Angela Dugalić was supposed to be in Houston for the 2020 McDonald’s All-American Games right now, getting set to play tomorrow, April 1. Instead, she’s in her hometown of Des Plaines, Illinois, spending most of her time stuck in the family apartment with her brother.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this, but because of the coronavirus situation, it is, for her and millions upon millions of people across the world.
The Oregon commit couldn’t wait to play in the All-American Game, but the forces that be weren’t having it. It’s one of many sacrifices people across the globe the globe have had to make, in and out of basketball.
“I cried,” she said. “I was really devasted. Once I learned that I was going to be on the team, I was so excited. I’ve honestly been dreaming about this since the second I knew I was going to be in it. Once they were cancelling the whole thing, that whole dream was taken away.
Within a short window, she also learned that the 2020 Jordan Brand Classic, the other event she was invited to this summer, was called off. It was supposed to be played March 27 in Chicago.
Dugalić harbors no resentment, she said, although she wishes the events had been rescheduled rather than outright cancelled. It’s also only a small piece of the experiences she may miss out on.
The Olympics have been postponed until 2021, and there was a real chance Angela Dugalić would have made the Serbian senior team and competed in Tokyo. That could still happen in a year’s time, but the trip to Serbia she was planning to take right after high school graduation in mid-May is now up in the air, as is the FIBA U20 Tournament she expected to play in that’s set for mid-August. And that’s not to mention the normal things that all current high school seniors are likely going to miss: walking at graduation, prom and more.
On top of all that, it’s unclear when she can go to Oregon to start her collegiate career, academically and athletically. She was in touch with a Ducks coach this week who was asking about the status of her Serbia trip, in part because after training with the national team, Dugalić was going to meet Oregon in Europe during the team’s international tour this summer. At this point, it’s unknown how much, if any, of these plans will actually come to fruition.
Like the rest of us, there is nothing Dugalić can do but stay at home and hope this ends sooner rather than later. A life without basketball is completely foreign to her and one of the most difficult aspects of this situation.
“In a way, I sort of feel useless, because I’m not doing anything basketball related,” she said. “I live in an apartment, so it’s not like I can dribble in the garage or something. I have people living under me, and they’ve complained before, so I’m not trying to do anything now.
“A couple days ago, my brother and I went outside to shoot around. It was just me and him, and we made sure we were at least six feet apart. It’s not like we were touching any of the equipment besides our ball. He wasn’t hanging on the rim or anything. An elderly man from across the street started yelling at us, and we didn’t want the cops being called on us, so we just left and went home. We’re stuck just doing in-home workouts and nothing basketball related.”
Her brother, Miloš, plays basketball at Illinois Institute of Technology, and as he is home from college and also not able to hoop, he is in the same boat as his sister. Angela Dugalić said that although at first there was some needed acclimation to them both being in the apartment together for so many hours, he is now who she is leaning on the most in this situation.
“He’s in the same household and the same situation as me,” Angela Dugalić explained. “We’re trying to keep busy doing random stuff from board games to working out, but it’s definitely a challenge. At a certain point, you’ll get bored of doing that, and we’re used to going outside, going to a gym and playing against each other. But now you can’t really do anything.”
They’ve been trying to come up with any possible work around to get a basketball in their hands.
“If you consider laying down on the floor and shooting upwards,” she said when asked if she has been practicing or playing basketball in any capacity since the virus hit. “There’s an empty parking lot near where I live, and my brother and I went there two days ago to work on our ball handling.”
The home workouts have been the main thing Angela Dugalić has been focusing on to stay in shape, which is crucial for the high-level athlete. But the loss of basketball and most physical exercise isn’t the most difficult part of this for her.
“Not seeing the people I’m used to seeing,” she explained. “Like one of my best friends, I can’t see her, which really sucks. I basically saw her almost every single day for the past couple of years. That’s really weird. And then, just being inside for so long, it’s really weird. I don’t mind staying inside and watching TV or whatnot, but at a certain point, I need to go outside. I feel like I’m drying up in here.”
Lots of people can commiserate with how she is feeling, and Angela Dugalić knows she is far from the only person making sacrifices in this trying time. But, everyone in her family, including those in Serbia, are healthy right now, and she is getting to spend time with her brother that she otherwise wouldn’t have had. Plus, while we don’t know when it will come, she will be a student-athlete at Oregon, and assuming she makes the team, she will be afforded the opportunity to compete in the Olympics.
There are lessons that she, and everyone else who is going through this, can take from this experience.
“Don’t take things for granted. That’s the biggest thing,” she said. “I personally think (Oregon) probably would have won the whole thing, and it sucks. I feel for (the current Oregon players), because it’s so close to getting that national championship, and it’s just taken away. Some of the teams that were supposed to play in (Illinois) state who were one game away from winning state, and they couldn’t play because this whole thing is going on.
“Don’t take things for granted, whether it’s sports or otherwise.”