When it comes to Australian players plying their trade in Europe, Aleks Maric is one of the most decorated. Maric may have started his professional career late by modern standards (24), but in just a short span of time he’s suited up for some of Europe’s most prestigious clubs (Partizan Belgrade, Panathinaikos, Lokomotiv and now Maccabi Tel Aviv), and also won championships at almost all of his destinations – including the EuroLeague title with Panathinaikos in 2011.
Playing for his country, though, has always been a source of pride for the 6’11 Australian and starting5online managed to catch up with Maric while Maccabi Tel Aviv prepared for a preseason game against the Brooklyn Nets at the Barclays Center to talk about the Boomers’ recent World Cup campaign, playing in Israel, and more.
Read what Maric had to say below.
Starting5: How have you been? Were you injured recently and that’s the reason why you missed the recent World Cup in Spain?
Aleks Maric: “No, I wasn’t injured, thank God. Russia was just a long season with the traveling and I was tired physically and mentally, so I decided I needed a break from the whole season.”
S5: Was it tough watching the guys play? Considering we could have used your size in the paint.
AM: “Definitely, it was tough. But [Aron] Baynes had, I think, a great tournament and Nate [Jawai] came back from a serious injury and helped out a lot, too. But, obviously, it was definitely hard to watch – playing in the World Championships, representing your country … it’s hard to miss that.”
S5: The game against Angola. It caused controversy, not only back home, but worldwide as well. What are your thoughts? Is that a strategy you think is acceptable, or do you feel like we should play to win every game?
AM: “I don’t know. I wasn’t there, I wasn’t part of it, but I know that when I’ve been a part of the national team we always play to win. I know that.”
S5: Is playing for the national team still something you want to be a part of in the future with an eye to the Rio Olympic Games?
AM: “Definitely. Even next year we’ve got the Ramsey Shaw Cup [against New Zealand] and obviously I wanna play that, and just keep going as long as my body can hold up.”
S5: What are your thoughts on the growth of basketball in Australia in recent years? Things are very different than when you first came up.
AM: “It’s getting bigger and bigger, definitely, on an international scale for Australian basketballers that go to College or play professional in Europe and the NBA, and I think that’s a real key to the Australian development. The A.I.S. especially, from the duration that I was there, and the NBA influence – [Andrew] Bogut was the first pick and he influenced me. His attitude, his work ethic, and people started focusing more on Australian players.”
S5: What do think is the best path for young Aussies these days? Coming up through the NBL system or heading to Europe to play professionally?
AM: “I think they need to go at a place where they’re gonna work and develop their game. When their game has developed for the next level they’re gonna know that. You can’t listen to people around you. As a player you’re supposed to have a coach next to you that you can trust and knows you – it’s a team effort.”
S5: This is your first season in Israel now having played with top teams in Greece and Russia the past few seasons. Why Maccabi?
AM: “[They’re] defending European champions. Maccabi is a very well-known brand in European basketball so, I think, the opportunity came and I had to take it.”
S5: Is the NBA still something you have an eye on in terms of playing here?
AM: “Na. It’s the best league in the world, no doubt, but I’m quite happy in Europe and I think my time has passed for the NBA. I’m turning thirty in October now so ….
S5: What does the future hold for Aleks Maric now over the next 12-months or so?
AM: “Work hard and see what happens!”