|Dario Saric keeps his eyes fixed firmly on the rim while on the court and remains equally focused on his long-term aims with Croatia when he is off the court|
By Jared Grellet
Soon after going past 25 points for a third consecutive night at the Samsung U18 European Championship, Dario Saric revealed to FIBAEurope.com that he hopes to be playing a role in the Croatian senior team come autumn.
With Croatia beginning the qualification process for next year's EuroBasket against Cyprus on 18 August, Saric will be in Vilnius, and if all goes to plan for the 18-year-old star, on the verge of winning an U18 European Championship gold medal a day later.
But come the senior team's second game against Ukraine on 21 August, Saric could well be in the mix.
"Maybe after this tournament [U18 European Championship] I will move into the senior squad for the qualification campaign for the EuroBasket. I have already been training with them," Saric told FIBAEurope.com.
The training has given him the opportunity to work with the stars that perhaps, sooner rather than later, he will be playing alongside.
So far in Liepaja, during the First Riound, Saric has been in a class of his own, averaging 29.3 points, 8.7 rebounds and, perhaps most importantly, 3.7 assists a night, proving himself to be far more than a one-dimensional player.
Amazingly, this is Saric's second time playing on the Croatian U18 team, despite missing the team last year due to injury.
A lot has changed for the Sibenik-born player since his last appearance on the team in 2010.
"I now play a bigger part in the game," said the 2.08m forward, adding, "when I was just 16, I only played with the ball. But now I play a bigger part with and without the ball."
Physically, Saric has also become more imposing, a scary thought considering a year previous he was already dominating the U19 World Championship albeit with a much skinnier frame, averaging 18.1 points and 10.1 rebounds a night to help his country to an eighth-place finish.
"I have been working with the best weights coach in Croatia and it has been doing a great job for me," Saric explained as the reason behind his newly found bulk.
However, before he can begin thinking too much about playing for the senior team, there is still the small task of attempting to win a medal with his current team.
"The confidence is really high in the team and we are so happy to finish as first in our group and we must now go step by step to the final," said Saric moments after he had lead his team to a victory over Russia and a whitewash of the First Round.
"To win this championship will be a massive achievement for Croatia."