Q&A: Senior center for men’s basketball

By Tom Burton

Marin Maric, senior center for men’s basketball, looks to build on a successful junior season when he posted 14 double-doubles, and became a dominant force in the paint for the Huskies.

Maric was named to the preseason All-Mid-American Conference West Division team Oct. 28.

Originally from Split, Croatia, Maric is coming off a season where he ranked 24th in the MAC in scoring (11.9 per game), fifth in the MAC in rebounds (8.4 per game), 13th in field goal percentage (48.4 percent) and fifth in blocked shots (1.2 per game). Maric was named to the MAC All-Third team last season.

With the season set to begin 7 p.m. Friday against Indiana State University at the Convocation Center, Maric spoke about his expectations for his senior campaign.

Q: Going into your final season, what has been your favorite game or moment as a part of your Huskie career?

A: My favorite moment was actually when I was injured and we beat Western Michigan University 56-50 March 7 at the Convocation Center to qualify for the MAC quarterfinals against Ohio University last season. The coach always says, “when one guy is down, the next guy steps up,” and that’s exactly what happened. Sophomore wing Levi Bradley stepped up with the first double-double in the tournament, and he still brags about it every day. That’s the game that stood out to me because the team came together and executed like the coaches wanted them to and came through shorthanded.

Q: Do you have any individual goals for this season you did not achieve or fell short of achieving last year?

A: I definitely want to be better from the free throw line. I think that is a part of the game I can improve on a lot because 68 percent from the line is not good enough, and I know I can do at least 80 percent. That is the one thing that bothered me about last season.

Q: At the Oct. 26 media day, Head Coach Mike Montgomery talked about you and the offensive strategy, and said he hopes the guys get you the ball in the low post and play through you. How does it feel having a coach with that type of confidence in you?

A: Well, I think the coaching staff got the feeling they had a good big man they could use on the offensive end. Coach Montgomery has a system in place for us, and I feel that I fit in perfectly with what we’re trying to do. I think getting the ball down to me opens up shots for our shooters, which ends up opening space for me to work in the post.

Q: What are your realistic goals for this team coming off of an impressive year that saw NIU’s first 20 win season since the 1995-1996 season?

A: For the team, going back to Cleveland for the MAC Championship game is a major goal because it was a great experience. Playing in the postseason is another goal because last year it was nice to be able to do that. It’s all about taking it one step at a time and improving game by game.

Q: As one of the seniors on the team, do you feel a responsibility to be a leader and a role model to the younger guys?

A: Yeah, definitely. I’ve been here for four years, so myself and the other seniors are the oldest guys here, and we’ve been through a lot with Montgomery and the staff. It’s our job to show the young guys how everything works around here, and they seem to be shining. I think it’s important for them to understand the process and what it takes to get to the highest level. As one of the team captains, I consider myself to be a leader and I feel I’ve done that thus far.

Q: You guys start out the season playing six of seven games at home, which inlcudes hosting the NIU Thanksgiving Classic Nov. 23 to 26. How important is it to get off to a good start and get these Huskie fans excited about the team?

A: From a basketball standpoint, you want to win because it feels so much better, especially in front of the home crowd. The fans that come to the games are like our sixth man and provide us with great energy and support. I’d like to thank all of the students and fraternities for always coming to the games and supporting us. All of the community member of DeKalb and NIU students are awesome, and we always welcome them to the games.