Mile Ilic is in Spain this weekend to play against the Spanish, Chinese and Angolan national teams after helping Serbia win five straight exhibition games in Italy. Meanwhile, 4,000 miles away, this 7'2" Net draft choice is the subject of speculation in America's biggest newspapers as his agent, Marc Cornstein, and the Nets GM, Ed Stefanski, spar over his future. Is he ready for the NBA? Or will he wind up on another European team, out of the Nets' reach for another several years? Suddenly, Ilic is a hot property...or as Milan Lazarevic, the Serbian basketball writer, tells NetsDaily in an email, he has become an "interesting player" who is being pursued...but not necessarily at the pace his agent would like people to believe.
"No one talked much about him before the games in Italy," writes Lazarevic of 24sec.net, "and now half of Europe finds him interesting. It's funny."
In those games, Ilic scored 20 points, although in the final game, against Canada, he went for 14 and 5 to lead the Serbs over the winless and undersized Canadians.
Lazarevic himself is unsure of how well Ilic would do in the NBA. "If you ask me, he has a really good body and good physical ability, but he is too young and inexperienced for the big stage." In fact, writes Lazarevic, it's possible that Ilic could lose his place as Darko Milicic's primary backup on the National Team...and with it, a spot on the final 12-man roster. Two young 7-footers, 21-year-old Kosta Perovic and 20-year-old Nikola Pekovic, appear ready to join the team. Perovic was drafted in the second round and just signed by Golden State before returning to Belgrade. Although Perovic and Ilic battled evenly in games where they faced off this year, the arrival of him and Pekovic could be trouble for Ilic's chances.
"Perovic, Partizan's center, joined National team after an injury, which means that Ilic will not have so big minutes in next round," he writes, referring to the exhibition tournament in Valencia, Spain, this weekend. "There was rumor that Serbian National Team head-coach Dragan Sakota will call Nikola Pekovic to the national team after his super performances in the Under-20 European Championship, which means that Ilic's position could be in danger".
Although some reports in the US have Ilic being wooed by teams from Spain to Russia, Lazarevic thinks the most likely destination for Ilic, other than the Nets, is Akasvayu Girona in the Spanish league. Girona just hired a Serbian coach, Svetislav Pesic "and he knows very well Ilic's prospects".
But contrary to reports in the US, even that is uncertain. Girona has a lot of money and could go for a former NBA player rather than the 22-year-old Ilic.
"That club is very rich, especially at this moment because they sold their best players--ex-NBA player Raul Lopez and Orlando's 2005 draft pick FranVasquez--to Barcelona and Real Madrid. I suppose that they are trying to sign some experienced center now, maybe someone from NBA, but if they do not do that, I think that they will start hunting Ilic."
In fact, El Mundo, one of Spain's largest newspaper, reported Sunday that Girona has signed Marko Marinovic, Ilic's point guard at FMP Zeleznik, adding, "this does not discard the possibility that some of his companions from Zeleznik's bench could also accompany him to their new stage in Akasvayu" and specifically mentioning Ilic.
No matter what, Ilic could have his hands full this weekend in Spain. If he gets some burn on the court, he will be facing Pau Gasol of Spain and the Memphis Grizzlies and China's Yi Jianlian, called the next Yao Ming. He could be playing for his future.