Not only has Fries been setting up workouts with college teams for a trio of his graduating seniors, but he has been responding to a flurry of requests from both international and local students who want to see if Furtah would be a good fit for them.
“We’ve had about 20 applications from international students, and then a couple from Cherokee County just looking to transfer,” Fries said. “It’s good to see there is interest in the program and the school.”
While many of the athletes may see playing for Furtah as a way to get on the radar of college scouts — or, in the case of international students, simply get to play basketball in the United States — Fries said there is a lot more to it than just basketball.
Milos Sikimic, who will graduate this year and is weighing his college options, wants to pursue a degree in psychology. He sees a basketball scholarship as a way to make that happen.
“I want to play basketball, but academics are important, too,” said Sikimic, a native Serbian who has a 3.8 grade-point average and views athletics as a means to get an education.
Fellow senior Nils Dejworek agrees.
He has a couple of scholarship offers to programs such as Appalachian State, but after moving to the United States from Germany, he would like to stay in Georgia if possible.
“I really like it here,” Dejworek said. “I would like to go to some place like Georgia State.”
But where he ends up could depend a lot on a couple of upcoming workouts in front of college coaches.
Sam Wilson, in some ways, was the odd man out for the team. The local product is drawing interest from some NCAA Division II programs and will likely sign a scholarship offer before long.
This season, Wilson had a unique role on the Furtah team, serving as a guide of sorts.
Amir Savon, a junior from France who will return to Furtah next season, said Wilson showed him around the area a bit, taking him to the mall and helping him adapt to life in the United States. Because Furtah routinely has international students on its basketball team, Savon hopes to pass along his knowledge to the next group.
“I’m already excited about it,” Savon said. “I’m going to show them around the school and be a leader for the team. I’ll know all about things, and I can teach them what is what.”
As much as the international players came to the U.S. to become better basketball players — and, in most cases, more physical ones — Wilson says he was able to learn from them.
“Milos would use different moves in practice, and we would talk about it,” Wilson said. “He would do things other players didn’t, and I learned from that.”
With a diverse roster of players far away from their homelands, the boys on the Furtah basketball went from being strangers, to teammates, to brothers in a matter of months.
While all of the players are fluent in English, some share a bond of another language — such as Savon and Sikimic, who both speak French. Many were united by the experience of living with a host family, and all believe their friendships will last beyond their time in high school.
Fries said that each group he has coached has been special, but this one bonded closer than some others.
“It didn’t take them long to come together,” Fries said. “That was part of the success, but they also played with talent and I think that can be seen by the interest they are getting from colleges.”
“We are like brothers,” Sikimic added. “I don’t think ‘my teammate.’ I think ‘my brother.’”