Humble but hardly average

Senior water polo player led his team in the water, but prides himself on being well-rounded

Krsto Sbutega shoots on the UCSD defense during the Nov. 9, 2008 match in which the Bruins were victorious 11-8. Sbutega will graduate as a member of the class of 2009.

Krsto Sbutega shoots on the UCSD defense during the Nov. 9, 2008 match in which the Bruins were victorious 11-8. Sbutega will graduate as a member of the class of 2009. Nathan Tyree

The journey to the top of UCLA athletics can never be accomplished by ordinary people.

Hailing from Montenegro, redshirt senior Krsto Sbutega is not the average student athlete. He will leave UCLA with a degree in mechanical engineering and the ambitions of going to graduate school to specialize in ship building.

Sbutega journey to UCLA began when he moved to Italy in 1991. Looking for a sport to play, his father introduced him to water polo.

“I loved the sport,” Sbutega said. “I never played anything else and I loved it from the beginning; I just kept going.”

When he finished his formal education in Italy, Sbutega had to decide if he was going to continue with school or play professional water polo.

“This was the best choice to keep playing water polo at a high level and have school integrated into it,” Sbutega said.

Coming to UCLA meant leaving behind family and friends and moving to the United States by himself. While this move might seem to be a huge transition for some, Sbutega said he took no time in adjusting to life in Westwood.

Only one thing was troublesome for him when he arrived.

“The hardest part was getting used to water polo because I was really out of shape,” Sbutega said. “I wasn’t used to getting up at 6:45 (a.m.) so I really struggled from that point. The first three weeks were really rough, but once that went by everything was really great.”

Quickly acclimating to life as a Bruin, Sbutega was able to make a niche for himself on the men’s water polo team. His senior year he was really able to distinguish himself as a standout.

“The whole year he played unbelievably consistent and unselfishly, setting up other teammates,” coach Adam Wright said. “From the first game through the last game he was always there.”

For his efforts, Sbutega was honored throughout his college career including First Team All-American honors as a senior and three consecutive All-MPSF honors.

His senior year he led the team with 50 goals and will leave UCLA fifth on the all-time list with 143 career goals.

For Sbutega however, it is not his performance in the pool that he wants to be his legacy.

“I feel like I did a pretty good job balancing all three aspects of college; with athletics, … school and the social aspect,” Sbutega said. “So I hope they remember me for that. That would be a huge accomplishment.”

Even with a demanding major, Sbutega was able to excel during his time at UCLA. With his unique perspective he added a new dimension to the team, separating himself as a leader and always staying devoted to the game.

“If you try your best everyday you will be a better player,” Wright said. “He has come so far from his freshman year and become a high level player. You can’t get there by not working.”

With his college career wrapping up, Sbutega will spend his summer at home in Europe with his family before returning stateside in the fall. Originally planning to play professional water polo after school, Sbutega had to change his plans.

“I talked to a bunch of teams but it didn’t work out,” Sbutega said. “The money right now is really bad with economic crisis and in Italy, it’s bad so it didn’t really work out.”

Sbutega said he plans to eventually attend graduate school but will still remain involved with water polo, perhaps finding a coaching job somewhere.

For now, Sbutega is looking forward to graduation, especially since his parents will be coming to see him walk in the commencement ceremony.

No matter what the future holds for Sbutega, he says he has no regrets about leaving home to come to UCLA.

“I would do another five years right now if I could,” Sbutega said. “It was great. School, social life, water polo, everything ““ it was all great.”

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