Oggie Kapetanovic's life has been shaped by a land he yearns to see again one day. Ognjen Kapetanovic was born in New York to a Croatian mother and a Bosnian father, and spent the better part of his formative years in Serbia. He is part Christian, part Jewish and part Muslim, but is not religious. He has lived on three different continents, attended two different colleges and holds a Canadian passport. He is everything and nothing. He is a citizen of the world. He has many homes, but none entirely his own. Ognjen Kapetanovic is a basketball player. · The story starts on May 16, 1978, the day the Yugoslav ambassador to the United Nations welcomed his second son into the world. One and a half years later, a new diplomatic mission would lead Goran Kapetanovic back to his homeland, with his newborn son Oggie, wife Visnja and toddler Vigor. The Kapetanovics spent the next eight years in Belgrade, broken up by a two-year stint in Egypt. Then, Goran was appointed ambassador to Canada. He took the family, including 11-year-old Oggie, with him to Ottawa. Little Oggie probably never thought that was the last time he would see Yugoslavia. In 1991, war came to Yugoslavia, leaving the Kapetanovic family homeless, cut off from relatives all over the fractured country. Goran, disagreeing with the policies of Slobodan Milosevic's government, resigned as ambassador and applied for Canadian citizenship. · Somewhere in between the Hudson and the Nile, Oggie picked up a basketball. In sports-mad Yugoslavia, there are two things that every child knows -- soccer and basketball. And Oggie was no exception. Although his godfather Velibor Vasovic was a star on Amsterdam's Ajax soccer club, the tall and gangly Oggie stuck to basketball. He was sick of being forced to play goalie. And after all, basketball is a Kapetanovic thing. His father, before entering the world of international diplomacy, played professionally in France and was president of one of the most successful basketball clubs in Yugoslavia, Partizan. He also organized the 1975 European Championships. At the age of seven, Oggie joined Partizan's youth team, following in the footsteps of his older brother Vigor. Like Vigor before him, Oggie traveled Europe playing with against other teams of his age group. He didn't mind all the traveling, even at his early age. Oggie was born a mover. Plus, he had basketball. "Basketball always brings you closer with your teammates and you've always got some kind of friends," he said. · Moving along, to Ottawa and beyond, the places and faces changed, but there remain constants -- family and basketball. Vigor was there, to train with and to play against, for games of one-on-one and for advice about basketball and life. "He was always better than me when we were little," Oggie said. "Especially when we got to that age when I was 15 and he was 18, or 16 and 19. I always tried to beat him in one-on-one and played against him. He definitely beat me most of the time." While Vigor admitted that his early basketball success had a part in Oggie's later achievements, he said that Oggie owes much to himself. "I think I played some kind of a role in him getting to where he is but you also have to credit him a lot because his determination and his will to be good is so great," Vigor said. "I only helped in giving him suggestions and stuff. He really got himself to where he is at this point." After high school and AAU ball in Ottawa, Oggie's brother drew the interest of college coaches in another country. Vigor ended up playing basketball in Philadelphia, U.S.A., at the University of Pennsylvania. "When he left for college, that's when I really felt like I was missing my brother," Oggie said. The one thing that defined home for Oggie -- his family -- was all of a sudden altered. · When the time came for Oggie to leave Ottawa for college, his short list consisted of two schools -- Penn and Brown. Vigor had played basketball at Penn for three years. He broke his foot during his junior year and decided not to continue his collegiate career. "We talked about him coming to Penn," Vigor said. "[But] Oggie wanted to do something on his own, do something for himself." It was a rare opportunity to make a statement about who he was. For Oggie, it was an opportunity to be more than just Vigor's younger brother. "When the decision came to choose between Brown and Penn, he felt like he wanted to build something of his own at Brown," Vigor said. "He felt like I had a little clique established here and he really didn't want to be known as Vigor's little brother." But Oggie also felt compelled to avoid Penn and Vigor for another reason. "My brother was still [at Penn] and I guess I would have been competing with him for minutes and time," Oggie said. "I didn't want that --EI have one brother, one family." Oggie left for Brown in 1996, the year a few optimistic prognosticators picked the Bears to knock off Penn and Princeton. The hard-working basketballer was moving yet again, this time to get in on the ground floor