|Muric's previous club season was ravaged by injury but hard work and persistence meant he still got to play at EuroBasket in front of home fans|
By Rado Markovic Hribernik
It has been a busy summer for young Slovenian international Edo Muric. After a turbulent 2012/13 season, which was partially spoiled due to several injuries, he did not have any time to rest with national team aspirations to chase.
The only desire on his mind, already in early June, when the Slovenian national championship had ended, was how to retain a spot on the national team roster.
But for Muric, who made his international debut at EuroBasket 2011, it was not as simple this summer as it may have seemed. He only managed to play 18 games in the Adriatic League for Krka last season due to several injuries and his form towards the end of the club season dropped significantly.
His numbers at the beginning of the season in the EuroChallenge were 14.5 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists-per-game in 27.3 minutes spent on the court, whilst in the arguably weaker Slovenian domestic championship; he could only achieve 6.6 points, 2.9 rebounds and 0.8 assists in nearly half the playing time he had been seeing in the EuroChallenge (14.8 minutes-per-game).
However, he did not think about resting when the curtains fell on club action. The will to get back on track with the national team remained strong and he did not hesitate to do all he could to get in the necessary shape to convince Slovenia head coach Bozidar Maljkovic that he should be one of his 12 players to compete at EuroBasket 2013 on home soil.
"I did not have any rest at the end of the club season, opting instead to practice individually, in order to secure my spot on the final roster of our national team," he told fibaeurope.com when explaining his desire to keep training, adding, "I knew that 16 fully motivated teammates would attend the training camp with the same desire and that is why I prepared for this even before [reaching the training camp]."
He succeeded and found his name on the Slovenian senior team roster on 4 September, but it turned out his role on the team was similar to the one he had with Krka at the end of the season. Not because Maljkovic was not satisfied with the level of his performances but simply because the competition in the national team was bigger and because one of his teammates was at the pinnacle of his abilities.
"There was Zoran Dragic at my position, a player that was playing in the best form of his life and because of that I received a bit less playing time."
"But this wasn't on my mind during the Championship. I knew very well what my role on the team was and I executed it the way it was expected," said Muric, who played a shade under 15 minutes-a-night at EuroBasket.
Even though he may have expected a few minutes of playing time more this summer, he can't be dissatisfied with the national team summer.
"I gained a lot of experience, which will be helpful to me not only in the world of basketball, but also my personal life," the youngest member of the Slovenian team admits.
"I especially admire these players that have achieved tonnes in their careers, but haven't changed as people."
"They remain motivated and thirsty for success. I have grown up by their side both as a player and as a person."
BECOMING A LEADER IN KRKA
|Muric is one of four remaining players on the Krka roster who won the EuroChallenge in 2011|
Since the younger of the Muric brothers (his brother Dino is a captain of Union Olimpija) is well known as one of the biggest prospects of his generation of European players - he also participated in the FIBA Europe U18 All Star Game in 2009 - he had several tempting offers this summer from clubs trying to pull him away from Krka.
He still chose to stay in Novo Mesto, due to his ambition to supplement his team's success of claiming four consecutive domestic championship titles with a personal one - to become a true leader on the court and make a giant leap forward in his career.
"It was made clear to me, that I will receive one of the leading roles on the team. It is obvious that I can only benefit from this. This was the main reason for me to decide to stay here for another season," said Muric.
"For sure my role will be different from the one on the national team. The expectations towards me will be higher in the club."
Muric is one of four players on the current Krka roster that were members of the team in 2011 when they won the EuroChallenge, beating Lokomotiv Kuban in Ostend, Belgium in the final. Considering this experience accompanied with 21 caps for his national team, one could expect that he is one of the leaders of the team even off the court, despite his young age.
However, Muric insists that: "We have some experienced players on our roster. Of course I can't expect them to listen to me all the time and for sure I can't be an authority in this team. Not just yet."
TOO EARLY TO SPEAK ABOUT EXPECTATIONS
It is no secret that the foundations for the successes of Krka in the past seasons were laid by the Serbian "magician" Aleksandar Dzikic. He has now returned to the capital of the Dolenjska region, to compose another fairy tale. At least that is what the fans expect.
Can Krka retain their dominance in Slovenia and create a great success in the EuroChallenge with him back at the helm?
Muric's words are full of praise for the Serbian tactician. "Coach [Aleksandar] Dzikic is a fan's favourite and everyone is familiar with his qualities. Personally, I respect him very much. He is like a father to me and helped me a lot during the hardest times of my career. I trust him totally."
"He has put together a great team. He selected the players for the following season himself and he trusts us, which is of vast importance. He knows exactly what he wants to achieve."
However, for Muric, it is still too early to talk about the possibilities of the team and the goals, since he has so far only spent a few days with the team, following the end of EuroBasket 2013 and they are yet to play their first competitive game.
"Currently it is hard to draw parallels between the upcoming and previous season, because the season hasn't started yet. In a few weeks it will be a lot easier," he concludes.