on campus in mid-May. He hasn’t met the coaches in person but talked to head coach Anthony Grant, recruiting coordinator and special assistant to the head coach Andy Farrell and others on a Zoom call early last week.
How did he decide to commit to Dayton so fast?
“The first thing that comes to mind is the the coaches’ emphasis on team spirit and the family atmosphere,” Erceg said. “That’s a big thing for me because I feel like every every success on the court has to start start off it. That’s just kind of my life philosophy, and I’ve gotten to learn a lot about the school just reading about them, watching videos and stuff like that. It’s a place that looks really warm and welcoming.”
Erceg replaces another 6-10 forward who can shoot on the roster, Amzil, who entered the transfer portal on Tuesday after three seasons with the Flyers.
According to stats on the U-19 ABA League Championship, Erceg averaged 17 points and 8 rebounds while making 5 of 10 3-pointers. Erceg played for KK Vojvodina in his hometown of Novi Sad. By not stepping up to the professional team, he can still play college basketball in the United States.
“I was supposed to sign for the senior team,” he said, “but luckily I realized on time that I would collapse my eligibility, so that didn’t happen.”
Erceg said he’s an all-around player who can shoot the 3 but doesn’t neglect the other side of the floor.
“Like I said to the coaches when we were on the call, I take pride in my defense first,” he said. “That’s kind of my trademark. So 100% on every play.”
Erceg is still learning about Dayton but knows the name Obi Toppin and heard from the coaches about Dayton’s more recent big men, DaRon Holmes II and Toumani Camara, both Atlantic 10 Conference first-team selections.
“When you hear those names coming from that program, you want to get your own name on that list,” he said. “As I said to the coaches, the only goal I have in mind is the NBA, so it’s a very attractive place to go.”
The addition of Erceg adds to the international history UD has built during Grant’s tenure. The last two seasons, Dayton has had players from five foreign countries. Erceg will be Dayton’s first player from Serbia, though the program has a bit of history there. Former Flyer Scoochie Smith played in the capital, Belgrade, which is 60 miles southeast of Erceg’s hometown. Novi Sad and Belgrade are both on the Danube River.
Erceg grew up playing soccer. He was born in Serbia but moved with his family to Australia when he was 8 and lived there for 9½ years before returning to Serbia in 2021. He also spent time in Greece. He didn’t start playing basketball until 2019. His size played a part in him switching sports.
“My dad was a basketball player in his day, so he was always kind of nudging me towards it,” Erceg said.
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