By Aris Barkas/ firstname.lastname@example.org
The 2018-19 7DAYS EuroCup campaign was disappointing for the Turkish clubs, to write the least. The trio of Galatasaray Istanbul, Tofas Bursa and Turk Telekom Ankara missed the Top 16. Nobody expected that before the start of the season, and on paper it was more than surprising.
It’s obvious that there was a lesson to be learned here and after the season openers in the 2019-20 7DAYS EuroCup season, the Turks have proven to be good students.
Galatasaray Doga Sigorta Istanbul started with a killer first quarter to get a 64-70 road win over Dolomiti Energia Trento. Tofas Bursa used Roun 1’s second-highest assist total, 24, to prevail at home with ease by 13 points over Limoges CSP, 84-71. And last, but not least, Darussafaka Tekfen Istanbul set a club record with 48 rebounds to spoil the party in Ljubljana by beating the newly created Cedevita Olimpija Ljubljana 73-79.
It can be a sign of things to come. Getting the three wins – two of them on the road – is at least encouraging for three clubs that have put their trust in local coaches and didn’t spend tons of money to create competitive teams.
Orhun Ene, who was an elite point guard in his playing days, has been sitting on the Tofas bench since 2015. He has the full support of the club and he has created a really interesting mix of local talent and well-established veterans like D.J.White and Matt Lojeski. Ene also put his trust in British guard Tarik Philip, who was three assists shy of a triple-double (17 p., 10 r. 7 as.) in his first-ever EuroCup game. You can’t make up a much better start.
Galatasaray has also trusted Ertugrul Erdogan for a second season. While his team underachieved last year, Erdogan made the right choices and kept them on the roster. With the exception of Nigel Hayes, who moved to Zalgiris Kaunas, the trio of Aaron Harrison, Tai Webster and Zach Auguste are the core of the team. With one EuroCup season under their belt, they are more experienced and ready for anyone in the competition.
And of course, there’s Selcuk Ernak at Darussafaka. The 49-year-old coach had the task to create a competitive roster since the summer of 2018 with limited resources. Obviously, the level of competition in the EuroLeague was not favorable to this version of Darussafaka. Ernak used last season as a chance to give experience to the local talent of his roster. The idea worked and Ernak used 11 of his players in a hard road game in Ljubljana. He had the luxury to do so since most of his Turkish players are battle-tested in the EuroLeague.
The bottom line is obvious. Turkish clubs have created a reputation for being able to overspend in order to pay big names. That’s not the only formula anymore. After all, team-building needs not only money but time, consistency and vision.
As Ernak told Eurohoops a few months ago, “Giving valuable EuroLeague experience to our young players will pay off next year.”
A week into the EuroCup season, he and his Turkish colleagues seem to be on the right path.