Born to Serbian parents in the United States, Magnolia Chicken Timplados Hotshots import Nick Rakocevic made his professional basketball debut in China in 2020 and is now ready to dominate the hardwood in the Philippines.
The 24-year-old launched his PBA career with a bang as he recorded 45 points, 25 rebounds, two assists, two steals, and three blocks to best his rival import Lester Prosper who had 41 points, 19 rebounds, and one block for the TerraFirma Dyip.
The outstanding debut of Rakocevic helped earn the Hotshots a 100-92 victory over TerraFirma as they kicked off their 2022 PBA Commissioner’s Cup on a winning note.
The 6’11 Rakocevic possesses an all-around offensive toolkit that has shades of Kerby Raymundo, coincidentally a former pillar of this Magnolia franchise from the 2000s. He has a deadly face-up game, can put the ball on the floor, and his range stretches out to the three-point line where he made both of his attempts against the Dyip.
The University of Southern California alumnus is also quite mobile for his size and has a relentless motor that opens him up for extra opportunities to score easy transition baskets or collect rebounds. During his four-year stay at USC, he averaged 9.5 points and 6.8 rebounds in his 136 appearances.
Rakocevic’s versatility allows him to operate effectively from anywhere on the court unlike the typical big man import in the PBA. This made him an ideal frontcourt partner for current Atlanta Hawks center Onyeka Okongwu during the ‘19-’20 season which was the lone campaign that they played together at USC.
He is the type of player that can fit in with any kind of team and, following the template that he set while playing with Okongwu, immediately meshed well with the Hotshots’ star center Ian Sangalang in his debut.
Furthermore, he should have no problem building chemistry with their do-it-all forward Calvin Abueva once the two-time PBA Best Player of the Conference returns from injury. Both players will wear down opponents with their relentless hustle and their partnership is likely to be one of the most exciting ones in this Commissioner’s Cup.
For their guards, Rakocevic’s gravity provided spacing and opened things up for Paul Lee, Mark Barroca, and Jio Jalalon in their win over TerraFirma. More importantly, his ability to roll or pop in a pick-and-roll accentuates the threat that these three guards pose as equally able scorers and playmakers. This backcourt trio had many fruitful pick-and-rolls with Rakocevic versus the Dyip and it paved the way for them to combine for 19 assists during the evening.
Magnolia is hoping that Rakocevic can provide them with enough of a boost to win their first PBA championship since the 2018 Governor’s Cup. Though their local core is aging and all above the age of 30, the youthful Rakocevic is a perfect fit who covers for many of their weaknesses and shortcomings. He can carry this team for stretches and has an infectious energy that should rejuvenate his teammates.
Imports come and go in the PBA, but Rakocevic has shown the potential to be one of the few iconic ones, especially if he can put the Hotshots on his shoulders and hoist the Commissioner’s Cup trophy when it is all said and done.