(Editor’s note: University of Montana media release)
MISSOULA – When Fabijan Krslovic traveled 8,000 miles across the Pacific Ocean in the summer of 2014, he wasn’t quite sure what to expect. He knew he was leaving his home nation of Australia and coming to Missoula, Mont., with the chance to continue his basketball career and earn a college education, but aside from that, there was plenty of uncertainty.
What would the culture be like? Who would his friends be? Even the head coach he originally signed to play for was no longer at the University of Montana.
Four years later, it all turned out better than he could have ever imagined.
“I feel like the longer I’ve been in Missoula, the more I’ve appreciated what we have here,” a reflective Krslovic said. “The city and the community is unreal, unlike anything we have back in Australia. I’m so glad I made the decision to come here.”
Krslovic will graduate this weekend with a degree in finance and a minor in math. He’ll do so with honors, earning Academic All-Big Sky Conference recognition every season. A year ago, his 4.0 grade-point earned him Honors Court status by the NABC, in addition to the President’s Cup award – given to the male and female UM student-athletes with the highest GPA.
On the court, he won a pair of conference championships, leading the Grizzlies to the NCAA tournament in 2018. It capped a stellar senior season in which Krslovic ranked second in the conference for shooting percentage and scored in double figures in eight of his final 13 contests, after doing so just once in his first 21.
And then there’s everywhere in between, which is where Krslovic really flourished. He’s a leader. He’s an example. He’s a Grizzly.
“Fab is about all the right things,” head coach Travis DeCuire said. “He wants to win on the court and he wants to win in life. He embodies what we try to bring in when we go out recruiting, because he’s consistent and he’s the complete package. Every team needs a person like Fab.”
Krslovic’s trophy case continues to fill up. In addition to the conference championship ring he can add to it later this summer, just last week, the senior collected three awards. First came at the basketball team banquet, when he was named the team’s most inspirational player in addition to the player who best represents Griz Basketball. A night later, at the athletic department’s honors banquet, Krslovic was named the male Grizzly Cup winner – an annual award that goes to the best all-around student-athlete.
“I try to give the best I can to everything I do,” Krslovic said. “Whatever I’m doing, I try to work hard and put a positive force into things, take every adverse situation as positively as I can.”
Then of course, there’s the diploma that he’ll obtain this weekend. Krslovic works hard in the classroom – a trait instilled by his parents and reinforced by his coaching staff – and one day may use his business degree, possibly even working for his father’s residential construction company.
But first, it’s more basketball.
The four-year starter for the Grizzlies – he started 116 total games during his career and played in a school-record 132 contests – has signed a contract to play professionally in his homeland of Australia.
The Aussie will play for the Cairns Marlins, a city in the northeast corner of the country. The Marlins’ season has already begun – they’re 3-1 entering the weekend – so once he receives his degree and celebrates his accomplishments this weekend, it’s back to Australia, where he will continue his basketball career.
“I’m really excited,” Krslovic said. “It hasn’t quite hit me that I’m leaving. I’m sad to leave but I’m excited to see what the future holds.”
Krslovic already knows some of the coaching staff and has played with or against a few of the players. The season with the Marlins runs through August, and then the national league starts up, where Krslovic will aim to sign a second professional contract.
It’s something he wasn’t sure he wanted to do a few years ago, but as he progressed in school and the more he talked with people working traditional 9-to-5 jobs, it made him realize what a special opportunity it was to play the sport he had been playing since he was 6 years old.
No matter how long he plays – or what he does next – DeCuire knows he’ll be successful at it.
“Fab will be successful in whatever he wants to do,” DeCuire said. “I think he’ll enjoy his playing experience and just being a basketball player for once in his life. Not a lot of people get to do that. We’re excited to follow him.”
Krslovic took a chance four years ago. He got what he wanted on the court – in addition to the pair of conference titles and playing in front of Griz Nation, he accomplished his dream of playing in the NCAA tournament. He got his degree, excelling in the classroom.
More than that, he made friends that will last a lifetime. He found a second home. He earned the chance to continue playing the game he loves.
“I’m really proud of what we did here,” Krslovic said. “Thank you to the University of Montana and the city of Missoula. The people have been so nice and I’m going to be sad to leave the friends I’ve met here. It’s a special place.”
(Krslovic on his favorite basketball memory)
“I know I’ll never forget the Northern Colorado game (2018 Big Sky semifinals). I’ve played a lot of basketball games in my life and I’ve never been as emotional as I was that night. During a five-minute span, I went from the bottom of the world to the top of the world. What it meant, and getting us the NCAA tournament bid, was very special.”
Montana trailed the game by 6 with under a minute to play. The Grizzlies then fought back to tie the score before Krslovic was whistled for a foul with 1.8 seconds remaining. Northern Colorado missed both free throws, however, sending the game to overtime. With Krslovic fouled out, all he could do was watch as Montana used a 6-0 run to take control of the overtime period. The following night, Montana defeated Eastern Washington to earn a trip to the NCAA tournament.
(Krslovic on his favorite non-basketball memory)
“The people I’ve interacted with, for sure. Bob (Moorehead), Mike (Oguine) and Trev (Spoja) . . . they’re my best mates here, and being around them every day has been a lot of fun.”
(DeCuire on his program’s 100-percent graduation rate)
“We can tell recruits that all of our guys – after leaving Montana – are either in grad school, have a job or are continuing to play professionally, and Fab continues that trend. When I sit across from a parent, I make promises that I can keep. The two for us are to be fair and the growth of a young man. A 100-percent graduation rate and the opportunity to play professionally are part of that.”