Imports improving game, says veteran

IT TOOK a casual conversation with the NBL's best defender and point guard Damian Martin for top Townsville guard Steve Markovic to realise just how far the competition has come.

A raft of star American imports will play Down Under this summer, including Markovic's teammate Mickell Gladness, Sydney's Josh Childress, Perth's DeAndre Daniels and New Zealand's Cedric Jackson.

All have NBA pedigree.

"The league's probably the strongest I've seen it," Markovic, a former Australian Boomers representative, told APN.

"I was talking to Damian Martin who's the best defender, and we were laughing about how all these great American players are coming in, and we've got to guard them.

"But at the end of the day it's about whatever boosts the league up, and it's also great for the development of Australian players trying to get to a high level."

The fact the Crocodiles won the pre-season Blitz should have Crocs fans confident their team will at least improve on last season's wooden-spoon finish.

But Markovic said he wasn't getting too carried away.

"I think we're just trying to play for each other - we've got the core group back and we've added some big timber (with US import Gladness picking up the Blitz's MVP)," Markovic said.

"That's definitely helping me. It's pretty exciting. I think this year we're surrounded with more shooters. Everyone can shoot a three."

After making his debut with the West Sydney Razorbacks way back in 2002, Markovic, still only 29, brings eight years of experience from Europe to the Crocs, after returning to Australia last summer.

He saw it all in Europe, including mass fan brawls while at one of Serbia's biggest and proudest clubs, Red Star Belgrade, before being lied to by team management regarding payments at Serbia's Radnicki Kragujevac.

"It's cut-throat over there and it forces you to improve," Markovic said.

"It makes you a bit smarter and I definitely changed my game."

Townsville opens its NBL season with an away game against the Hawks in Wollongong on Friday, October 10.

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