Filip Petrusev is a #1 ranked ’00 born player at the moment. 6’11 forward has won back to back EC titles with Serbian NT in 2017, 2018, and was part of All Tournament team in 2018 averaging 21ppg, 8.7rpg and 3.1apg. After winning National HS championship with his Montverde Academy, Filip has committed to Gonzaga university, where he plays his freshmen NCAA season at the moment. Serbian Prospects scouting service had an exclusive chance to talk with Filip about college basketball, NT, future plans etc.
Are you satisfied with your Freshman season so far? Did you expect to have this amount of playing time and this kind of role in the team?
I am more than satisfied at the moment. I have expected this much of minutes at some point, not as much as I have in big games, for sure, but just like every other player, I am ready to play. So far, we had a lot of tough games in which I was a part of the team, played my role and gave my contribution to the result. Unbelievable experience really.
After decommitting from Hartford, you had a lot of offers from other NCAA colleges, why have you chosed Gonzaga?
Gonzaga is different than other schools in the NCAA. Very strong level of basketball, the biggest games in the country and school is not exposing like others where is all about marketing and commercials. They look for the players with they can work with. People are 100% committed to work with the players and in last couple of years they had many NBA players coming out of the school( Domantas Sabonis, Kely Olynyk etc.). That’s definitely what decided.
How would you describe your relationship with teammates on and off the court?
Atmosphere in the team is great, specially in the locker room. That’s another thing that makes Gonzaga different. When they recruit, they are looking for players that are also good off the court. It was never this easy to adapt to a team and players, not even in national team. Everyone is great really, I have been accepted since day one like I am here for years. They bring this type of players and that’s why atmosphere is like nowhere in the NCAA.
Since you are playing in the school which is in the top of the NCAA, how hard is for you to adjust obligations in school and practises, games etc.?
It’s not hard because system is great and everything is organised well, you know exactly when you have school, when practises. NCAA rules are like that. Since I came here, school is not a problem, I have only some basic lessons. There is no too many side stuff to do, so I have enough time to work individually beside team practices. Schedule is great and you can arrange everything.
You have played on one of the best HS programs- Montverde academy, what is your opinion about biggest differences between HS and college basketball?
Even the best HS team can’t compare neither to low major D1 school. The biggest difference is in strength, college basketball is way more physical. It can happen that you play against 3,4 years older players. HS basketball is less organised, more run and gun style. College basketball is more serious, bigger level, for sure, each team plays different, higher level of tactics is used, too. Those would be biggest differences.
As we have said earlier, you have won National HS championship in past season. One of your teammates was potential no1 draft pick RJ Barrett. Can you describe what was like to play against him in the final of Maui Invitational?
It was amazing, great game, full stands. Me and RJ know each other really well, he says to his teammates how to guard me, I say to mine how to guard him. We both got a little bit on fire during the game, but overall it was great feeling.
Speaking about HS, on Montverde you have played also with another ’00 born player from Serbia- Balsa Koprivica. What do you think about him and his commitment to Florida State?
Balsa had a lot of offers, but when everything with FBI happened, not to many schools really talked to him. He wanted to go high major college, decided to commit to Florida State because they showed biggest wish to have him, it should be fine. They play the strongest conference, good team, he just needs to fight for his role and everything will be great.
You have won back to back U18 EC titles with Serbia in 2017 and 2018. How much did the work with national team helped you and what were the biggest differences between 2017 and 2018?
It has helped a lot. It’s always better to play during one part of summer than just to workout individually, it’s how you get better and it is always a honor to play for your national team. There were many differences between those two, I had bigger role in Latvia than in Slovakia. I think we had better team chemistry in 2018 because we all play together for whole life and know each other better. We have expected to win it more in 2nd year than in first when it was a surprise. We were ready and more organised in terms of roles on the court and in the team. The goal was gold medal and nothing else.
Beside national team, you were participant of many camps like NBA Global camp this February. Out of all NBA stars and coaches you worked with, who would you mark off?
There was really a lot of NBA coaches, scouts and players who worked out with us on NBA Global camp in LA. I would separate Tiago Splitter. We have both played in Vitoria, Spain and we had same coaches and many conversation topics. He gave me some advices from his experiences, specially about playing around the rim. Beside him, Domantas Sabonis is another guy that I would separate from others.
Your younger brother, David is also playing for Montverde academy. Do you expect from him to follow your steps and stay in the NCAA after graduating at HS?
Yes, for sure. He is finishing HS this year, but he can stay for a year longer. He will follow me and he will find a D1 college, no doubt. It is his wish and plan.
How would you describe yourself on the court? What are your main strengths and what is something that you should work on?
Now I have clear picture of myself. When I came to Gonzaga, I needed around month or two to adapt on higher level of basketball. Offensivelly, my biggest strength is down low, size and post skillset, I can create on the low post but I can also stretch defense and shoot the ball. I do anything that team needs. Defense is something I have to work on. Basketball is much faster, players are more athletic, it’s harder to switch and guard smaller players. Rim protection, too.
Do you have any role models or guys that you are looking up to?
Everyone is watching Jokic in the NBA at the moment, but he is one in a million. I would rather say Sabonis or Olynyk because they went through same path like me. I watch what roles they have in their teams and I try to follow that way because both of them ended up as lottery picks. I loved Dirk Nowitzki while he was in his prime. When it comes to NBA teams, i prefer how San Antonio uses their bigs- Aldridge and Gasol.
Plans for the future? What is next step after Gonzaga, do you see yourself on the NBA draft soon?
Next step is to finish this season, and then next season I should have one of major roles in the team since many players are leaving after this one. There is World Cup with NT which is very important event, too.
When it comes to draft, it is a plan to go on a draft. We will see if it will be after second, third or fourth year. I plan to follow the steps of the bigs that already played here, to work like they did. If I do it in right way, for sure I will be on the Draft in few years. It is one of my goals and plans, no doubt about it.
Thanks a lot for an interview, we wish you many success in future.
Thank you for the invitiaton, wish you the same.