For most of her first two years of high school basketball, Doris Ilic was a player without a position. The North Bergen High School standout was first a taller-than-normal point guard during her grade school days at Anna L. Klein School in Guttenberg, but as a sophomore at North Bergen, she was moved to a shooting guard.
Then, when the Bruins’ starting center suffered a concussion, the 5-foot-10 Ilic was moved down low to play there.
“I had to learn how to play at the post,” Ilic said.
“She’s a tweener,” North Bergen veteran head coach Dan Reardon said. “I really wasn’t sure what to do with her. She’s really a two [shooting guard], but because of her size, I had to play her as a three [small forward] or four [power forward].”
So basically, in her five years of playing organized basketball, Ilic had to play all five positions. That’s enough to send any kid’s head spinning.
But Ilic isn’t your average kid. She’s an excellent student, ranked No. 2 in the North Bergen graduating Class of 2013. She has compiled a 4.6 grade point average and scored 1710 on the Scholastic Aptitude Test.
“She’s a good student in the classroom, but she also has a great basketball IQ,” Reardon said. “I wouldn’t ask a kid to do something she wasn’t able to do. She had the height to play inside and she had the ability to handle the ball and shoot outside. I don’t think it was detrimental to her. She was able to handle it and able to play underneath a little.”
Ilic has an older sister, Yelena, who was a perimeter player for the Bruins a few years ago, so it was almost accepted that Doris would do the same during her high school days.
“I thought perhaps that Doris would play the same way as her sister did for us,” Reardon said. “No question, Doris likes to shoot the ball from the outside.”
Even Ilic would admit to that.
“I love to shoot,” Illic said. “It’s what I do the best. But I also love learning. If Coach Reardon tells me to do something, I’m going to try to do it. That’s how I am. I love learning about the different positions and want to be able to do everything on the court.”
But Ilic also admits that being thrown into the position of being the Bruins’ starting center was a little much.
“I was a little bit out of position my sophomore year, but I had to learn quickly,” Ilic said. “He [Reardon] taught me how to do it. I eventually learned how to mix it up down there.”
“It’s very helpful that she’s willing to learn and that she is such a fast learner,” Reardon said. “I spend so much time telling kids over and over what they have to do. They look at me like they don’t believe me. But with Doris, she was able to pick it up right away. She always had a sense of dependability. It was good to have someone like her to depend on for three years.”
Ilic averaged close to eight points per game as a sophomore, then around 10 or so per contest last year.
Now that the Bruins have a talented inside player in 6-foot-1 Icies Hammer, Reardon has been able to use Ilic in her more familiar spot – shooting guard.
“I feel a lot more comfortable,” Ilic said. “I have a lot more experience now and I am more confident. I also feel more like a leader.”
And through all her trials and tribulations on the basketball court, Ilic has turned out to be a very versatile player.
“Now, I’m just having fun,” Ilic said. “I love the post and I love to shoot the ball. I can do a lot more now. I’m able to beat defenses. I feel confident that I can do more.”
“The proof is in the pudding because teams are paying more attention now to Doris instead of Icies. It’s a tribute to her and how far she’s come as a player. We have her working with the big player drills as well as the guard drills. She can play with her back to the basket and then pop out and make a 3-pointer. We run set plays to isolate her, depending on who’s guarding her. If they try to take away the post, then we send her outside on the wings.”
The result is that Ilic has become a 16-point per game scorer. She’s also averaging six rebounds and three assists per contest.
Last week, Ilic had games of 17 and 13 points against Mahwah and Immaculate Heart Academy, then had 18 points, eight rebounds, three assists and three steals in a 56-36 victory over St. Dominic Academy to advance to the Hudson County Tournament semifinals.
For her efforts, Ilic has been selected as The Hudson Reporter Athlete of the Week for the past week.
Reardon said that Ilic prepared for her senior year of basketball by playing all the time during the summer months.
“All summer, she would go to the courtyards and the parks playing with the boys,” Reardon said. “It’s hard to find a bunch of girls playing, so Doris was always playing with the boys. She just has such passion and dedication for basketball. You don’t improve as much as she has without passion.”
Ilic said that she takes pride in her schoolwork.
“But for some reason, the grades are easy to come for me,” Ilic said. “Basketball is much harder, so that’s why I work at it.”
Ilic has already applied to four different Ivy League schools. She hopes to get into the biology department at Cornell. Ilic hopes to become a doctor or more specifically, a surgeon when her schooling days are through.
“I just love the surgical field,” she said. “I’m still weighing the options.”
“I don’t think anyone can appreciate just how intelligent she is,” Reardon said.
Maybe top-seeded Lincoln will find out in the county tourney semifinals. Lincoln’s shooting for its second straight county crown. Ilic hopes to stand in the way.
“I think we’re ready,” Ilic said. “I just want to go out there and leave it all on the court. It’s go hard or go home.” – Jim Hague
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.