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Mile Ilic: In the next 10 days, I will know everything

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by Milan Lazarevic

Mile Ilic is currently in Bormio, Italy, where the Serbian National team is practicing for World Cup. The young center who was taken with the 43rd pick in the 2005 NBA Draft gave an interview to the biggest Serbian sport daily "Sportski Zurnal" just a day before his trip to Italy.

ZURNAL: Because of problems with tendons, Ilic didn't practice the last two days. While all the other players had the day free, Ilic needed to go to rehabilitation. In a short interview Ilic told us that he was feeling much better yesterday and that it was just a matter of days before he would start full training.

ZURNAL: When Mile Ilic appeared at the first meeting of the National team with a t-shirt that read "Serbia", there were not too many people who gave that any special attention. But, everyone who knew Ilic well, noticed how proud he was in the hotel hall.

ILIC: Everything for mother Serbia.

ZURNAL: The National Team t-shirt means something special for him; not just a dream that can come true or even satisfaction for good work. For Ilic, it is much more, something which can not be described with simple words. National identity is a part of home breeding--you have it or you don't have it. Life implanted that in him on the day in 1991 when he left his home town of Tuzla [Bosnia] with his sister Slavica, driven to Belgrade by the madness of war. He doesn't want to talk a lot about that, but he remembers every moment, just like it happened yesterday.

ILIC: I went from a village to the big city. I was feeling very strange, everything was so new for me. Basketball was my chance to escape from a dark presence. Because of that, I loved it so much. I had practices with Partizan for a time, but because of some family reasons, I needed to go back to Bosnia. I continued with work in Rudar Ugljevik. After that, I went to Hemofarm and after that to FMP Zeleznik.

ZURNAL: Nenad Markovic, the new Bosnian National team head-coach, who didn't know of Ilic's history, asked Ilic after the "Final 8" tournament of the Goodyear League if he would play for the Bosnian National team in future.

ILIC: I would never do that in my life. That wouldn't be O.K. because of my family who suffered so much. I thanked him because of that call, but there was no possibility from me to accept. I will play for Serbia, or if such thing can not happen, I will not play for any other National team. My wish came true.

ZURNAL: After 10 days among "The Blues", Ilic doesn't hide his optimism.

ILIC: I am more than pleased. Everything is going just as we planned. We have a great atmosphere. We work very hard. It's the norm in training camp. I have played before with almost all guys. There are eight current and former FMP Zeleznik players. and the rest are from Red Star and Partizan. Adaptation was the smallest problem. We have a lot of new players here and the old ones accepted us very well.

ZURNAL: Ilic spent the most of free time with Darko Milicic. They knew each other since they were kids. They both started in Hemofarm.

ILIC: He is unbelievable player, I can say only good things about him. He will be the most important player for this team under the basket. I will have the mission of making his job easier. He made indescribable progress in physical conditioning compared with last year. It is obvious that he worked so hard. He is simply dominating here in that category.

ZURNAL: Milicic and Ilic are the only classic centers in a team. The result in the World Cup will depend on their roles.

ILIC: I am sure that the centers will be strong part of a team in Japan.

ZURNAL: Ilic made solid progress in last season, but he is not satisfied.

ILIC: I have lot of room for improvement. First, I must work on my physical condition. I had no rest this summer. After a long and exhausting season I had just a couple of days for rest. I started with conditioning practices very early. I wanted to come to training camp well prepared.

ZURNAL: Ilic has realistic chance to wear a New Jersey Nets uniform next year.

ILIC: I will know everything in the next 10 days. Negotiations between FMP Zeleznik and Nets are still going on. I am expecting a conclusion soon.