Marko Milic is a player well-known all over Europe by basketball fans and not only. Personally I remember him the most from the Rome Final Four back in 1997 when he smashed a backboard with a monster dunk and I was very happy when I had the chance to talk to him for a few minutes and interview him for TalkBasket.
TB: Hello Marko. Hearing the name Marko Milic, people (like myself) who follow basketball immediately think of a youngster flying over a car and even breaking the backboard at a Euroleague Final Four back in 1997. That's more than a decade ago! Milko, a real Euroleague veteran, but still… you are only 31! You have been a free agent from February this year. Where are you now and what are your plans for the future?
Milic: Yes, some people think I'm 38, but I started professional basketball at a really young age. I was the youngest European player drafted back in 97 and played for a lot of clubs later in Europe – from Real Madrid, Fenerbahce, Scavollini, Pesaro, Roseto, Virtus, Olimpija Ljubljana to Fortitudo Bologna, which doesn't exist any more in first division, for which I feel extremely sorry for. I definitely don't feel as a veteran, injuries are past me now, I am completely prepared, I have my own coach for physical condition and I'm hungry for quality basketball! At the moment I'm in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, where I have my basketball camp for kids, which is a huge success. In the evening my phones are ringing more and more often, I have some options, but I have not decided yet.
TB: Your story with Union Olimpija ended in February. You agreed upon the terms of your release as the management wanted a younger team and decided to let you go. How does a player feel after few months without club?
Milic: At first it was a bit strange. I was thinking of immediately finding a new club at the beginning, but later I decided not to make any fast moves. Zmago Sagadin, the coach, who thought of me the most, wanted me to go to Zadar, but I refused. I wanted to have some peace, finish the injury rehabilitation and get fully prepared to start the new season in new environment. Spain and Italy seem the most attractive destinations at the moment. I had a nice vacation in Florida, USA. I visited some friends back from my NBA times in Phoenix, and that's pretty much all of the free time I had. After those two weeks, I started training individually. Basketball is in my blood, so to answer your question – It doesn’t feel good to be without club! At least not yet. I will finish my career, when my body will refuse to cooperate with my mind, but surely not at 31.
TB: Three years ago you had your best Euroleague season at Olimpija and you were their leading scorer and rebounder, which launched you back to Real Madrid, where an injury stopped you. You came back to Olimpija, again, ambitions were high, and you beat powehuoses like CSKA and Olympiacos. You scored a decisive basket against CSKA in that games. Is that one of your best moments?
Milic: Yes, I had my best season when I was 29, all players get better with age, even If they don’t fly so high any more. Basketball is a team sport and you have to use your head. Experience is important. This is not track and field athletics, where you have to push your body to the extremes. People remember my dunks from ages ago, but statistically and from efficiency aspect, I had my best seasons much later. Yes, the decisive basket against CSKA will remain one of my favourite memories, but still it’s a bit bitter story. We started that season beating CSKA and Olympiacos, but blew it all losing to smaller teams later and our Top16 dream went down the drain. I’m very competitive as a person, so my memories of that event are a mixture of ecstatic pleasure and disappointment. My favourite moments are those from Olimpija and National Team. Memories from Real Madrid are amazing too, but again a bit bitter. I will never forget how we lost in Copa Del Rey final against Barcelona during my first stint in Real Madrid. My good friend Sasha Djordjevic and I could not hide our tears then. But winning ULEB Cup and Spanish ACB League few years later with the same Real, fixed that.
TB: You mentioned your basketball camps, you also have you own website and web tv.
Milic: Yes. I accepted the invitation to organise these camps. Each July we have three groups of 20 kids, girls and boys. My camp differs from other similar projects, because basketball drills are not a priority. This is some kind of a school in nature. We go to the mountains, play football, beach volley, learn to swim, learn even some self-defense, have a school of safe internet and all in all have a lot of fun! My goal is to motivate kids to play basketball and do all kind of sports in general and not to scare them away with too much discipline and pain. I invite big stars to visit the camp. The whole Slovenian National Team was here last year. I have invited Primoz Brezec, Rasho Nesterovic, legendary Slavko Kotnik, Slovenian NHL all star Anze Kopitar and many more famous sportsmen. We have great media coverage, too. My website www.milko.si covers the events daily, I also have my own blog where I write anecdotes from my life and we are also building a huge video archive. It’s fun.