Homesley in uncharted territories: “Something that has never been done before”

2024-04-11T10:00:43+00:00 2024-04-11T09:24:30+00:00.

Giannis Askounis

11/Apr/24 10:00

Ups and downs through the 2023-24 campaign but Tofas is one win away from qualifying to the Final Four of the Basketball Champions League

By Johnny Askounis/

It is April. One win can separate success from failure in global basketball. Such a case in Bursa with Tofas nearing a berth in the Final Four of the Basketball Champions League.

At the top of the ongoing continental campaign of the storied club based in the fourth-most populous city of Turkiye, few expected an extended run. But Tofas constantly refused to walk off the stage.

Advancing to the Play-Ins through a 2-4 W-L tally in Group H of the Regular Season and two wins in Greece to edge out a best-of-three series against PAOK mateco. The next step landed on the favorable end of a three-way tie at 2-4 with SIG Strasbourg and Cholet to progress from Group I of the Round of 16 to the Quarterfinals. Fast forward and another do-or-die Game 3 is coming up, this time for a spot in the Final Four.

Defeating Lenovo Tenerife in Tofas Arena forced a Game 3 on Wednesday. Three narrow defeats covered the head-to-head series versus the Canary Islands outfit, including two losses by a margin of one point in the Quarterfinals of the 2021-22 edition of the Champions League. The losing streak was extended by a six-point loss in Santiago Martin Arena last week but was snapped in style in Game 2. Caleb Homesley was the key player for the team coached by Orhun Ene.

“I think it was important for us to win this game, not only as a team but as a club the way the season is going. We are trying to do something that has never been done before,” noted the former Liberty standout in the postgame press conference, “We just fought and got the victory.”

Besides the complicated expedition in the BCL, Tofas is down to 10-16 in the Turkiye Sigorta Basketbol Super Ligi and two games outside the Playoffs zone with four outings left in the 30-game double-legged round-robin schedule. Not much room for improvement at the domestic level but the next challenge against Tenerife can potentially save the season.

“We have one more chance. It won’t be easy,” Ene referred to Game 3 of the best-of-three series.

Make or break

Finally prevailing over the team based in the Canary Islands, gaining confidence, and disrupting the opponents in transition set a favorable pace to overcome a slow start and Kyle Guy. A lasting BCL original in Tenerife conceded a team-high 26 fast-break points in the 137th showing in the Champions League. The same and probably even more are required to clinch a berth in the Final Four.

“They have the advantage. But we can say, we don’t feel pressure. We played many games like this,” Ene referred to previous do-or-die situations, including the Play-In series versus PAOK, “We are ready, I think, mentally. But this is not just an average opponent. This is one of the best teams in the competition.”

“Winning on the road is hard. So, we are going to have to use our homecourt advantage next week,” mentioned Guy from the opposite side of the best-of-three series after a game-high 34 points went to waste in Tofas Arena.

The underdog

A two-time league champion in 1999 and 2000, Tofas went from a traditional feature in European competitions, including playing in the 1999-00 edition of the EuroLeague, to dealing with financial issues. Reduced to lower divisions domestically for large chunks of the 21st century, resetting the path to success eventually led to the competitive environment of the Champions League in 2020. Similar to the continental campaign this season, refusing to give up and instead thriving as the underdog illustrates the club’s history.

Entering Homesley, he contributed a team-high 26 points behind 9/14 field goals to force Game 3 in the best-of-three series versus Tenerife. Scoring over 20 points for the third time in the Champions League combined with a third win for Tofas in respective outings.

The G League started his professional career in 2021. He inked a contract with the Washington Wizards at the end of the 2020-21 season but did not make an appearance in the NBA. Opting to expand his career overseas, he displayed his talents in Germany throughout the 2021-22 campaign. His spell with the Hamburg Towers combined the easyCredit BBL with 7DAYS EuroCup. Following another productive year with Zenit in the VTB United League, he was picked up by Tofas in July.

From the Round of 16 in 2020-21 and the Quarterfinals in 2021-22 to last season’s exit in the Play-Ins, the task at hand for Homesley and his teammates is extending the fourth BCL campaign to the Final Four in Belgrade.

Photo Credit: Basketball Champions League

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