Meet "The Mentor", Part I

Meet "The Mentor" - Part I
Bucks' Bogut credits Markovic with career-launching assist
by Truman Reed / special to Bucks.com

Andrew Bogut is averaging 19.5 points and 10.3 rebounds over his last 6 games . (Getty)
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January 17, 2008

MILWAUKEE -- Sinisa Markovic must be sleeping more peacefully these days.

He is still on call, 24-7-365, but there have not been many incoming or outgoing transcontinental distress calls lately.

That is because the Milwaukee Bucks are suddenly finding Markovic's 7-foot, 260-pound prized pupil, Andrew Bogut, with the basketball more often. And Bogut is rewarding them with the greatest production of his three-year National Basketball Association career.

Over his last six outings through Jan. 16, Bogut was averaging 19.5 points, 10.3 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.7 blocks per game, while shooting .667 from the field.

The emergence featured a 29-point, 11-rebound outing against Amare Stoudemire in Phoenix on Jan. 12, a 23-point, 10-rebound effort at Utah on Jan. 14 and a 21-point, 10-rebound game last night against Atlanta. "The Boomer" celebrated his Utah homecoming on Monday with a high-flying, thunderous slam dunk that sent echoes through the nearby Wasatch Mountains.

For January, Bogut's averages are 18.3 points, 9.9 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.2 blocks, with shooting percentages of .618 from the floor and .644 from the stripe.

So instead of fielding SOS calls, Markvovic can sleep easier. And when his phone does ring and the voice on the other end calling from the other side of the globe has encouraging words, they are music to his ears.

Such satisfaction must be extremely gratifying. It is the byproduct of an seven-year, student-teacher connection that has become an invaluable friendship.

When Andrew Bogut was 15 years old, he was told he would never fulfill his ambition of becoming a professional basketball player. Then Sinisa Markovic stepped into his life, and the world has since become their mutual proving ground.

"Andrew was 15, about to turn 16," Markovic recalled. "His parents sought me and I responded to them. I came one day to see him play. He was told that he was no good. He wanted to prove that he was.

"We have. But it's not me that has played the role; it's him who wants to make it."

Markovic became Bogut's personal trainer, working with him for $20 per session. And unlike many of those in his field, Markovic did not bring just strength, conditioning and agility expertise to the table.

Before he entered his profession, Markovic was an accomplished professional basketball player in his own right, so he knows the ins and outs of Bogut's specialty, too.

Bogut considers his family and Markovic as the individuals who have had the greatest influence on his life.

“He's been with me since I was 15 years old,” Bogut said. “It helps to have someone that I'm familiar with to drill with every day. He's not only my conditioning coach; he's my basketball coach and my mentor, and he helps me with things off the basketball court as well."

Markovic, who like Bogut is of Croatian descent, traveled the European pro circuit during the same era as former Bucks forward Toni Kukoc, another Croatian.

He learned the game intently under some of the most esteemed basketball minds on his continent, earning three university degrees in basketball player development and other sports-related disciplines.

"I come from Croatia and Yugoslavia -- that's where I started," he said. "That's where I played professionally. I studied physical education and majored in basketball, and it became something I loved. I went to school in Zagreb, Croatia.

"I played under Slav Kuthemenes, who is one of the leading experts in the world as far as player development goes. One of my mentors was Branko Sheritser, who's in the hall of fame. He's kind of the godfather of what used to be Yugoslavian basketball."

Markovic considers himself fortunate to have been in the right place at the right time.

"These were people who really know what they're doing." he said. "It was an honor to listen to them and learn from them. I played against some great players that they helped send to this league and around the world.

"I realized at the time that I wasn't going to be one of them, so I figured I might as well get involved through other channels, try to get educated and help young players."

Markovic's playing career enabled him to travel the world, and he was still active as a player when he met Bogut for the first time.

"I played professionally in Croatia, in Zagreb, as a junior," he said. " I was in some selections of junior-level competition. I played in Holland and then came down to Australia. That's where I met Andrew.

"I was still playing at the time, but then I had a car accident and couldn't play anymore. Things weren't going that well back home, and I wasn't able to play professionally at a high level, so I just decided there was something else in life."

Markovic found his niche.

Click here to read Part II