A battle against Pau Gasol in a EuroLeague championship game may have been a distant vision a couple of years ago for Anadolu Efes center Sertac Sanli. Now, it’s a reality, a dream that is just bound to materialize in the upcoming Final between the Turkish side and Barcelona Sunday (30/5).
“That would be a great dream five years ago but now it’s a dream that I’m living,” Sanli said. “I’m very happy to live this dream”
Like so many European (and not only) big men of his generation, Sanli grew up studying the details of Gasol’s game. He has evolved to a center who’s carrying certain similarities with the Spanish great, the most striking one being that they are both seven footers who can threaten from distance.
“It’s a great challenge for me. I watched Gasol in my young age. Like when I was 18 – 20,” the now 29-year-old Sanli said. “Now I play against him in the EuroLeague Final. It’s more meaningful for me and I hope I can play my best.”
After beginning the season as a tertiary backup option from the bench behind Bryant Dunston and Tibor Pleiss, Sanli became one of the core players of Efes and had a significant contribution into the team’s dominant second-leg of the EuroLeague regular season.
He averaged 10.5 points on 22:37 minutes of the last 15 regular-season matches while his offensive skillset and ability to even stretch the floor (10-22 3-pointers in these 15 games, 4-9 in the playoffs vs. Real Madrid) helped create extra spaces for Vasha Micic, Shane Larkin and Krunoslav Simon to run their attacks or slash their way to the basket.
In the semifinal win over CSKA Moscow, Sanli had arguably his top overall performance of the season with 19 points on 6-9 from the field, eight rebounds and three blocks in 26:15. He pretty much dominated the opposing big men on both ends.
Sanli’s humble breakdown of his role and performances is simply that he’s… just where he’s supposed to be according to the team’s system and plan.
“I’m just being at the right place at the right time,” Sanli said. “It’s that simple. Maybe I’m making it more simple. Rodrigue, Simon, Shane, Micic. In order to space the court for them, I have to be at the right place at the right time. And this is what I’m trying to do in every single game.. On both ends, Defense and offense. This is how I summarize what I’m doing”
“Whatever the team needs, I’m just trying to give it to them,” Sanli mentioned.
“It’s great feeling that he’s thinking like this, but I need to show it on the court,” Sanli said. “If I don’t show it on the court… it’s nothing. I saw it yesterday and I need to show it again tomorrow.”
“After that I can say something about it. But not yet,” Sanli added, before closing by saying something quite similar to a famous Kobe Bryant quote that has become a some sort of a mantra for players before games where titles are at stake.
“Job not done yet.”