Dusan Mahorcic was winding down in the N.C. State locker room Tuesday, lowering his personal RPMs after a revved up and productive game for the Wolfpack.
In 22 minutes against William & Mary, the 6-10 center had 12 points and nine rebounds, plus three assists and a blocked shot. The Pack won 85-64 at PNC Arena, pushing its record to 7-1.
Mahorcic sat back on a stool in front of his locker, his bearded face and dark eyes still showing some of the intensity of his play.
Asked how he would describe his basketball style, Mahorcic said, “Really tough.”
“I take that (center) position really personally,” he told the N&O. “It’s a position where you show dominance. You basically guard your own house, you know. I would say tough and I play good defense all the time and just try to win the game.”
Brought in by Wolfpack coach Kevin Keatts to provide some size and, yes, toughness in the post, Mahorcic seems more than willing to give it to him and help the Pack win games.
“I knew I was getting an energy guy,” Keatts said Tuesday. “He’s a hard-headed guy. He brings it every day. He’s the type of guy you cheer for. He’s going to get on the floor, he’s going to block a shot, he’s going to jump up and down. He’s tailor-made for what our program is about.”
He’s a well-traveled player. Since leaving his native Serbia in 2015, Mahorcic has played at Notre Dame College Prep in Niles, Ohio; then in college at Lewis College, Moberly Area Community College, Illinois State and Utah before coming to NCSU.
And it could have been Clemson instead of Utah. Could have, but wasn’t.
“I kind of didn’t have luck with academics in the beginning,” he said. “I wasn’t able to go to a high major school right away because my grades were really bad. I came to America with no English. I could not write or speak. So I had to progress up every year to be able to play at this level.”
His eventual connection to the Wolfpack began at Illinois State, which faced Indiana State in the Missouri Valley Conference. Kareem Richardson was an Indiana State assistant coach before moving to Clemson before last season.
Richardson hoped to get Mahorcic to Clemson. Once joining Keatts’ staff this year, he did get him to N.C. State.
“I was going to Clemson but didn’t get into school,” Mahorcic said. “Once I transferred from Utah it wasn’t really hard to make a decision.”
Mahorcic missed eight games for the Utes last season with an early knee injury. He then played 13 games before being suspended for what Utah coach Craig Smith said was a violation of team rules, and left the program in February.
Mahorcic became another part of the Keatts basketball restoration project after the Pack’s 11-21 finish last season. Also joining the program from the NCAA transfer portal were guard Joiner, forward Jack Clark and center D.J. Burns, Jr., giving N.C. State a more formidable look.
Mahorcic, who weighs in at 235 pounds, and Burns, about 40 pounds heavier, quickly began banging in the post at the Dail Practice Center. Mahorcic said they were two strong competitors going at it, not giving an inch, and the two will share time in the middle this season, with 6-9 Ernest Ross also to contribute.
Mahorcic, a graduate student, started the first seven games of the season before Burns was the starting center Tuesday against William & Mary. He’s averaging 22 minutes a game, getting 9.5 points and 7.3 rebounds a game.
Nearly all of his 49 shots have come close to the basket. Not a single 3-point shot. The man knows his range.
Will those numbers translate into ACC play? Time will tell.
“Every day we’re learning more about ourselves,” Mahorcic said. “It’s a team of veterans and we all know how to play. It’s a matter of coming together and it’s coming together so far.”
NC State vs Pitt basketball
When: Friday, 7 p.m.
Where: PNC Arena, Raleigh.
TV: ACC Network.