By Madisen Carter
San Francisco native and 2019 St. Ignatius College Prep graduate, Neal Begovich, is back for his third season as a Stanford Cardinal. He is back with a fully healthy body and mindset and is ready to contribute to the men’s basketball team in any way that he can.
During Begovich’s redshirt season in 2019, he became a lot stronger and faster as his main focus during that time was to change his body. He was able to learn more about the college system and what it takes to be successful. Last season, he had a stress fracture in his foot that caused him to miss a total of eight weeks. Although Begovich did not touch the court as much as he wanted to in his past two seasons, he said that he is grateful for the experience of being in the program for those two years and has learned to enjoy working on his skills for long-term success.
“Not really playing much over the last two years, it's definitely hard but you learn a lot about yourself,” Begovich said. “I think the mental toughness part is huge too in terms of being alone and being resilient from injuries and coming back. I learned a lot more about myself over that time period in terms of just growing as a person as well.”
Begovich said thinking long-term was also a main focus when he worked out with Coach Packie Turner at Unlimited Potential Basketball. Begovich has been working out with Coach Packie since the end of his freshman year of high school and said that Coach Packie has been a great mentor to him and has helped him not only improve on the court, but also as a person.
Coach Packie helped Begovich with his mental side of the game along with his shooting and guarding skills. Begovich said that they worked on his game being versatile, which can give you the best chance of success.
Now that Begovich is 100% in his mental and physical game, he has been preparing over the summer and preseason, mainly focusing on his shooting. He has been working on his footwork, how fast to release the ball and also on having a purpose behind every shot during practice, focusing on what looks he will get during game time.
For this season, Begovich said the men’s basketball team’s main goal is to make it to March Madness. Personally, Begovich wants to be ready for whatever opportunity comes his way and to help the team win in any way that he can.
“Just being ready whenever my number is called is the number one thing and to continue to make my teammates better every single day, whether that's on the court or being a leader in the locker room,” Begovich said.
Not only is this season different for Begovich because of his health and mindset, but also because this will be his last season playing on the same college basketball team as his older brother, Daniel. His older brother is a fifth-year senior and when he graduates, that will conclude the brothers’ third and final year as Stanford basketball teammates.
“It's pretty awesome. Generally just playing together I'm still having to pinch myself sometimes.” Begovich said. “It's hard not to take it for granted because we've always been together [and played basketball together] for our entire lives, so it kind of just feels like the norm, but it's such an added benefit. I'm very blessed to be in [this] position.”
So far during the season, the Stanford basketball team has an overall record of 4-2. Begovich said the team has been continuing to work towards where they need to be, and he believes that the team has a lot of potential. He said head coach, Jerod Haase, has good plans set in place for all of the games, and it is the team’s job to execute those plans.
Stanford’s next game is on November 28th at Colorado, the team’s first Pac-12 matchup this season. Until then, the team will be preparing to secure their fifth win of the season along with Begovich as he continues to work and grow in the game he loves.
“I live and breathe basketball every single day. Working out, going to practice, games, I mean I watch film all day, every day. I just love it so much. It's such a big part of my life, that when I think about being involved in basketball when my playing days are over, that love for basketball isn’t going to go away,” Begovich said. “If I'm doing something that involves basketball, for me it won't feel like work. I want to do what makes me happy in life, whether that's right now playing or working in it. Why wouldn't I do what I love?”