By Stefan Djordjevic/ email@example.com
Besiktas Sompo Sigorta has made it to the Basketball Champions League playoffs in all three seasons so far, and they are on their way to do it in the fourth as well.
They stand at the fourth spot in a highly competitive Group D with a 6-6 record while being chased by Happy Casa Brindisi, Neptunas Klaipeda, and Falco Szombathely, which hold 5-7 records.
Besiktas has a 17-point advantage in the tiebreaker against Brindisi, although they won one and lost one, and they have +29 against Falco after sweeping them.
That said, the team in the best situation to ruin their plans seems to be Neptunas, and the two squads will clash next week in Lithuania. Despite Neptunas getting the W in the first duel, Besiktas wouldn’t need to worry about the margin in case of a victory as they would eliminate the opponent.
So, Besiktas stands strong in Group D with BCL playoffs around the corner. However, the Turkish team hasn’t had a clear path this season and had to overcome some hurdles to get where they are now.
Getting through the storm with a new captain
Despite starting the BCL campaign with a road win over PAOK, thanks to the impressive 14-0 run late in the game, Besiktas’ world quickly turned upside down.
They lost three straight in BCL falling to a 1-3 record, and they weren’t having a great time in the Turkish League either, with 2-5.
Now, depending on how one looks at it, the inconsistent start may have been expected due to financial issues Besiktas had at the end of last season and changing up the roster profoundly as they brought in seven players.
On the other hand, some without a doubt expected a better start for coach Dusko Ivanovic’s squad with names such as James McAdoo, Jordan Theodore, Shaquielle McKissic, and Toddrick Gotcher leading the way.
The results started getting somewhat better as the season progressed but still with many ups and downs, and the team needed an extra boost to get over the hump.
And that boost ended up being the coaching change. With Besiktas being 3-6 in BCL and 5-8 in Turkey, the management decided to make a coaching change.
Dusko Ivanovic left and went on to become KIROLBET Baskonia head coach while Burak Biyiktay took over his role on Besiktas’ bench. Aside from Ivanovic, Jordan Theodore also ended up leaving the team at the same time. He joined UNICS Kazan down the road.
Although he didn’t officially part ways with Besiktas until January 7th, McAdoo – who later joined Partizan NIS – also played his last game for the team against Pinar Karsiyaka on December 21, as did Ivanovic and Theodore.
A different coach, two players (with the highest playing time) less, and three wins below a balanced record. No problem. The squad reacted the best way possible and logged four out of five wins in all competitions, including three out of three in BCL.
All three of those BCL wins came against teams that are chasing the playoff ticket together with Besiktas, and this has put the Turkish squad in a hugely advantageous position.
A team is more than the sum of its parts
With all the changes happening, much of the responsibility fell on McKissic and Gotcher’s shoulders. And they embraced it.
McKissic continued strong and stayed the squad’s leading scorer with 16.1 points per game on slightly less than 50% shooting while Gotcher was the one to give the team the initial push with 20 points on 8-10 shooting in the win against Telekom Baskets Bonn.
Not to mention that their chemistry is in the right place.
— Basketball Champions League (@BasketballCL) January 21, 2020
Both of them saw a significant increase in playing time with now having to spend 30+ minutes on the floor regularly, but they weren’t alone.
The 24-year-old Ismet Akpinar took over as the primary point guard, and he used the chance to show what he’s got. He banked 14, 13, and 17 points in the last three BCL games.
In that last one, against Falco, they received significant help from Samet Geyik as well, which made all seven of his shots, scoring 18 points.
The experienced Oguz Savas also had an essential role in stabilizing the team. Aside from the locker room influence, he stepped up against Brindisi for 17 points on 8-10 from the field, his best game of the season.
Besiktas seems to be in the right place to pull through to the playoffs, and if they stay on track after getting there, their opponent in the knockout phase might be in for a big surprise.
Photo Credit: Basketball Champions League