Making His Mark

The career of Townsville Crocodiles point guard Steven Marković has come full circle.

After making a splash in the NBL as a teenager in 2004 and 2005, Marković spent almost 10 years playing in Europe before returning to Aussie shores last year to join the Crocs.

One thing’s for sure, the dynamic playmaker is enjoying being home.

“Yeah it‘s good to be back,” Marković told Downtown during the week.

“I had been there for a while so I think it was time for me to come back.  I had a few personal reasons to come back too so it has worked out pretty well.”

Marković’s return has provided a much-needed shot in the arm for the NBL during a time when the league has been proactive in improving the quality of its product.  Having elite home-grown talent such as Marković, as well as others like Melbourne Tigers forward Mark Worthington, return from Europe represents a big step forward.

If the NBL and its clubs can lure more of these ballers back home to play – guys like Brock Motum (Italy), Ryan Broekhoff (Turkey) Daniel Kickert (Ukraine), David Barlow (Poland), Aleks Maric (Russia) and Julian Khazzouh (Lebanon) – it will be well on its way to achieving its goal of becoming a bigger and better professional league.

Marković says he enjoyed his time playing in Serbia and Italy but that there’s no place like home.

“I definitely have fond memories of playing in Europe,” Marković said.

“I was there for a while so I did have a really good time there and I was fortunate enough to play a fair bit. It was a bit of a timing thing, I felt like it was time to come home, time to be close to family.”

What may not have been the best timing, however, was Marković’s departure from the NBL back in 2005.

Having won the league’s Rookie of the Year Award two seasons earlier and having shown solid improvement throughout his sophomore campaign, the West Sydney Razorbacks were set to hand Marković the keys to the team ahead of his third full season in the league.

However Marković, who holds Serbian citizenship due to his family background, left the Razorbacks only days before the 2005/06 season was set to begin, leaving the club reeling to find a replacement.

It got messy.

West Sydney refused to release him, arguing that the interim agreement Marković had signed (a document known as a Proposed Player Payment Form) was a legally binding agreement under Australian law.

Eventually, after a long drawn-out process, FIBA disagreed with the Razorbacks and Basketball Australia and ruled that Marković was free to play for his new Serbian team in Europe.

“I had the opportunity to go and I took it,” Marković reflects.

“It was a good opportunity to get over there and to experience something different.  I guess, at the time, it might have all happened a bit quickly.  But sometimes you’ve got to make decisions in life and you’ve got to stick by them and that’s what I did.”

Asked if the stress of the contractual dispute was difficult for a 20 year old when combined with playing overseas for the first time, Marković was his usual honest self.

“That was tough for me,” he said. “That first year was really, really tough but once I adjusted it was ok.”

Marković played three seasons in Serbia from 2005-2008 with Crvena Zvesda (widely known as Red Star) and a year with Italian club Benetton Treviso in 2008/09 before returning to Red Star in 2009.  After missing the entire 2009/10 season due to injury, Marković went on to play three seasons with Serbian club Radnički Kragujevac.

He also cracked the Boomers squad for the 2010 World Championships in Turkey, where he played some spot minutes behind Patty Mills, Adam Gibson and Damien Martin.

Throughout his time in Europe, Marković was known for his ability to attack off the dribble and fill it up from the perimeter and has always been highly effective at creating for his teammates.

“In Europe I was always that kind of player and now, over here, I’m starting to find that balance in terms of when to score and when to get guys the ball,” he said.

With only a few rounds remaining in the NBL’s regular season, Marković  currently ranks inside the top 20 for points per game (13.4), top 10 for 3-pointers made (49) and top 5 for average dimes (4.4).

Whilst Marković has played at an all-star level throughout the season, 2013/14 has been a roller-coaster ride of form for his team as a whole. After a solid 4-5 start, the Crocs lost 8 games in a row throughout the mid-part of the season which dropped them to the bottom of the standings.  A recent turnaround of form has seen the Crocs win 4 of their last 6 games, including a sensational 13 point victory over Perth in Round 17.

Marković believes that talent has not been the issue for the Crocs and that the future bodes well for this young group.

“Sometimes it takes a bit of time for a new bunch of guys to gel and to get on the same page as the coach and we’re really starting to do that now,” He said.

“The whole time everybody has always been playing 100% and we’re starting to get some rewards now.  It’s a little bit too late in terms of this year but I’m looking forward to next season for sure.”

Having said that, Marković remains focused on the last few weeks of this season and on spoiling as many finals hopes as possible during the run home.

“If we can spoil some teams down the stretch of the season, I don’t mind doing that at all,” he said with a laugh.

And as the Crocs head south for their game at Hisense Arena on Saturday night, the Melbourne Tigers represent the next target on Steven Marković’s hit list.

“We had a good win over Melbourne earlier in the season but they’ve beaten us twice in Townsville so if we can get a win on Saturday that would be great.”

Author of the article

Please comment with your real name using good manners.

Leave a Reply