SAN BERNARDINO – They are from the same country. They are the same age. They are both water polo stars. They are different as night and day. They are Dordija “Jo” Radunovic and Zoran Dragomirovic., both senior standouts for the San Bernardino High School water polo team. The 18-year-old foreign-exchange students from Serbia and Montenegro lead the Cardinals with 171 combined goals. From there, the similarities fall off. “Jo is a jokester and is very easy going,” Cardinal coach Ryan Williams said. “He’s from the beachside of Montenegro and this is his first time living inland. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREThe top 10 theme park moments of 2019 “Zoran is more shy and does not like big crowds. He’s from Belgrade, which is the capital city of Serbia. It’s about 12 hours inland.” Together with key returnees Phillip Casillas and Greg Warm, they form the nucleus of the Cardinal team. San Bernardino (9-5) lost its San Andreas League opener 20-13 on Tuesday to visiting San Gorgonio. But Williams benched two of his starters for missing practice and played with a patchwork lineup, while still managing to keep the match close. Jo and Zoran led the Cardinals with six and five goals, respectively. Casillas and Warm scored the other goals. Zoran also played outstanding defense against San G. star Chad Rahn, who managed five goals, mostly from the perimeter, outside of the Serbian’s muscular reach. Williams said the duo’s outlook is what is refreshing. “The key for me was when I told the players what was going on (with the benchings),” he said. “Jo looked at me and said, ‘We can win with the players we have out there, because we’re a team.’ “ Today, the Cardinals will be at full strength against host Cajon at 3:15 p.m. The Serbians came to San Bernardino through a foreign-exchange program that brings about a dozen students each year to SBHS. Debbie Karris and Frank Rodriguez of San Bernardino (who host Jo) and Dennis and Leslie Williams (who have Zoran) are repeat hosts. Dennis and Leslie also happen to be Ryan Williams’ parents. Dennis has coached water polo at every large public high school in the city except Arroyo Valley, as well at San Bernardino Valley College. Dennis was at pool side Tuesday for the match, along with former Cardinals coach Dave Smith, who guided Ryan and the Cardinals to the 1993 CIF title. Everyone seems to agree these Serbians are the real deal. “They’re Division I-caliber players, playing against high school competition,” Ryan said. “Out here, it takes two or three people to guard them and they’re still scoring goals. They’re so dominant.” Both began playing in Europe in their pre-teens. They learned the physical style of play favored in the former Yugoslavia and Hungary, where water polo is king. They also lifted weights, beginning at age 16. Both are solid, with the 5-foot-9, 170-pound Zoran being the more impressive physical specimen, with a torso the shape of a V. He has scored 75 goals. Jo checks in at an also-healthy 5-10, 192. He has 96 goals. The duo is easily recognizable in warm-ups, using their powerful bodies and arms to blast shots goalward. “They have shots like college kids,” said Ryan, who played at Long Beach State. “They’ll play Division I.” Although mature for their age, boys will be boys. Each has taken a liking to Mexican food, unavailable in their homeland. Jo likes the burritos and tacos at Lucy’s, which happens to be owned by the parents of his host, Frank Rodriguez. Zoran prefers Rosa Maria’s, a popular burrito emporium on the opposite side of Sierra Avenue. “My grocery bill has gone up a lot,” Debbie Karris said. “(Jo) said he liked Italian food, so we took him to The Mug. He ate almost a whole pizza, a spaghetti dinner with two pieces of garlic bread and a salad, and washed it all down with two Pepsis. The boy was grubbin’.” The teens also are popular with the opposite sex, as shown by a trip that Jo and his host family took to Universal Studios. Jo was rushed by an excited group of teenage girls, who mistakenly thought he was a model and wanted their picture taken with him. “He just looked at us and said, ‘Oh my God, these girls are crazy,’ ” Debbie said. As for the two Serbians, they are crazy like foxes. Both want to parlay their recent experiences into college scholarships. It is a realistic goal because they are pulling B averages in college prep and advanced placement classes and are scoring 75 percent of their team’s goals. “I came here for the education and to go to college,” Jo said. “That’s the thing about America, it gives opportunity to everyone.” 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!
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