of the rebuilding of Brown basketball. "They seemed to be a team on the uprise," Oggie said. "I guess I wanted to contribute to that." So he packed up for Providence. · "When I got there as a freshman, I was kind of blinded because all I wanted to do was play and start," Oggie said. "Those were my only goals. I was a man possessed." Only 200 pounds and not completely filling his 6'10" frame, Oggie -- who had never lifted a weight in his life -- was embarrassed into bulking up. "The managers are bench-pressing more than me," Oggie said of his first trip to the Brown weight room. "I'm getting cooked in practice. I mean, I'm getting done. I couldn't take that. So I started working." And work he did, starting 10 games as a freshman for the Bears. He was named the team's top freshman and was in prime position to carve out a name for himself in the decidedly thin annals of Brown hoops history. As a sophomore, his drive never stopped -- remember, Oggie was born a mover. But he didn't see his teammates moving fast enough for him. A 4-22 freshman season was followed with a 6-20 campaign in '97-98; the improvement wasn't coming fast enough for someone who moves as much and as often as Oggie does. "I finally got the minutes and started most of the time," he said. "But then I noticed there were really things wrong with the program and with the team. "People didn't care, my teammates weren't committed, the seniors and juniors were beaten down because they've been losing for so long -- that's what they knew." And Oggie hates to lose. In fact, he hates to lose more than he likes to win. "For me, I can recall every single loss like it was yesterday," he said. "We lost a lot at Brown, and I can recall how every game went. I can't do that with every one of my wins." After his sophomore season, with 42 Brown losses to remember point-by-point, Oggie knew that he could not continue to go down with the ship. As usual, he looked to his brother Vigor for advice. The answer was simple -- Oggie was moving again. He packed up for Philadelphia. · Moving means saying goodbye to friends made, leaving an empty room you used to call your own, starting your life all over again. Basketball means never having to look back. Penn guard Michael Jordan said that basketball built a bridge between Oggie and the rest of his teammates. Even though he played a more European style of ball than the rest of the Quakers, it was still good basketball. "Athletics in general brings people together," Jordan said. "We all have a common goal -- to win games and do the best we can, and Oggie fits right into that." Oggie sat out the 1998-99 season due to NCAA transfer requirements but practiced with the team during the week. He also regained a sense of home, a sense of family, that his perpetual motion made necessary. "I had one of the best years of my life last year living with him and we really developed a strong bond," Vigor said. "I really appreciate him being here and I'm disappointed that we only got to hang out and go to school together for one year." "We're more like friends now -- very, very good friends," Oggie said. · The Kapetanovics feel a special sense of urgency regarding their family. With relatives spread throughout war-torn Yugoslavia and all its former parts, keeping in touch takes on a deeper meaning. "Over the years we realized how important it is to have a very strong family bond," Vigor said. "Basically, the traveling has made the bond between us as a family much stronger than anything. We've always had to stick together." Despite the family's rare mix of Croats, Bosnians, Jews, Muslims and Christians, Vigor said there isn't any bad blood among them. "For our family personally, it's not a source of confusion -- it's just the way we've been brought up," Vigor said. "Our whole family is a mixed-marriage family, if you want to put it that way. As a family it doesn't cause any confusion or any problems, but where it does cause a problem is people not understanding what's going on and having to explain it to them." · The story began in New York on May 16, 1978. But not really, because Oggie's story has no beginning. Oggie's story is one of inheritance and division, unity and discord, home and abroad. Oggie's story is Yugoslavia's story -- a story which begins and ends with time. He is everything and nothing. He is mixed-up, put together, torn apart and whole. Oggie is now writing the next chapter of his unending history, a chapter which he hopes will include a visit to Yugoslavia. "Right now, I don't know if that's going to be possible within a year," Oggie said. "But I definitely want to graduate and go back. That's my dream. It's a lot different over there, I just want to see.? A lot has changed, [I want] to go back to my memories." Oggie -- a son, a brother, a Canadian, a Yugoslav, a mover and a basketball player -- wants to go back to collect his fractured memories of Belgrade, to make himself whole once more.Comments powered by Disqus
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