Cuzic making statement in comeback senior season
After a season-ending injury put Sica Cuzic’s Hofstra women’s basketball career on hold after just seven games in the 2017-18 season, Cuzic was unsure if she was going to be able to play the sport she’s loved since she began playing at the age of 13 in Galati, Romania.
However, in her senior season with the Pride, she’s proven to be a crucial starter in the lineup and has shown how much she is capable of, despite her previous injuries.
Having grown up in Romania outside of a basketball family, the decision to play basketball was one Cuzic went for on a whim.
“I just gave it a try to see how I liked it and then it turned out to be amazing,” Cuzic said.
“My sister was also playing basketball, so I think that’s one of the main reasons why I stuck with it.”
While her older sister stopped playing after a few years, it was Cuzic who found her passion that led to her playing in America.
She led LPS Alba lulia to a U17 Romania National Championship and was named MVP. She averaged 17.9 points, 15.1 rebounds and five assists.
“It was definitely a change in the game style,” Cuzic said. “In Europe we play slower, but we emphasize the details a lot more. In the American game there’s a lot more transition and it’s a lot more physical. The game’s way faster.”
She began at Trinity International High School, where she completed her high school senior year, which helped her transition, before going to Salt Lake Community College. There she ranked No. 2 in scoring, averaging nine points per game, and helped her team to NJCAA Nationals.
“I had a year to adjust in high school to get the hang of the academics and adjust to the language,” Cuzic said.
“By the time college started, I had an idea of the way things were going to be, but at a way higher level.”
Despite that head start, the workload of being a Division I athlete and exercise science major was one that was difficult to anticipate. It’s required her to increase her time management skills and ensure things are getting done along the way.
“There are a lot of times where we’re so tired that you don’t feel like doing anything, but you have no choice but to do it,” Cuzic said.
“It will eventually catch up with you ... I just have to do a little bit at a time and don’t let things pile up.”
Before her junior year, she transferred to Hofstra and became a member of the Pride. In her first two matchups, she scored eight points.
In seven games, she averaged 5.4 points and 2.9 rebounds. When her season ended, the Pride still had 23 games to go; games Cuzic would not have the opportunity to participate in.
“It was hard in the beginning because I wasn’t sure if I was able to come back to normal,” Cuzic said.
“I worked really hard and I didn’t think about anything [besides] getting better ... I think the biggest thing was taking it one step at a time.”
That mentality helped Cuzic be ready for the first game of this season, in which she scored 10 points.
Despite a few tough games against Stony Brook University, Marist College and Stetson University – all of whom held Cuzic to under five points – Cuzic has already marked this year as a career season.
She recorded a career-high 27 points against St. Bonaventure University on Sunday, Nov. 11, and has had three double-doubles in eight games.
With a long season ahead, and the Pride currently at 3-5, Cuzic knows she needs to stand as a leader for her younger teammates while continuing her own strong play.
“I try to work hard every day at practice because some people feed off of each other’s energy,” Cuzic said.
“I know I can influence my teammates, especially the younger ones. I know if I work hard, they also pick it up.”
Cuzic is currently Hofstra’s second-highest scorer with 107, only six points behind classmate Boogie Brozoski, who has 113 this season. She is the team’s leading rebounder, totaling 62 thus far.
“[Cuzic] responds,” said Hofstra head coach Krista Kilburn-Steveskey after Hofstra’s game against St. Bonaventure.
“She can contribute in so many ways, and tonight it was on the offensive end. Her value on the court goes beyond even just scoring points. She just responded today and just really wanted to compete. She pulled her teammates together, and I was really proud of her.”
Cuzic’s goal to finish out her senior year is for the team to win the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) and make the CAA Tournament. In order to do so, improvements need to be made as the team approaches the middle point of the season.
“I think our communication needs to get better, because we have a few pieces where we can work very well with each other, but sometimes we don’t communicate well enough,” Cuzic said.
“I think we need to be a little bit more consistent because sometimes things get hard and we can’t have one or two people pick it up. All five of us, the bench, everyone needs to be involved.”
Photo Courtesy of Hofstra Athletics