|2012 has been a break out year for Edo Muric|
By Dimitris Kontos
This could prove to be a breakout season for Slovenia's Edo Muric and he doesn't just sit back and expect good things to fall from the sky into his lap.
The talented forward, who turned 21 on Tuesday, has earned the right to play big minutes for KRKA Novo Mesto in both the EuroChallenge and Adriatic League.
"It's my first year as the starting small forward on KRKA, previously there was Zoran Dragic on the team," he told FIBAEurope.com by way of explanation.
"I am trying hard to make the most of the opportunity. The team and I take it step-by-step and just put 100% effort into every game and every practice.
Muric leads his team in scoring in both competitions, averaging at time of writing, 11.7 points a night in the Adriatic League and 15 a night in EuroChallenge.
"We have several guys who can score, in every game it can be someone else, for me it's not so important," he says, dismissing the accomplishment
THE BIGGEST EVENT EVER
What is definitely important to Muric is to show improvement every single day throughout the season, in order to be a part of something big that is coming to Slovenia at the end of it - EuroBasket 2013.
"This is for sure the biggest event that our country has had so I'm really looking forward to us to get a good result out of it," he asserts.
"It will be a full house at every Slovenia game because our country is crazy about basketball.
"This is the biggest motivation for all of us, playing on our home court in front of our fans.
"It will be the first time for all the guys, even the experienced players who have played at EuroBaskets in other countries in previous years."
Muric knows what Slovenia are in for. He got his first taste of the magnitude of a EuroBasket tournament in Lithuania, in 2011, prior to his 20th birthday.
"It was the biggest experience playing alongside Goran Dragic, Erazem Lorbek, Mirza Begic, all those guys," he says.
"2011 was a really big year for me and KRKA. We won the EuroChallenge, we reached the Final Four of the Adriatic League, and then we won the Supercup and the National Cup [in Slovenia].
"So I think the coach [Bozidar Maljkovic] saw me trying my best at KRKA and gave me a chance with the national team.
"I was so surprised and excited, I knew I had to give my best and help the team as much as I could.
START WITH THE TOUGH PART FIRST
One does not even need to ask Muric if he would give anything to repeat the experience, this time on home soil.
"I know the coach will get the 12 best players, so I will work to be one of those 12," he acknowledged.
"It will be really hard because we have many good players here in Slovenia but I work hard in every practice to convince the coach again."
No top athlete of course is satisfied just by taking part in an event, no matter how big it is.
"I think that with the big support of our fans, if we [put] together a team as good as we have planned to do, we could beat anybody," says Muric, hinting at Slovenia's goals at the EuroBasket.
The hosts were drawn in Group C in the First Round and will go up against the Czech Republic, Georgia, Poland, Croatia and reigning European champions, Spain.
It's undoubtedly a tough start to their campaign - and Muric likes it this way.
"I am glad that we have some good games there," he said.
"We're playing Spain, we're playing Georgia, who keep getting better and better every year, so it's a very interesting group."
"I prefer us to play strong teams in the First Round because I remember [what happened in] Lithuania, where we got Spain in the quarter-finals and it was really hard to beat them.
"So I was really happy when I saw Spain were in the same First Round group with us.
"This way we don't have to meet them again in the quarter-finals," he laughs
|Edo Muric has been leading scoring in two competitions for KRKA this season|
For all this to happen, Muric has to continue in the same impressive way he started this season and perhaps help KRKA pave an already familiar path to success.
Despite his young age, he is one of only three survivors on the team from the 2011 side that earned the club its first European trophy.
"In 2011, we played in the EuroChallenge for the first time - and we won!" he recalls.
"We said this year that if we make it out of the first round, we can then make it to the Final Four.
"We have two very strong teams in our group, the two Turkish teams, so I think the second round will be easier for us than the first if we can qualify, as I hope we'll do."
KRKA are tied with Tofas Bursa in second place in Regular Season Group A, behind Pinar Karsiyaka, who have already secured qualification.
They are hosting Karsiyaka next Tuesday and face a showdown with Tofas on the final day of Regular Season action, again at home.
"I think we have a good chance against Tofas if we play like we did in our last two games, against Olimpija [Ljubljana] and ETHA [Engomi]; if we do that, we could beat them," Muric offers.
"I know that my team-mates and I will give 100% on offence and defence and we're hoping to qualify to the next round.
"It's not going to be easy, but I think we can do it."
"This [the EuroChallenge] is a very good competition for us to play in and we are hungry for wins, we want to go all the way."