Big point guard, big expectations: Luka Sakota aims to lead Northeastern men’s basketball into title contention by Ian Thomsen October 30, 2023 Share Mastodon Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Luka Sakota was drawn to Northeastern in part by coach Bill Coen’s point-guard-driven offense. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University Luka Sakota arrives with big goals. He aims to play professionally. He dreams of a front-office career in sports, ultimately. Topping that list is his immediate and urgent desire to help return the Huskies to contention in men’s basketball. After two losing seasons, the Huskies are looking forward to a year of renewal around the leadership of their new but experienced point guard, a 22-year-old graduate transfer from Harvard. The promising Huskies will launch coach Bill Coen’s 18th year at Northeastern with the traditional season opener against crosstown rival Boston University at 8 p.m. Monday, Nov. 6, at Matthews Arena (televised by NESN and streaming on FloHoops). The Huskies are BACK!🔗 https://t.co/339HQT2w5r📊 https://t.co/OlgVpHzDD2 pic.twitter.com/TGVDXftsgF— Northeastern Men’s Basketball (@GoNUmbasketball) November 7, 2023 “We all know the last couple of years didn’t go as planned here — it was the same for myself at Harvard,” says Sakota, who was limited by a torn plantar fasciitis last season. “It’s a big reason why I wanted to come to Northeastern: We really want to win and all of the personal accolades will come with that. I truly think we have a very legitimate chance of a deep run and making the [NCAA] tournament.” Though Northeastern is picked to finish seventh in the Coastal Athletic Association, Coen shares Sakota’s optimism based on the investment in playing time that was made in their large freshman class last year. After a summer of inspired workouts, Coen is counting on his sophomores — including Rashad King, Masai Troutman and Jared Turner — to help the Huskies turn the corner alongside redshirt senior guard Joe Pridgen. “You make the biggest jump between your freshman and sophomore year and I think those guys are ready to do that,” says Coen, the winningest coach in Northeastern history. The emerging players will rely on the traditional anchors of the point guard in Sakota and the paint-dominating big man in Chris Doherty, a fellow graduate student who has averaged 7.2 rebounds over the past three seasons since transferring from Notre Dame. The two leaders have struck up an instant rapport. “Chris is probably the best passing big I’ve played with in my life — and he makes my life a whole lot easier,” Sakota says. “That partnership has been going pretty well.” Sakota dreams of extending his basketball career as both a professional player and a front-office executive. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University Luke Sakota, senior guard on the men’s basketball team. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University Sakota, who dreams of extending his basketball career as both a professional player and a front-office executive, believes the Huskies should contend for the NCAA tournament. Photos by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University The 6-foot-6-inch Sakota provides Coen with his first big point guard since 2018-19, when 6-foot-5-inch Vasa Pusica led Northeastern to the 2019 NCAA tournament. “They understand the game in a very similar manner,” Coen says of Sakota and Pusica, who has been playing professionally in the upper leagues of Europe for the past five seasons. “They’re both bigger guards who are built to play in that style that we try to play. I think it made sense for Vasa when he came here and we’re hoping that we get similar results with Luka.” Pusica was born in Serbia, the homeland of Sakota’s father, Dragisa, who played professional volleyball there before moving to Toronto, where Luka was born. Sakota has benefited from the pro sports experiences of his father, who has essentially been coaching Luka since he was 5. “It’s having somebody that can show you how it’s done, what it takes, not letting you get too high or too low,” Sakota says of his father’s influence. “Nowadays, especially with social media, people are really quick to get a big ego. Sometimes you need that person to slow you down a little bit. My dad was always super supportive, but he made sure I stayed in check, and his knowledge of the game and how he thinks the game should be played definitely allowed me to be where I am today.” Coen’s point-guard-driven offense helped draw Sakota to Northeastern. “We’ve had some great point guards here and I think one of the reasons Luka chose to come here for his final college basketball experience is to be in that environment,” says Coen, who praises the coaching Sakota received at Harvard from Tommy Amaker. “He wants to develop as a point guard, he has aspirations of playing professionally and he wants to play a little bit more on the ball with ball screens.” Sakota is pursuing a master’s degree in international management with plans to earn a Northeastern MBA in 2024-25. Those degrees will help him establish a career after he’s done playing. In the meantime he looks forward to exploring the Huskies’ versatile rotation of interchangeable players with the size to defend multiple positions. “We’re seeing that drive and hunger,” Sakota says. “Every day, two to three hours of practice, locked in. Everything is a competition. Every drill is measured, every drill is counted. Our goal is to win.” Ian Thomsen is a Northeastern Global News reporter. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on X/Twitter @IanatNU.