Feb. 15, 2016
By Matt Winkeljohn | The Good Word
Landing on the Allstate WBCA Good Works team takes over-the-top effort, and when Georgia Tech’s Katarina Vuckovic puts the same steady energy she sinks into community service into making shots, the Yellow Jackets are in good hands.
The junior forward from Serbia scored 12 points Sunday while leading Tech with eight rebounds in a 77-48 win over Clemson.
That wasn’t exactly as a surprise. When she scores in double digits, the Jackets (15-11, 5-8 ACC) win. They’re 10-1 when Vuckovic puts up 10 or more.
Senior Aaliyah Whiteside was one of five Tech players to hit double digits Sunday with a game-high 13 points, and her 20.4 scoring average leads the ACC. Senior Rodreeka Rogers added 10 to extend a scoring surge and bump her conference average to 8.1 (10.5 overall).
Vuckovic is third, averaging 5.7 in the ACC (7.8 overall).
Head coach MaChelle Joseph and the Jackets are looking for more of this.
“You’ve got to have three scorers in this league, and Aaliyah has been consistent for us,” Joseph said. “‘Dreek has been inconsistent, but recently she’s been scoring more. Kat is the [wildcard]. If she scores, we have an opportunity to win. If she doesn’t, we struggle.”
Vuckovic has no issue helping others.
She’s one of five Division I women’s basketball players on the Good Works team, which honors student-athletes who dedicate themselves to bettering the lives of others by giving back to their communities. There were 257 nominees.
The 6-foot-3 Business Administration major carves out time to help in many ways. On any given day, you may find her with Urban Perform helping build a basketball court in a less fortunate community, or at a Boys & Girls Club.
“I really enjoy doing that in my free time. Every time we have a day off, we try to do as much as we can,” Vuckovic said. “I also went on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic [last spring], and that was just an amazing experience.
“We do Girls On The Run, the Alzheimer’s Walk . . . the soup kitchen, Ronald McDonald House, and Adopt-A-Family is one of my favorites around Christmas.”
She touches a lot of categories on the court as well.
Vuckovic is Tech’s third leading rebounder in ACC action, her 4.8 per game supplementing Rogers (7.5) and Whiteside (6.9). She’s third in assists (1.8), too, and only Antonia Peresson (21-of-58) has made more 3-pointers than her 16-of-48. She adds the size to score inside.
“She gives you a player [opponents] don’t know how to match up,” Joseph said. “If you put a smaller guard on her, she’s bigger and can rebound and post. If they put a post on her, she steps out to the 3-point line . . . [on defense], especially when you fall back into a zone she’s long to shoot over because she’s 6-3.”
There is still work to be done.
Vuckovic has started four straight games, and 19 of 25. For all her talent, she’s struggled at times to utilize her skills. She’s averaged 9.4 points over the past seven games, including 18 in a 62-56 win over Boston College and 15 in a 51-34 win over Virginia Tech.
In the seven games before that stretch, she scored 10 points total while going scoreless four times.
“It’s interesting. Throughout her career, she has struggled against top 25 teams, and I think those have been the games where she doesn’t come up with the numbers,” Joseph said. “Those are obviously the games that are critical, where we need her to come up with those numbers.
“I think it’s one of those things where it’s a mind block for some reason. We’ve worked on it all year long, worked on it for three years, actually.”
Vuckovic can be sheepish at times. She’s working on that.
“I definitely have got to put in extra work, just getting shots up, like the repetition of shots and just not being nervous,” she said. “I think I’m getting better at that. I feel like we support each other a lot, not just the players but the coaches. I know they have confidence in me. I’m getting way better.”
There is plenty of proof that Vuckovic can make a difference in many ways when she dives into her work.
“It’s just one of those things where she’s got to break through, and have a big game against a top opponent,” Joseph said. “She’s getting late into her junior year now; it’s time for her to step up.”