Milos Dugalic (EE ’23)
Playing for the Home Team
By Tad Vezner

When Milos Dugalic (EE ’23) was growing up, his parents would send him to Serbia over the summer to stay with his grandparents. He learned the language, the culture of his heritage. So much so that, even though he grew up in Illinois, he reflexively calls the country “home.”

Now, he’ll have a chance to live and play there as a professional basketball player after signing with the country’s largest professional league, Košarkaška liga Srbije (KLS), in summer 2023.

“The option to play here at home, that’s kind of a no-brainer,” Dugalic said in August, after living in his permanent quarters in Leskovac, Serbia, for all of two days. “My parents are super excited. Their parents, my aunts and uncles, I know them…everyone’s in my corner.”

Dugalic was born and raised in Des Plaines, Illinois, to parents who emigrated from Serbia in the mid-1990s during the Yugoslav Wars. Many extended family members, including his grandparents, stayed behind.

Athletic even at a young age, Dugalic started out playing soccer, then later basketball at the age of seven. In high school, he mixed in volleyball for fun—and to be part of another team.

“Creating strong bonds, that’s the biggest thing for me. Relationships are very important,” Dugalic says.

During his final year playing men’s basketball at Illinois Tech, he was the Scarlet Hawks’ top player, earning a chance to play in a NCAA Division III All-Star Game. Dugalic finished his athletic career at Illinois Tech sixth all-time in points scored with 1,121, second all-time in steals with 133; and fourth all-time in rebounds (699), blocks (78), and assists (192). He was also first-team all-conference in the Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference following his third and fourth seasons.

By the time he graduated in May, Dugalic had already signed with an agency, Atlanta-based EZ Sports Group, who had distributed his highlight film to a partner agency in Europe. Soon enough, he heard from a team in the biggest league in Serbia, the KLS.

“The anxiety leading up to signing was kind of killing me. But finally figuring it out, knowing I’ll be at home here with family nearby feels great,” Dugalic said of signing with Zdravlje Leskovac during an interview in an August episode of the Scarlet Hawk Talk podcast.

“We are so proud of Milos and are excited about the opportunity he has been given to pursue his dream of playing professional basketball. He has worked tirelessly to put himself in the position to have this chance. The joy I feel for him and his family is indescribable,” Illinois Tech head men’s basketball coach Terrence “TJ” Gray says. “I have no doubt he will make a great professional as he embarks on his new journey.”

KLS’s regular season started in October and is 30 games long, with the playoffs starting in April.

Conscious of the limited time professional athletes have in their careers, Dugalic hopes to one day take the next rung up on the league ladder and play for the Adriatic Basketball Association, which includes teams from surrounding countries. 

For now, though, “I’m not going to take anything for granted, I’m going to stay safe, stay healthy, work hard. Because one day, the ball’s going to stop bouncing,” Dugalic says. “I want to cherish every moment I have here, the good, the bad, the ugly.”