Mario Kasun Interview
Orlando Magic center Mario Kasun was born in Croatia, played for various local and national teams there, was drafted in the second round of the 2002 NBA Draft by the Clippers (but traded to Orlando), but wound up playing a few years of pro basketball in Germany, not the NBA. He did play in various NBA summer leagues during that time. Now in the NBA, the 7-1, 260-pound Kasun is working hard to get into Orlando's rotation and secure his future in the league. InsideHoops.com met with Kasun in the Continental Airlines Arenas before a Nets-Magic game for an exclusive interivew.
InsideHoops.com: Back in Croatia, when did you first start playing basketball?
Mario Kasun: When I was 14.
InsideHoops.com: That's pretty late.
Mario Kasun: Yeah. I was a soccer fan before that. But I kind of figured out I sucked at soccer, so.
InsideHoops.com: Hah, so you figured that soccer wasn't in your future.
Mario Kasun: Yeah, this is not working, basically, yeah.
InsideHoops.com: You were probably tall by 14, already.
Mario Kasun: Oh yeah. I was taller than everybody. But then I started playing basketball, and I just stuck with it, basically.
InsideHoops.com: Once you started playing basketball, did you keep going to regular school, or leave for a sports school, or what?
Mario Kasun: You go to regular school, but the thing is, you have practices twice a day; you play for a team, you don't play for high school, and it's really hard to keep up with school-work and basketball. But you have teachers that support you, so that's kind of good.
InsideHoops.com: So you're going to normal high school, while being committed full-time to a local team. Was it a professional team?
Mario Kasun: No, not really. You become professional when you're 18. But before that, you're just playing for a team. Like Juniors; younger ages.
InsideHoops.com: Who were some known names that you played with, on Juniors and other teams?
Mario Kasun: I played with Zoran Planinic, on the national team together, Bruno Sundov from New York Knicks, played with Gordan Giricek on the national team - I mean he's older three or four years than me, but basically with all guys. It's really small country, so you can't miss each other and stuff.
InsideHoops.com: You played in Germany. What was that like? How did it go?
Mario Kasun: Playing in Germany, I loved it, man. My last season, the last year (on the Opel Skyliners in Frankfurt), we won the championship. That's probably the best thing that happened to me. The German championship. That's the first time that our team won in history. After like 15 years, that's the first time that somebody won before Alba. So it's great experience, man. Can't complain about it.
InsideHoops.com: How many different teams were you on there?
Mario Kasun: I played on two different teams in Germany. One for a while, then I switched to Frankfurt (Opel Skyliners). It was a really, really good experience.
InsideHoops.com: Any famous names on your teams?
Mario Kasun: Me (laughs).
InsideHoops.com: Besides yourself, of course.
Mario Kasun: Tyrone Ellis played with Dallas, summer league. Really talented player. A bunch of college guys, a lot of German players. A lot of good players.
InsideHoops.com: Are there any young players in Croatia right now that you know of who have a shot at the NBA? Have you been able to pay attention?
Mario Kasun: To be honest, I don't know. I don't have a chance to go home that often. When I go, I don't even focus about basketball, I just go see my parents and stuff.
InsideHoops.com: Your parents are still living in Croatia.
Mario Kasun: Yeah, still living in Croatia. They're moving to the mountains, where we have a second house. They love it. But it's freezing there. I just talked to them the other day, it was like minus 28 celculis, which is like, below zero, so it's crazy.
InsideHoops.com: That makes winter here in the Northeast seem like nothing.
Mario Kasun: Yeah, nothing, basically. But it's alright, they love it.
InsideHoops.com: And who were your favorite players when you were younger? NBA guys or local guys in Croatia and Europe, anyone.
Mario Kasun: Drazen Petrovic, my idol, basically. Still idol. I like Rasheed Wallace, Kevin Garnett, Chris Webber. Basically all power forwards.
InsideHoops.com: But Drazen was number one.
Mario Kasun: Drazen was always number one. Still number one.
InsideHoops.com: Still number one.
Mario Kasun: Still number one.