CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- Drazen Zlovaric finds an easy and usually safe way to vent his displeasure on the basketball court.
Of course, it helps that the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga center is fluent in a language other than English.
"I know I'm biased, but I always think the fouls I get called for are borderline ones, so it's frustrating," Zlovaric said earlier this week. "When I get a little bit frustrated, I just start talking in Serbian so they can't understand me."
There's been plenty of frustrations to talk about this season for the native of Navi Sad, Serbia.
Zlovaric knew he needed to be a leader this year as one of just two seniors on a young team, so he passed up his usual summer visit home to focus on his game. He put in extra hours, upped his workout routines and studied film, all in hopes of being better prepared to carry the team.
However, he soon started to crumble under the pressure he put on himself.
"I just wanted to do it all," he said. "I didn't go home. I stayed and worked out. I did all the right things, but got zero results because it was a battle in my head. I was always thinking 'I don't want to mess up. I don't want to mess up,' and you can't play well when you're worried about that."
Zlovaric started the season well enough, but soon started to fade. The 6-foot-9 post failed to reach double figures in points eleven times in a 17-game stretch in the middle of the season, including eight games of four points or less.
Two weeks ago, he decided he'd had enough. It was time to vent his frustrations -- in Serbian, of course.
"I figured there are only ten or eleven games left in the season, so I just had a little talk with myself," Zlovaric said. "I realized for me to help the team, I just have to let it all go."
Zlovaric responded to his pep talk with four straight games in double figures, averaging 14 points and seven rebounds per contest in that stretch heading into Thursday night's game against Furman.
His renewed passion was on display Monday night when he helped the weary Mocs rally to beat Samford in overtime, scoring UTC's only field goal in the extra session.
Head coach John Shulman admitted Zlovaric's increased energy over the past two weeks is the only reason he even had a chance to hit the bucket.
"To tell you the truth, in this type game, there's no way. He would have never been out there," Shulman said after the Samford win. "But he did a great job getting to the offensive boards and getting some cheap buckets. That's stuff I can't draw up as a coach. That's all effort.
"He did a great job."
Now the challenge is maintaining that effort for the stretch run as the Mocs try to chase down the fourth and final bye in the upcoming SoCon Tournament.
Zlovaric doesn't think it will be that difficult.
"I have nothing to lose," he said. "That's the type of attitude I have in practice, in games, and now all the time."
As for his motivational words to himself and his foreign rants after fouls? Those will apparently remain his Serbian secret.
"If you want to go to Google translate and figure them out, okay," he said with a smile, "but I'm not going to tell anyone what I'm saying."
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