Andric, Mega want to build on historic win

May 01, 2019 by David Hein, Print
Andric, Mega want to build on historic win

Marko Andric helped U18 Mega Bemax Belgrade make history by beating U18 Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade to reach the Euroleague Basketball Adidas Next Generation Tournament Finals. But the point guard is not finished and would love to help the Serbian club win its first U18 continental title.

Andric collected 13 points, 4 rebounds and 2 assists as Mega knocked off city rival Zvezda 73-63 in the ANGT Belgrade first-place game to snap Zvezda's 38-game winning streak in the tournament and book Mega's fourth straight ticket to the ANGT Finals.

"I remember it very well for sure. A lot of people were watching. It was a true final, a great atmosphere and a big experience for all of us," said Andric, who averaged 12.5 points, 2.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.0 steals in the tournament. "Defeating Zvezda and getting a chance to compete against the top teams in Europe again – for the fourth straight year – is a really big accomplishment for Mega. It shows that there is continuity in the excellent work at the youth categories in the club."

Andric, who been with Mega since 2016, began playing basketball in 2007 at the age of 5. He was born in Zrenjanin and said everyone he knew there was a basketball fan. The move from northern Serbia to the country's capital and Mega was made to help take his game to the next level.

"Mega has great working conditions for the development of young players and that was the key in making my decision. I was about to start my first year in high school and that was one of the main reasons as well," said Andric, who joined Mega along with his brother Lazar, who is a year and a half younger than him.

The Andric brothers lived in a student dormitory the first year and then the rest of the family – including younger brother Mateja and youngest sibling sister Ana – joined the following year. The younger two siblings also play basketball.

The Belgrade tournament was Marko Andric's first ANGT event and the 1.87-meter playmaker called the win over Zvezda his biggest success at the club level – along with helping Mega grab the U15 Serbian title in 2017. Mega is definitely thinking bigger than a U15 Serbian title in Vitoria-Gasteiz at the ANGT Finals, where the team has been drawn into Group A with U18 Maccabi Teddy Tel Aviv, U18 FC Bayern Munich and U18 Zalgiris Kaunas.

"Those are some of the top teams and of course it won't be easy to beat them. We'll have to show ourselves if we want to make it to the ANGT Championship Game," Andric said.

Reaching the ANGT Championship Game on May 19 at the Fernando Buesa Arena would actually be Mega's second appearance in the final. Goga Bitadze and Nikola Miskovic carried the club to the ANGT Championship Game in 2017 before losing to U18 CFBB Paris 65-58. Andric said that defeat drives him and his teammates.

"We’re all motivated to win and we will be more than ready to do that when the tournament starts," Andric said.

Andric, who used to practice karate alongside basketball until giving it up in the eighth grade, would love another big success to celebrate. He was part of the Serbia team that finished third at the FIBA U16 European Championship 2017 – a result Andric, who was a year younger than most of the competition, called his biggest success.

"I played only a few minutes, but just being there as a year younger was fun," said Andric, who averaged 0.5 points, 0.5 rebounds and 0.5 assists in 3.3 minutes over four games.

The 2002-born Andric did not go with the 2001-born generation – including Mega teammates Aleksandar Langovic, Aleksa Markovic, Stefan Agoc and Novak Miskovic – to the FIBA U17 Basketball World Cup 2018 and instead played for Serbia at the FIBA U16 European Championship.

"Guys older than me were better and more experienced at that moment. I wasn't disappointed [about not playing at the U17 World Cup] and that was something I expected. I had to focus on the U16 European Championship that summer because I was the captain of our team," he said.

Andric averaged 6.1 points, 3.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.1 steals, but Serbia lost to France in the quarterfinals. Despite that result, Andric and co. learned a lesson and kept playing hard.

"We didn't let that loss stop us from finishing fifth overall. It was a good experience, we learned to stand up right after the loss," he said.

However, Andric still called that performance the biggest disappointment of his young career, especially because Serbia was playing in front of the country's home fans in Novi Sad.

"We were the hosts and everybody expected us to be number one," Andric said.

Some of that hurt can be forgotten for Andric in Vitoria-Gasteiz when Mega shoots for its first ANGT title.

"Expectations are always high, and to be successful we'll have to do our best in every aspect of the game. I think we can do it," he said.

Andric and Mega made history by beating Zvezda, but they are not done just yet.