A young boy crouches for protection in the basement of his home as the gun shots bursting from the rifles of soldiers can be heard in the distance and bomb shells send tremors to his home and others around it. At the time the future of University of Minnesota, Crookston senior guard Almir Krdzalic and his family didn’t seem very secure. Krdzalic was in the midst of a war being fought between Bosnia and Serbia. A war his father served the country of Bosnia in as a member of the army. Soon after the conflict ended in 1995, Almir’s parents, Najka and Samir Krdzalic, found a better opportunity for the family in Sioux Falls, S.D. Unfamiliar with the game of basketball, Almir quickly became accustomed to James Naismith’s game and has turned it into an opportunity he never thought he would have. An opportunity to attend college and secure a future that once was a bleak one for the Krdzalic family.
Krdzalic was born in 1990 in the small town of Tesanj, Bosnia during the Bosnian War, a conflict between the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Bosnian Serb and Bosnian Croat factions that arose after the break-up of the Socialist Federal Repulic of Yugoslavia.
“I don’t remember too much about Bosnia from when I was younger but I remember a lot of bomb shells going off,” Krdazlic said. “You could hear a lot of rifles and gun shots going off all of the time. I have a few good images of Bosnia. In the winter time my older brother and I would go sledding. However, most of my images of Bosnia are just loud, bomb shells and staying in the basement for weeks at a time.”
After the war, his aunt, who had moved to Sioux Falls, S.D., helped aid his parents as they looked to move to America and secure a brighter future for their young family. His mother found work as a housekeeper at Sanford Hospital in Sioux Falls, and also works part-time at the V.A. hospital in the kitchen while his father found work at Belk, Inc. packing boxes on the overnight shift.
“They aren’t the best kind of jobs since their education wasn’t the greatest since a war was going on in Bosnia and they were never able to go on to get a higher education in America because their English wasn’t great,” Krdzalic said.
Despite the quality of work, Najka and Samir were able to provide for their family and chase a better life in America. A life Almir took for granted until he returned to Bosnia two summers ago.
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“I went back to Bosnia a couple of summers ago to visit and it just opened up my eyes,” Krdzalic said. “I was always blessed when I came here to have an opportunity to do something. After I went back and realized what kind of true opportunity I had to be here, I thought I took everything for granted. If I want to do something, I have the ability to do whatever I want. In Bosnia, you might have a college degree but you might not get the job you want.”
Krdzalic’s ability to pursue whatever future he wants has been aided by the success he has found on the hardwood. When he moved to America, he preferred soccer, a sport familiar to him in Bosnia. However, looking for a way to make new friends in his new hometown of Sioux Falls, Krdzalic worked hard to learn a game that was foreign to him.
“Some kids had asked me to play basketball so I wanted to play,” Krdzalic said. “I asked my mom and she said, ‘I don’t know, we’ll see.’ She was really scared. It was a new country for us and we didn’t really know everyone. She allowed me to. When I first started out I was horrible. I didn’t know anything about basketball. I would kick the ball because I thought it was like soccer. I just wanted to get better to prove to my new friends that I could play. I just had the drive to compete.”
Krdzalic was able to make the high school team at Sioux Falls Lincoln High School and would play well enough to earn several offers from college programs.
“I never thought I would end up playing in college. I thought I would play in high school and finish high school and be done with it. I thought basketball was just a game. I would graduate and find a job and start a family but recruiting letters started coming in and it showed me I have a chance to go to school on a scholarship and why not take it. I just can’t believe I’m a senior and I am almost graduated and I didn’t think I would ever step foot in college.”
Krdzalic originally accepted an offer to play at Mars Hills College, a NCAA Division II school in Mars Hill, N.C. Krdzalic played for the Lions for one season before deciding to transfer closer to home.
Page 3 of 3 - “Mars Hill was a good place,” Krdzalic said. “It was the first school that had really recruited me and it was away from South Dakota. At the time I wanted to get it away and see something different. My family is just a small family and being so far away, my parents weren’t able to attend games .My mom went to all of my high school games but one. Having her not be able to come to my games out at Mars Hill was kind of sad. I wanted her to be able to see me play.”
Krdzalic transferred to University of Minnesota, Crookston, only five hours from Sioux Falls, where he is in his last two months of his career as a Golden Eagle. Krdzalic has been a solid floor general at the point guard position for UMC and was named the team’s Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Player to Watch entering the 2012-13 season. Though Krdzalic’s basketball career he will soon turn his attention to pursuing a career as a physican’s assistant by first attending graduate school, something that as a senior in high school seemed incomprehensible to him.
“I am looking at a two-and-a-half year graduate school program at University of South Dakota right now,” Krdzalic said. “I think going to grad school would be the best opportunity for me. It is just weird how I never thought I would even go to college and now I am talking about grad school.”
Krdzalic has come a long way from a boy stuck in the middle of a war to a man who will soon be pursuing a post-graduate degree. When Najka and Samir Krdzalic left their homeland for a foreign country to chase the “American Dream”, they were able to provide their son Almir with a bright future, one that he will never take for granted again.