At 6’4″, Basketball Player and Coach Aleksandra Dobranić Dominates on the Court

She soars to new heights.

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  • Written by
    Sara Debevec
  • Photographed by
    Shane O’Donnell

I considered myself tall until I met Aleksandra “Sasha” Dobranić. In a crowded bar turning a corner to say hi to a friend, I walked right into her chest. Here was a woman who is unafraid to wear heels at an already impressive 6’4”. Naturally, I was intimidated but also intrigued by this beautiful being towering over me.

When she was in second grade, Aleksandra was the tallest among her peers and claims her basketball journey was predecided. Her dad, someone she always looked up to, was already an avid basketball player—always bringing balls on family vacations.

“Growing up tall, basketball became a part of me,” she says. In high school it became more serious, and she started playing for her national team in Serbia, where she is from. “In Europe there are no high school and college sports like in the U.S., and when you are excelling at your sport, you can start playing professionally while in high school.”

In her senior year, she left the family nest and moved to the capital, Belgrade, to attend a sports-centered high school and play professionally for the well-known Serbian team Radivoj Korać.

“I moved by myself and lived with two other girls on the team,” she shares. “We would practice twice daily right before and after school for about two hours at a time. It’s a normal thing to practice so much when you are a pro. On top of that, three times a week we would do lift and conditioning.” She recalls this as an intense but fun period in her life.

Halfway through her senior year of high school, when some of her athlete friends relocated to the United States for school and to continue their athletic growth, Sasha also decided to explore that path. She had to take her SAT and TOEFL exams to transition to the U.S. education system.

“I was scared once I took the test. I was like, ‘OK, this is real. It’s happening.’ I was scared, but if I didn’t try it, I would never know what it was like.”

In 2009 she made the transcontinental move from Belgrade to Ohio as an international student athlete to play basketball and receive a higher education at Ohio State. With a new team, she acquired a new nickname: Fierce. It was initially inspired by Beyoncé’s I Am… Sasha Fierce album, but it quickly served as a reflection of her drive, determination and hard work.

“The key to success in life is happiness and finding something to do in life that makes you truly happy because then it doesn’t feel like work. Happiness, patience and hard work are major when it comes to success.”

After college she decided to move to California. She never thought she was going to get into coaching, but it seemed like a natural thing to do as she already had some experience with kids at Ohio State summer camps. Understanding there is only so much attention you can dedicate to a player when coaching a team, she decided to focus on private lessons. She quickly developed a network of clients all over L.A., including West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Playa Vista, El Segundo and Manhattan Beach.

“I had a couple clients in Manhattan Beach, and then word of mouth got around,” she says. “Now I spend most of my time here.”

Sasha works with kids ages 6 through 17, but her favorite age group to work with is between 6 and 8 years old. She notes that when they are really young, you can see them improve quickly. Some people think it’s challenging, but she finds it quite satisfying.

“I act like I am 8 when I am with them, and it’s really fun,” she says. “Sometimes the attention span is short and that can be tough, but it’s important to just be patient with them, giving them breaks, understanding and tweaking the practice to make it more enjoyable for them.”

Sasha not only coaches but also works for a software company called Simple Practice. She hopes to continue to excel in her field while sharing her love for basketball with the kids. “The key to success in life is happiness and finding something to do in life that makes you truly happy because then it doesn’t feel like work,” she explains. “Happiness, patience and hard work are major when it comes to success.”