PITTSFIELD — Basketball is basketball, right? When you get down to the basic elements, it’s the same game, whether it’s played in Pittsfield, Maine, or Belgrade, Serbia.

Except when it’s not.

Todor Imsir, a senior guard at Maine Central Institute, learned the subtle differences between basketball in the United States and his native Serbia with old fashioned on the job training. At home, officials are less likely to call traveling. In an early season game against Spruce Mountain, Imsir learned that’s not the case in Maine.

“He was called for six travels, two charges and had six points,” MCI head coach Josh Tardy said. “Dribbling was optional.”

With the regular season just past the midpoint, Imsir has shown he has a pretty good handle on American basketball. The 6-foot-1 Imsir, known as Tod to his teammates, leads the Huskies in scoring at just under 17 points per game and is among the top scorers in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B division. Imsir has added a perimeter shooting threat to MCI’s game. At 7-5 heading into Friday’s home game against Maranacook, the Huskies are in 10th place in the Eastern Class B Heal Point standings. The top 13 teams in the region advance to the tournament.

“Last year, we had good post play from Mitchell (Hallee), and we needed somebody who could stick an outside shot, and Tod can shoot great. He worked in pretty well,” MCI senior guard and co-captain Slade Emery said. “I think he fit in pretty well. It just took a few days in practice.”

After seeing some of his older friends head to the United States to study, Imsir looked into opportunities at American schools. While studying options on the Internet, he discovered MCI.

“I liked their site, and how the campus looked,” Imsir said.

Imsir corresponded with Clint Williams, MCI’s Director of Admissions, and decided the Pittsfield school was the right fit. When Imsir arrived two weeks before the start of the fall semester for orientation, it was his first trip to the United States. Imsir grew up in Belgrade, Serbia’s capital city.

“I expected to play basketball, but it was not the main thing that I was looking for. I was looking for the good education, and basketball was just a part,” Imsir said.

Imsir quickly fit in with his new teammates.

“Overall, Tod has gelled great with the starting five, and the whole entire team,” Hallee, a senior captain, said. “I actually got the opportunity to have Tod stay at my house over the Thanksgiving break and Christmas break. It’s just like having another brother around the house.”

Added Tardy: “It’s a good fit. Tod came here right at the beginning of the school year, and I asked Mitchell and Slade and some of the guys to check in with some of these guys who are looking to play basketball. I think they developed a friendship.”

Basketball is a big deal in Serbia. Last September, the Serbian national team earned the silver medal at the FIBA World Cup, losing to the United States in the gold medal game. Vlade Divac and Peja Stojakovic are two of the Serbian players who enjoyed successful careers in the NBA. Imsir called point guard Milos Teodosic, who plays for CSKA Moscow in Russia, one of his basketball influences. Serbian Stefan Micovic is a junior on the University of Maine roster (Imsir said he and Micovic have not met).

“He’s always trash talking about the quality of Serbian basketball, and how if it was a bigger country like the United States, they’d get the gold and the United States would get the silver,” Tardy said.

Among the rule differences Imsir had to adjust to were the lack of a shot clock and eight minute quarters, rather than 10 minutes. In Europe, the high school 3-point line is approximately 22 feet, deeper than the American high school 19 feet, nine inches.

“I had to adapt to some rules. I’m still getting used to it,” Imsir said.

Imsir scored 27 points in a 61-54 win at Maranacook, and as he continued to improve, he became the focus of opposing defenses.

“It’s a little tougher to play like that, it really is. I’m still trying to do my best to play with the (defensive) pressure,” Imsir said.

Belfast employed a box and one against MCI, with Imsir the target of the extra defensive attention. In a 61-52 loss at Oceanside, the Mariners played tight defense on Imsir. He still scored 28 points.

“It was a tough loss for us, but that was a game that was in the balance right down to the final 50 seconds,” Tardy said. “He’s got a good intermediate jump shot, and he’s good in transition. Adjusting to the physicality of the KVAC is something, I’ve seen improvement from the preseason right through. He’s a very good offensive player. He understands positioning and sees the court well.”

Imsir also had to adapt to dorm life and life in small town Maine. Belgrade is a city of 1.2 million people. Pittsfield’s population is under 5,000.

“He misses his mom and dad, and he misses his two little sisters. Being away from home, that’s tough,” Tardy said. “During the holidays, during weekends, when Mitchell and Slade can hang out at home, he’s not. And that’s the tough part of studying abroad.”

“I like people here. They’re kind. I think everybody’s happy here. There’s not too many things to do here at night, but I’m really busy with school and basketball, so it doesn’t bother me,” Imsir said.

Imsir hopes to attend college in the United States, and if he finds a school at which he can play basketball, all the better. In the short term, he wants to help the Huskies finish the season strong and reach the playoff for the first time since 2007.

“I like the team. I like the team so much. I like that we have a really competitive league. I like my coach. I like how practices are. I’m just enjoying playing basketball,” Imsir said.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.