The 6-11, 265-pound Aleks Maric finished a rugged first tryout session last week that began with 33 players. After six days of practice -- including grueling three-a-day sessions every day -- the tough training atmosphere helped whittle the field down to 19 players.
Maric will join the rest of the hopefuls for a second training session from July 5-9 in Gosford, about 90 minutes north of Sydney. Reached at home earlier this week, Maric said he was pleased to be in the position to make the team and would be proud to represent his country this summer.
"This is the top of the top, the best players in the country and the world," Maric said of the competition in the National Team tryouts. "At this level, you play for pride and for each other and leave everything on the floor. You give 100 percent all the time every time, whether it's on the court, (conditioning) on the track or in the weight room. And your coach pushes you as much as he can too."
National Team coaches, including assistant coach Rob Beveridge who coached Maric before he began playing for the Australian Institute of Sport, has had Maric on the radar for a long time. Maric's ability to play well against Australian star big men like Andrew Bogut and David Andersen over the past week has given the Husker junior reason to believe he can make the national squad.
"You don't ever want to get ahead of yourself, but I feel good about things because I have confidence in my abilities," Maric said. "Right now, I just have to go out there every time and leave it all on the court and compete. You have to make it so that at the end of the day the coaches have no doubt (about picking you for the team)."
The 7-0 Bogut, who Maric has been good friends with for several years, was the first overall pick in the 2005 NBA Draft and led the Milwaukee Bucks to the playoffs this spring. Andersen is another 7-0 center who has been a member of the Australian National Team for five years, and has played professionally overseas since 2000. He earned All-Europe second-team honors after guiding his team to the Russian A Superleague title in 2005.
Maric added that the experience gained this summer will only help him on his return to Nebraska this fall.
"It will help me physically, mentally and with my skills," Maric said. "I feel like I've already matured, improved myself and my basketball IQ."
Once the final 12-man team is selected, it will play in the FIBA World Championships that run from Aug. 19 to Sept. 3 in Japan. Australia, which is ranked ninth in the world entering the championships, will prepare for the tournament by taking on the field at the Boris Stankovic Cup in China from Aug. 11-15.