Nov. 30, 1999
BERKELEY - Ask Masa Radovic what is important to her and you are likely to get a simple but heartfelt answer. Health and family. While this may seem like a pretty standard answer for most of us, for Radovic, health and family are not to be taken lightly.
After coming off a phenomenal freshman season on the California women's basketball team in 1997-98, Radovic, a guard/forward, entered her sophomore campaign with high hopes. As a freshman, she was named team co-MVP and was selected to the Pac-10 All-Freshman team after averaging 11 points and three assists per game. But fate was not on her side as doctors discovered three bulging disks in her back, forcing her to take a medical redshirt last season after playing in just three games.
Sidelined with pain so severe that it often kept her in bed, Radovic faced the notion of not being able to play basketball for the first time since she was 14.
"Last year was a very difficult time," the redshirt sophomore recalled. "Although in many ways it was a good learning experience for me to be on the bench. I realized that basketball makes me complete."
Unfortunately for Radovic, the injury bug would bite her a second time. After having spent months working to strengthen and rehabilitate her back, she learned from doctors last spring that what had previously been thought to be a stress fracture in her knee was instead serious ligament damage that only surgery could repair. Last March, when the rest of her teammates and friends left Berkeley for spring break, Radovic entered the hospital to come to grips with yet another injury.
Yet this is not where the story ends. To most, the recent conflict in Yugoslavia, a country half way around the world, has little personal meaning. Although stories of the atrocities, bombings and dire economic situation now faced by this tiny Eastern European country have filled the newspapers, radio waves and television sets for the past six to nine months, the grim reality of what has transpired in this foreign land cannot be fully understood by even the most sympathetic of bystanders. But for Radovic, a native of Belgrade, the horrific scene taking place took on a personal reality.
"I tried not to think about it," she said of the situation back home. "It was just too far away, too unreal. It was almost as if all of this was happening in a different world. People around me talked about it, and I saw it on TV, but I just couldn't believe it was happening."
This line of thinking is understandable given that Radovic's family, including her mother, father and brother, were stranded in the capital city when the United States' military campaign began. Since bombs fell literally blocks from her family's house, they were forced to seek shelter in their basement, venturing outside only to check on an occasional friend or family member.
"Their lives basically stopped," Radovic said. "There was no work, no school and all the businesses shut down. My family knew the situation was going to get worse so luckily they had stocked up on food before things got too bad. It was unsafe to go outside because the air raid sirens were constantly going off."
All of this, combined with a lack of electricity made keeping in touch with her family very difficult.
"They couldn't keep their electricity and the phone lines were constantly going down," said Radovic.
"The first month I couldn't get through, but my mom would try to e-mail or write whenever she could."
When asked how she coped with the uncertainty and anxiety that accompanied the tense situation, Radovic cites friends, faith, and oddly enough her injuries as the three things which got her through the rough times.
"I just knew my family was going to be okay, and in a small way because my injuries were taking up so much of my time, it actually kept me from thinking too much about the situation back home."
So with her family safe, the past year behind her, and a new season on the horizon, Radovic is eager to contribute to the success of the Cal basketball team. As a freshman, Radovic was Cal's starting point guard for most of the season, but this year she is likely to see time at both guard positions and as a small forward.
"I am so excited to play basketball again," she said. "It means so much to be out there. Just being able to put my uniform on and play again is just so amazing. I can't believe it."
With her health, family and positive attitude all intact, Radovic is prepared to resume her role as one of the leaders on the Golden Bear basketball team.
By: Jennie Leander