Marco Buljevic is a 27 year old 196cm guard that was born in Sindelfingen and is playing his fifth season for the ETB Wohnbau Baskets Essen (Germany-ProA). He started his basketball career in 2003 with SG Urspringschule. He then played two seasons for TSG Ehingen (2.Bundesliga). He then moved to the Giessen 46ers in 2006 where he played until 2008. He then played two seasons for the EWE Baskets Oldenburg (Germany-1.Bundesliga) playing 24 Beko BBL games and winning the BBL title in 2009. He spoke to German Hoops about basketball.
Essen recently played against Wurzburg and lost. Do you see any chance of Wurzburg not moving back to the Beko BBL next season?
They’re the favorites to win the title and probably tough to beat in a playoff series. But I see a couple of teams that can give them some problems.
The German Pro A playoff race is very exciting. Why has the Pro A gotten so strong in the last 3-4 years?
First of all I think Germany has become more an more popular with import players because of economic reasons. In most cases you’re likely to get all the money you’re owed right on time every month which can’t be said about a lot of clubs in other countries all over the world. Then you have the level of German players improving from year to year and last but not least the playoff system which was inducted a couple years ago. It makes every game more competitive especially towards the end of the season.
The ETB Wohnbau Baskets Essen are currently in sixth place with a record of 14-12. You guys had an exceptional start going 8-2 but since then are 7-9. What were the main reason for the good start and since then the up and down play?
The reasons for our good start in my opinion were having players with experience in our league and playing tough defense.
In four of the last eight games Essen held opponents to 70 points or less, but you still lost. Why does the team have a problem being consistent on offense and scoring more?
Usually we don’t push the pace too much during a game which leads us to rarely having high scoring games. However we’ve definitely had a handful of ugly games on the offensive end where we’ve had a hard time executing what we’re trying to do. We let the opponent force us into one on one situations that leads to a lack of ball movement and spacing. As a result of standing still and nobody moving, field goal percentages go down and we’re also in bad positions to get offensive rebounds.
Logan Stutz came back recently, but hasn´t regained his old form from the 2012-2103 season. What has been missing in his game and do you see him finding his old game again?
It’s not realistic to have him come here this late in the season and expect him to average twenty and ten right away. We don’t have the same team as back then. His role is a little different now. Logan has really been helping us. Also by being very communicative and having a positive attitude with everyone on the team.
Last season the ETB Wohnbau Baskets lost in the quarterfinals of the playoffs. What does the team have to do better this time that they could have a longer playoff run?
I hope that the experience we gained last year helps us this time around. Having a healthy team would be helpful as well.
It seems like a lot of the scoring load falls on the shoulder of American Chris Alexander who has scored in double figures in 23 of 24 games. Is that consistent second scorer missing on the team this season?
On one hand Chris is the only player on our team right now who if he wants to get 30 points, he can go out and get 30 points.On the other hand I think we can be very successful with putting our players in the right positions to score. We’ve got enough players who know how to score but are better having their opportunities being created in the flow of the offense than in one on one situations.
You are averaging 12,4ppg and are a guy that can score. What exactly is your role on the team this season? You could be that second scorer that scores 15-18 points a game.
My main role on offense has always been being a shooter who spreads the defense. Usually defenders don’t leave me around the three point line which is the biggest compliment you can get as a shooter. In that case my teammates have more space to operate. So I basically helpmy team without doing anything. I could definitely be more aggressive at times though. Or just shoot 80% from three.
You are playing your fifth season in Essen. After playing Beko BBL in Giessen and Oldenburg, you have developed into a solid German pro A player. Did you not have any more ambition to play in the BBL?
I did but the right situation has not come around for me. I’ve also enjoyed playing in Essen and developed into a better and smarter player than I was before.
What makes the ETB Wohnbau Baskets the perfect fit for you? It isn´t always usual to stay with one team for such a long time.
My Coach Igor Krizanovic has been showing me a lot of trust from day one. Although he can be very tough on you because he demands your highest level of energy and concentration every single day, I’ll always appreciate that. The city of Essen has become my home. I love living here. My fiancee’s from here and we’re getting married here this summer. The people in the organization and playing in front of our great fans „Am Hallo“ plays a big role too.
You are turning 28 on March 26th. Are you heading into your best basketball years now? What do you still want to achieve as a professional basketball player?
My goal is to be the best player that I can be so that I will have no regrets when I end my career. Me not depending much on my athletic ability, I think I could be playing for another decade.
Can you imagine continuing to play for Essen in the future or is the Beko BBL, other Pro A teams or a stay outside Germany what is on your mind this summer?
I’d love to stay in Essen. However I have to look at my options and make a well-thought-out decision.
Except for a season in Kirchheim, your teammate Chris Alexander has played in Essen since 2010 with you. Is he like you a bit in that he just has felt comfortable and didn´t pursue a chance for the Beko BBL? Do you see him having the ability to play in the BBL?
I don’t know exactly what his options looked like in the past years. The BBL is probably one of the most fitting 1st divisions in Europe for him though. First of all there are a lot of Americans in the BBL. Second there are a handful of teams that rely heavily on their Americans pushing the pace and looking to score.
You played two seasons with the EWE Baskets Oldenburg. What were your fondest memories on the court concerning your play?
Knocking down a three pointer from about 9 meters at OAKA Arena against the defending champs Panathinaikos Athens in a Euroleague game. Don’t ask me about the end result though.
Where do you rank Rickey Paulding in your all time best teammates in your career?
Definitely cracks my „Top 3“. Probably the best one. Even a better person than a player as well.
In Giessen you played together with Florian Hartenstein in the 2007-2008 season. Would you ever have thought then that a nine year old Isiah Hartenstein would become Germany´s best talent from the year 1998?
I just remember him having huge feet for his age. I haven’t seen him play yet but from what I hear he could be playing at a very high level someday. I wish him nothing but the best and hope his dad is not his shooting coach.
What was the last DVD movie that you saw?
I haven’t watched a DVD movie in a long time. I did watch a few episodes of „Californication“ though.
Thanks Marco for the chat.