ATHENS -- The bomb was not large, nor was it sophisticated. It was only hand-made. But that was enough.
Dusan Langura cannot say where it happened, what country his unit was serving in when the small road-side bomb exploded. He hasn’t told many people about it but will give the details when asked. That he was even in the situation still seems unreal. He was just supposed to be putting in his time and then getting out.
“It was supposed to be an exercise,” he said. “But it ended up not being an exercise, because of the attack.”
Langura will not play this year for the Georgia men’s basketball team, thanks to the knee injuries sustained in the attack. When he is healthy enough to play, it’s no sure thing he will play significant minutes.
But this is not a typical walk-on, to say the least.
When Georgia head coach Mark Fox revealed this summer that one of his new players had torn his ACL “when a bomb went off,” it seemed almost comical. The transaction line: Dusan Langura, knee surgery, bomb explosion. And who knew Switzerland even had a military?
But as Langura tells it, the story is quite serious.
Langura, now 20, was serving because military service is mandatory in Switzerland for men between the ages of 18-34. There was a national referendum in September to end mandatory military service, but it was soundly defeated.
Yes, Switzerland is known for its neutrality. But it does take part in peacekeeping missions. It had armed soldiers in peacekeeping roles in Bosnia and Kosovo and small presences in places like Darfur.
Langura says he was “in action” but can’t specify the location or what his unit was doing. It was a road-side bomb, although not the type Americans have encountered in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Nothing like a real bomb, like you see in Afghanistan,” Langura said.
It exploded far away from Langura. But the impact was strong. He was knocked down, and when he got up to try to run, that’s when he tore his ACL and meniscus. He also sustained a skull fracture and was burned.
“I’m kind of shy, because it has really nothing to do with basketball. But I was willing to share it with some of my teammates,” Langura said. “It has been really hard for me. I took one year of prep school to get better and ready for Georgia, and then I ended up getting hurt again, which kinds of slowed me down.”
Langura, listed at 6-foot-4, had been planning to play at Georgia and had preferred walk-on status. Even after the injury, Fox and his staff are honoring the commitment, and Langura is a member of the team this year. He will cheer his teammates, rehab the knee and hope for the best for 2014-15.
“Just show people and coaches and staff that I can help the team in some way and just be a part of an SEC team,” he said.
In the meantime, Georgia has the services of a unique person. Langura speaks several languages, the most recent being English, which he picked up well enough to be valedictorian of his senior class at Furtah Prep, an Acworth private school.
“He’s just one of those kids that could have been selfish, could have been a hot dog, give me the ball, but that never entered into the type of person that he is,” said Eugene Fries, the boys basketball head coach at Furtah Prep. “He’s just a great kid.”
Langura’s father is from Montenegro -- the same country as Georgia junior forward Nemanja Djurisic -- and his mother is from Macedonia. Both are former Yugoslavian republics.
Langura’s first language is French, the main tongue in Romont, his hometown. But he also learned a lot of German and spoke Serbian with his father and Macedonian with his mother.
Langura came to the U.S. his junior year of high school, just to learn English. He didn’t have any idea about playing basketball, but upon getting here he discovered the American system -- no club basketball, as in Europe -- and decided to pursue playing in college.
There was an early bump: Five games into Langura’s junior year at Furtah, he tore his ACL.
“We would put him in on an inbounds play, mainly as a decoy,” Fries said. “They’d have to guard him, because if you left him open on one leg he was still gonna shoot better than most people.”
Furtah had another prospect, a 6-foot-9 center, so the team was being scouted. His dream school was BYU, not because he’s Mormon (he’s not) but because Provo reminded him of the Swiss mountains. BYU did recruit him for awhile but didn’t offer a scholarship.
Langura began drawing inquiries from schools like Valparaiso, Oakland (Mich.) and then Georgia, whose assistant coach Philip Person was interested. Langura also liked the idea of staying close to his host family in Georgia.
Langura ended up going to a prep school in California, mainly because he knew he would have to serve his military commitment. He still views the military experience positively, despite what happened.
“I really enjoyed my time being there. Discipline. It really helped me to transition to here. I had a great time there,” he said. “But on my mind I had Georgia. I wanted to be a Bulldog.”