IOWA CITY, Iowa — Iowa senior forward Filip Rebrača has been one of the Hawkeyes best players this season.
From the 2021-22 season to this year, Rebrača went from averaging 5.8 points per game in 21.3 minutes to 14.1 points in 31.5 minutes. Along with the increased role, the North Dakota transfer has adjusted to the Big Ten.
"Every team in the summit league has like one or two players that are that are really good," Rebrača said. "Some teams might not have have that at all. But in the Big 10 I feel like every position on every team has a player that can hurt you."
His teammate Connor McCaffery says that this version of Rebrača has always been there.
"He's always been very tough. It's just he really came into itself and he thinks of himself as a primary scorer, which he is."
But Rebrača's journey is far more complicated than just playing at two schools in five years. Before his time at North Dakota, Rebrača lived in four different countries.
His dad, Željko Rebrača, is one of the greatest Serbian basketball players ever. Željko played for Benetton in Treviso, Italy for about a year before playing for Panathinaikos in Athens, Greece, where he won a EuroLeague Championship and Final Four Most Valuable Player. His next step was the NBA, where he played for the Pistons, Hawks and Clippers. After the NBA, Željko closed out his career in Spain while his family lived in Italy before retiring and moving back to his hometown of Sombor, Serbia.
Filip followed him every step of the way and saw up-close what it took to play basketball at the highest level.
"I really got to see first hand what it means to be a professional athlete and what type of toll that takes on you physically and now as I'm older, I understand what it takes mentally."
Despite Filip's All-Big Ten third-team honor and Željko's stint in the NBA, they aren't the most famous basketball players from Sombor. Two-time reigning NBA MVP Nikola Jokić is from the same hometown of the Rebračas.
"Basketball is rooted into (our town) and just seeing another player from that town exceed at the highest level, there's nothing you can do except for feel warm," Filip said.
Jokić is four years older than Rebrača, but when they were younger, they did summer workouts together. Rebrača said that he doesn't have his phone number or anything, but when he runs into him back home, they always greet each other.
Of course, there's a huge gap between MVP of the NBA and an All-Big Ten third team selection, but Rebrača has some of the Serbian brand of basketball in his game.
"I wouldn't compare myself too much to him, but I like the pass fakes, I like the post moves that he has and sometimes the no-look passes."
As Rebrača finishes his career at Iowa, he doesn't know what's next. He does know that he won't be playing for Vojvodina, the Serbian professional team that his dad owns.
"They're in a rebuilding phase and I asked him how much is the monthly earning and I decided that wasn't enough for me to play there."
Rebrača and No. 8 Iowa play in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament against No. 9 Auburn tomorrow at 5:50 on TNT in Birmingham, Ala..