| He started in Australia and took a detour through Nebraska to arrive, but make no mistake about the fact that Partizan Belgrade center Aleks Maric has, indeed, arrived on the Euroleague scene in a big way. At age 25, unknown to most Euroleague fans a couple months ago, Maric last week attracted one of the biggest avalanches of Fan Mail all decade. From nine different countries, his new fans wanted to know Maric's choice of jersey number, his favorite Australian animal, and everything in between. Despite the acclaim, after seven games of his amazing rookie season until now, Maric plans to keep his head down and keep working, just like the advice he gives in one Fan Mail answer to a 10-year-old in Australia who wants to follow in his footsteps to the Euroleague. With Partizan's first goal of the season, the Top 16, still on his to-do list, Maric is intent on staying focused. "I know Partizan and its history and what they accomplished," he said in another answer. "I know what the players have done. But I don't try to beat them or follow their tradition. I just want to work hard, like they did, and respect the game, like they did."
Hi, Aleks. My name is Lazar, I am 10 years old and I live in Sydney, Australia. I am extremely proud of all your achievements, including the fantastic year you are having with Partizan. I, too, hope one day to follow in your footsteps when I grow up, playing in college and either in the Euroleague or NBA. What advice can you give my friends and I in following our dreams? Wishing you and Partizan all the best for the rest of the season. Fingers crossed for the Final Four,
Lazar - Sydney, Australia
"Just follow your dreams, work hard, obviously, and have the right mentality. Don't let your friends or life in general, partying and girls, get in the way. Those are the distractions that tend to come around when you get toward pro levels in basketball. You've got to keep your focus, practice hard and, when things don't go your way, keep your head down and keep working every day."
Hi, Aleks. First of all thanks for your contribution to my Fantasy Challenge team! I want to ask, as you grew up in Australia and the U.S., if there are difficulties adopting the European style of basketball? Keep playing like that! Best regards,
Antonis, Maroussi, Athens
"The European game is a lot more five-on-five and technical. In American, there's a lot of run-and-gun, up and down the floor, using their athleticism and strength, because that's the type of players they have. It's more athletic and individual compared to the five-on-five game here in Europe."
One simple question: Is Dule Vujosevic real? Have you touched him to make sure?
Petar Djurkovic - Serbia
"He's real, real flesh and bones."
Hi Aleks, and first of all, congratulations for the big impact you're having in your rookie Euroleague season. Is there any particular reason you play with number 21? Also, who are the players who have inspired you or your playing style? Thanks a lot and congrats again!
Valerio D'Angelo - Rome, Italy
"The reason I wear 21 is because of Vlade Divac and because it's the first number I had when I started playing basketball. Also, he is the player who inspires me most."
Being named Aleks Maric on a Serbian team, are you considered a local player by the fans or do they still see you as an Australian?
Julien Guerineau - France
"They treat me as a local player."
Hello, Aleks. I am writing from Granada, Spain. Last year I saw all the games in Granada and I follow the Euroleague and you have improved a lot: Congratulations!. The question: What is the difference between last year and this one? With best regards,
Fernando Molina - Granada, Spain
"The system, the coach and the fact that I am playing here. I wasn't playing much there. I wasn't given the chance to play."
Hi Aleks, I am from Sydney and my question for you is what do you enjoy doing when you come back to Sydney?
Zoran Novakovic - Syndey, Australia
"I like to just spend time with family and friends, going out to have a coffee, the simple things in life. I don't get to spend much time with them during the season, because they are all over in Australia, so I am happy just doing those things you're not able to do during seasons."
Hello, Aleks. What's your favorite Australian animal: red kangaroo, koala, wombat, Tasmanian Devil, dingo or platypus? Best regards,
Dejan - Belgrade
"I'd say kangaroo. It stands for Australia, first of all. When you think of a kangaroo, you think of Australia. And in basketball, we do a lot of jumping, just like a kangaroo."
Dear Aleks, Before you came to Belgrade, were you familiar with the phenomenon called 'Grobari', the fans of Partizan Belgrade? Yours faithfully,
Marinko Saponja - The Netherlands
"Sure, I've been hearing about them for years. They are the sixth man for our team. I've been aware for some time that they are the best fans in the world."
Hi Aleks. Considering that you are from a Serbian origin, have you ever had a favorite team in Serbia? Keep on the great work,
Stefan Brkic - Copenhagen, Denmark
"I didn't follow much basketball as a boy. I was playing a lot of soccer and following the English League, which was televised a lot in Australia. General sports from Europe weren't televised a lot, so I didn't have a team from Serbia that I supported."
Aleks, congratulations on your performance thus far. You are such a great asset to this young team and it is a pleasure watching you play with so much heart. What is it that coaching genius Dule Vojosevic does differently than other coaches throughout your career? Thanks
Goran Jovanovic, Pittsburgh, USA
"He gets the best out of every player, he works hard on technique, keeps people ready and pushes players to get what we didn't know we have. By getting the most out of every player, that's when a team gets to be its best, too."
Aleks, congrats on you and your team's success! With your unusual background developing as a player on three continents, what do you see as similarities and differences of the three styles of talent development you have experienced?
Anders Sommer, Denmark
"Europe has a great school for teaching basketball fundamentals and individual skills. I think that when it comes to conditioning, America has better facilities and coaches for that. Australia has a mix of both. The Australian Institute of Sport, where I went, is a great school where you get both conditioning and technical experts."
Alex, did you learn any Grobari fans songs and are you working on it? How much do you appreciate our support?
Milos Stankic - Zrenjanin, Serbia
"I knew all the songs since before I got here, through Internet, watching clips of what they do. And I appreciate them a lot. There are not enough words to say how much. I thank them after every game. They are the best in the world, really."
As a kid, I started watching Partizan, and it was love at first sight. Do you know how many great players played on same place before you and how much you have to do to carry that heavy load? Keep up with the good work.
Nenad - Kragujevac, Serbia
"I'm obviously aware of it. I know Partizan and its history and what they accomplished. I know what the players have done. But I don't try to beat them or follow their tradition. I just want to work hard, like they did, and respect the game, like they did."