Pehadzic emerges as a leader for USF during injury-filled season

By Brian Hattab, ASSISTANT SPORTS EDITOR
On March 6, 2019

SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE/GOUSFBULLS

This wasn’t supposed to be her breakout year.

But perhaps it’s only fitting that coming off a second straight season-ending injury, Enna Pehadzic is finally getting her moment in the spotlight.

The redshirt sophomore missed all of the 2016-17 season with a knee injury suffered in practice.

If that weren’t bad enough, she missed the final 15 games of the 2017-18 season after re-injuring the same knee.

But, while she was understandably frustrated, Pehadzic didn’t throw a pity party.

“Of course it’s really frustrating,” Pehadzic said. “But, I feel like when you get to a point where you accept something that happened to you, then it’s easier for you to move forward. And that’s always what I try to do is accept it, because I can’t change it.

“I was like, ‘Tears are not going to get me anywhere, except for hard work.’”

Absent veteran players Kitija Laksa and Laura Ferreira, USF needed someone to fill the void. She has emerged as USF’s leading scorer, having posted the most 3-pointers, field goals and total points.

Her 35-point effort against ECU on Feb. 20 earned her a spot on the AAC Honor Roll on Feb. 25. In the ECU game, not only did she set a new career high for points, she also set a new career high for 3-pointers made, something USF has been struggling with since Laksa went down with a torn ACL and meniscus Nov. 15.

“I think the biggest thing with her, where she’s stepping up is perimeter play. And us needing to have a perimeter scorer,” coach Jose Fernandez said. “And that’s been her role and we’re just so excited that she’s stepped in as that as a challenge and she’s doing really, really well.”

Pehadzic, a native of Horsens, Denmark, is not the first Danish standout in USF history and one doesn’t have to go back too far to find the most recent one. Maria Jespersen etched her mark on USF from 2014-2018 — she sits at No. 9 all-time in scoring and was a part of the winningest senior class in program history.

Jespersen also left her mark on Pehadzic.

“[I learned] a lot. Not to give up and keep working,” Pehadzic said. “Because Maria went through a lot of adversity, too in her college career and she ended up playing extremely well. So, definitely a person I look up to and even now, I still call her and talk to her if something’s bothering me or just anything.”

Much like Jespersen was in her time, Pehadzic said she is learning to become a leader on and off the floor. While she may not be the most veteran member of the team, she certainly has felt an urgency to step up in absence of the Bulls who have fallen to injury.

“I do [feel urgency], because like, agewise, I’m a lot older than the other people,” Pehadzic said. “But again, I don’t feel like I have that full experience on the court yet. I’m still trying to gain it, because I’ve been away for two years almost from playing, so I’m kind of in the same boat as my other teammates, but definitely it’s getting easier.”

Pehadzic is only 39 games into her USF career, but her commitment has seen her grow from only five minutes of playing time in the season opener against Ohio State on Nov. 6 to becoming a consistent starter — Pehadzic has been in USF’s starting lineup every game since the conference opener Jan. 5 against Temple.

“She’s in here all the time,” Fernandez said, referring to the Muma Basketball Center where USF practices. “And that’s what, at this level — the reason why she’s playing so well is, outside of our 20 hours, she’s in here on her own getting shots up, watching film. The amount of time that she spends to make herself better individually for our team to get better collectively — your teammates are going to have a ton of respect for you.”

Following two years of adversity and a ton of extra hours in the gym, her performance this season is a little bit sweeter.

“It definitely feels good because you work so hard and you do rehab and you do all these things,” Pehadzic said. “Sometimes you don’t feel like it’s getting progress and then suddenly, everything just — it’s all worth it, when you go through it and you get some accomplishments, it all becomes worth it.”

This wasn’t supposed to be her breakout year.

But broken out Pehadzic has.

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