When Nikola Cerina arrived on Northwestern’s campus in the beginning of September, he had just one adjustment to make.
“I’m living off campus here,” Cerina said. “I didn’t do that at TCU.”
Not bad after a thousand-mile move.
Of course, this isn’t the first time Cerina has made a move. In fact, this one was nothing compared to the last time. At 18 years old, Cerina left his home country of Serbia to play basketball in Fort Worth, TX., with the TCU Horned Frogs—which he called the toughest transition of his life.
The 6-foot-9 forward has been at Northwestern for three weeks, and already feels right at home with his new teammates.
“So far, it’s been a great experience,” Cerina said of his time at Northwestern. “The school is very different from TCU—especially the basketball team. These guys have unbelievable chemistry and I’m just glad to be a part of the team.”
At the end of the 2011 season, Cerina decided to transfer from TCU, and he looked closely at three schools: Bradley, Illinois State, and Northwestern.
A few different things factored into the decision. Cerina was appealed to playing Big Ten basketball and also attending a school with high academic prestige, but in the end, the family feel within the team is what drew Cerina to Northwestern.
“They have team chemistry on and off the court,” Cerina said. “It’s a unique combination. Some teams have chemistry just on the court of just off the court, there are rarely teams that have chemistry on and off the court. It’s not just the team; it’s the coaching staff too. All the people that are included on this basketball team, they’re just an amazing group of guys.”
When Cerina first visited Northwestern’s campus in May, he immediately was drawn to the Wildcats’ chemistry as he spent time with the team. He was sold.
Cerina arrived on campus on September 3rd and joined his new teammates, who helped make his transition go smoothly.
“They want to help in every situation, which is a difference from my teammates at TCU,” Cerina said of his new teammates. “My first days here, I didn’t know guys that well—I didn’t know them at all, I saw them one time (on the visit) in my life before. Every one of them was willing to help me in whatever way I needed. That was a very important thing for me, to have somebody I could rely on.”
NCAA rules require a division-one transfer to sit out a season, which means Cerina will be sidelined for the entire 2011-12 season. The most time Cerina spent away from a basketball court was two weeks—when he was 14 years old. He anticipates this will be a tough wait.
“We’ll see how I’m going to take that,” Cerina said. "I’m not looking forward to it.”
After the year of ineligibility, Cerina has two years remaining with the Wildcats. He hopes to take advantage of the year and prepare for next year.
“I’ll take the time to work as hard as I can and get as good as I can,” he said.
In his two seasons with the TCU Horned Frogs, Cerina averaged 5.7 points per game and 4.1 rebounds per game during his 62 games. He started 38 games, including 18 during the 2010-11 season.
Cerina now finds himself in a new city at a new university with a new team, and he’s excited for the change.
“I really like the team,” Cerina said. “I can’t explain how big of a difference it is between TCU and here. I’m just glad to be here.”