Maric signs contract in Turkey


Marin Maric throws down a dunk in DePaul’s preseason exhibition game. (Photo courtesy of DePaul Athletics)

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 yet, but on Thursday he took a massive step towards realizing that dream.

Per, 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.

“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 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 alright.”

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 currently sits in 15th place in the league standings with a 7-17 record that includes six losses in a row. Despite only about a month’s worth of games remaining on the schedule, Maric said he expects to play this season.

Maric’s agent is Misko Raznatovic who owns Beo Basket Ltd. This agency represents several NBA players including Nikola Jokic, Ante Zizic, Nikola Pekovic, and Dario Saric, among others. Raznatovic shared over email that he always tries to steer his clients towards the top leagues in Spain and Turkey and that Maric has the tools to thrive at this high level.

“I really believe that he has great potential for European top clubs and then also there is a chance in a few years to be part of the NBA,” Raznatovic said. “I like his skills and attitude and we are from the same region, so there are plenty of reasons to believe that the collaboration will be very successful.”

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 his Eastern European accent remains. His native language is Croatian, which he showed off at a media event before the season to the bewilderment of the audience. 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. “For me being in the United States (for such a long time), English is natural for me right now (…) I’m trying to pick up some Turkish slang. I like it so far.”

As he answered questions over a FaceTime video chat while eating a meal in a café on his second day in Istanbul, Turkey on Friday, Maric reflected on his short stint in Blue Demon country.

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 ratings (20.9) and true shooting percentages (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 due to injuries.

“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 (…) (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 often dominated offensively with a medley of post moves in the paint and a flowery touch on his mid-range jumper. He scored over 20 points on six occasions this season with a season-high total 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) Jeanne  (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 enough about school; that’s in the past. These days, Maric is enjoying his new life where he only has to worry about one thing: 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.”