Former DePaul Blue Demon center Marin Maric knew from the time he began college at Northern Illinois University in 2013 that he wanted to play in the NBA someday.
He hasn’t made it there just yet, but on Thursday he took a massive step towards realizing that dream.
Per EuroBasket.com, the 6-foot-11-inch center originally hailing from Croatia has signed a six-game professional contract to play for Demir Ins. Buyukcekmece of the Turkish Basketball Super League. Maric’s agent is Misko Raznatovic who works for Beo Basket Ltd. This agency represents several NBA players including Nikola Jokic, Ante Zizic, Nikola Pekovic, and Dario Saric.
“It’s definitely good for me, it’s definitely exposure,” Maric said.” The Turkish Basketball Super League is really hard and really physical. Coach [Ozhan Civgin] is already really happy with me, he said that this kid [meaning him] brings energy and he’s active. I just have to stay in shape and stay ready until my name is called and I think I’ll be all right.”
The Turkish Basketball Super League is the top tier basketball league in Turkey and consists of 16 teams. In January 2017, ESPN writer Fran Fraschilla rated it as the third best non-NBA basketball league in the world.
This season, Demir Ins. Buyukcekmece [Maric’s new club] currently sits in 14th place in the league standings with a 7-17 record that includes six losses in a row. Despite only about a month worth of games remaining on the schedule, Maric said he expects to play this season.
Maric, who was a fifth year senior enrolled in the College of Education as a graduate student at DePaul, speaks fluent English although a healthy dosage of that Eastern European accent lingers. His native language is Croatian which he showed off at a media event before the season began to the bewilderment of an audience that collectively needed some time to register what was happening. However, despite playing in Turkey now, he said there isn’t a pressing need for him to learn that third language.
“Coach speaks Turkish to the Turkish players and English to the American players,” Maric said. “The coach gives me all the information I need [because] he speaks really good English. The General Manager [Serdar Caglan] also speaks English really well so I communicate with him as well. Then there’s three or four American players who help me a lot. But for me being in the United States [for such a long time], English is natural for me right now. It’s interesting because I’m trying to find new hobbies, I’m trying to pick up some Turkish slang. I like it so far.”
As he answered questions over a FaceTime video chat as he sat eating a meal in a café on his second day in Istanbul, Turkey, Maric reflected on his short stint in Blue Demon country from the new country that he now calls his home.
In his lone season at DePaul, Maric averaged 13.6 points per game on 55.4 percent from the field and grabbed 6.6 rebounds per game. He led the Blue Demons in player efficiency rating (20.9) and true shooting percentage (63.0) among players who made appearances in at least five games last season. The Blue Demons were 1-2 this past season in games he missed with injury.
“I’m so happy I made the decision [to transfer to DePaul],” Maric said. “It gave me so much exposure and an opportunity to play against the best like Xavier and Michigan State. It gives you another level of competition, bigger, stronger, more talented guys. If you are real you are going to keep playing well [against that competition]. Coming to DePaul [I wanted] to know if I was real or just a good college player so coming to the Big East Conference and actually playing really well and having good games [let me know I was real].”
A force inside with his sturdy 6-foot-11-inch, 240 pound frame Maric dominated at times offensively with a medley of post moves and a flowery touch on his mid-range jumper. He scored over 20 points on six occasions this season with a season-high output of 25 points on Jan. 6 against St. John’s.
“I want to shout out the whole coaching staff and my teammates,” Maric said. “We have a unique bond, we literally all like each other. We live in the same dorms. We had a group of guys who goofed around and played games together. It was a super interesting environment for me and everybody was so nice to me. Everybody from [DePaul Athletic Director] Jeannie [Lenti Ponsetto], to the coaching staff we [all] made crazy bonds.”
Prior to transferring to DePaul, Maric played three seasons for the Northern Illinois Huskies of the Mid-American Conference. In his last two seasons there, he averaged 13.2 points and 8.4 rebounds per game and earned All-MAC Third Team honors both those seasons.
But stop talking about school. That was the past. For now, Maric is enjoying his new life of just having to worry about basketball.
“It’s a little bit different, there’s no school there’s no homework, when you are done [with practices and games] you go home and relax,” Maric said. “Right now, I live in a hotel like ten minutes away from the gym which is really nice. You are more independent I would say.”