“Niksa Nikolic was starting to wonder what he had gotten himself into.

Nikolic, a native of Belgrade, Serbia, was looking to further his education and improve his basketball skills. So he packed his bags and moved to Iowa, where he enrolled at Southeastern Community College.

And then it hit him like a ton of bricks. He was suddenly halfway around the world, in a foreign country where nobody spoke his language. He could understand others, but he had a hard time speaking English at first.

Nikolic was a stranger in a strange land.

But as soon as he set foot on the basketball court at Loren Walker Arena, Nikolic felt right at home. And he certainly was no stranger to playing at a high level.

Nikolic broke the ice last year, knocked down the barriers, paved the path for fellow Serbians Martin Lakovic and Ilija Stefanovic, who joined Nikolic on the SCC men’s basketball team this season.

It has been a win-win situation for both SCC and the Serbian student-athletes, who are learning the American culture while sharing the Serbian culture with their teammates and classmates.

It has gone so well that SCC coach Lorenzo Watkins has his own nickname for them.

‘I call them ‘The Three Amigos,’’ Watkins said. ‘They are very interesting. Ilija is probably the quietest out of all of them. Nik is probably the most rambunctious of them, doing something he’s not supposed to be doing. Martin, I always say he’s the one you have to watch because he’s the daredevil. They are three of a kind. They’re great to be around.’

‘The biggest thing is that now it is way easier. When I first came here I didn’t have any of my friends from Serbia,’ said Niksa, a 6-foot-8. 235-pound sophomore post player. ‘I didn’t speak English very well when I first came here. I could understand everything, but I couldn’t speak very well. So the first two or three months was really hard on me to jump into a country where everyone speaks English. They all have different accents. I couldn’t understand them. Right now I think I’m helping those guys to start understanding English better.’ (Full Article here)