Turkey readies for FIBA World Cup with fresh faces

 Turkey readies for FIBA World Cup with fresh faces

National basketball team of Turkey defeated Serbia's team 83-82 in a semi-final game at the 2010 World Basketball Championship at Sinan Erdem Sports Arena in Istanbul on Oct. 29 of 2011. (Photo:Cihan)

July 05, 2014, Saturday/ 17:00:00/ RACHEL MOLLMAN / ISTANBUL
The Turkish Basketball Federation (TBF) has officially announced its team of candidate players for the FIBA World Cup, and some surprising players have been left off the squad.
 

Turkish legends Hidayet Türkoğlu, Ersan Ilyasova and Semih Erden are conspicuously missing from the 21-player list released by the federation.
 
Coach Ergin Ataman hinted that there would be changes afoot soon after he took on the responsibility of coaching the men's team after heading Galatasaray. “For this tournament we will form a squad that is in top form and has the ability to take us to the podium,” he told the Ministry of Youth and Sports' official magazine GençlikSpor Dergisi in April. “We have stars and also among the youth a high quality generation,” he added.
 
Hidayet Türkoğlu is a power forward for the Los Angeles Clippers. Having played on a number of prestigious teams in the NBA since 2000, he has long been considered one of the pinnacles of Turkish basketball. He was a key member of the Turkey squad that won silver at the FIBA World Cup in 2010, the country's best result to date. But at 35 years old, Hedo may be verging on retirement age.
 
Milwaukee Bucks forward Ersan İlyasova has opted not to compete after suffering a serious ankle injury. However, it is still unclear why Anadolu Efes center Semih Erden is not on the roster.
 

Looking forward

 
Ataman is intent on playing for the future, rather than trying to scrape together an unlikely victory in the short term.
 
“We will gradually incorporate these young players into the national team,” Ataman told the magazine, noting, “For them to reach a point where they can take the national team to a medal at the World Championship level they need to gain experience until they are at least 23–24 years old.”
 
Only time will tell if they live up to his expectations and those of the nation. This year will be critical, but the true test will come in the next edition of the World Cup in 2019, when the players are as seasoned as Ataman claims they will be. Turkey's growing base of basketball fans is beginning to expect good results across the board from the national team, affectionately known as “12 Giant Men.”
 
With success on the club and youth levels, Turkey should have a tested base of young talent for Ataman to build on, as proven by the U-18 team's FIBA European Championship in 2013 -- previously the U-18 had managed two bronze and two silver finishes.
 

Foundations for success

 
An eye for future development may be just what the 12 Giant Men need. Basketball is a very popular sport in Turkey, and the country is beginning to be considered a leader in women's basketball.
 
The women's national team is an up-and-coming power, having qualified for their World Championship debut this year. They have qualified for EuroBasket consistently since 2006 and placed bronze and silver in the past two years. The “Fairies of the Basket” also took fifth in their debut at the London 2012 Olympics.
 
Galatasaray Odeabank, the club's women's basketball team, just won the 2013-14 EuroLeague Women title for the first time in its history. They made the last eight for two years prior and the last 16 in the two years before that.
 
Rival club Fenerbahçe has been runner-up for the past two seasons and took fourth in 2011-12. They have made it to the quarterfinals consistently since 2006.
 
In men's basketball, Turkey has grown faster at the club level than on the national team. Turkey's Beko Basketball League teams such as Anadolu Efes, Fenerbahçe Ülker and Galatasaray Liv Hospital make regular appearances in Euroleague with successful campaigns to Top 16 and even the semifinals, although none have managed to win the title.
 
Ataman is hoping to convert talent on the club level to success for the national team he now heads. “Right now, coaches are finding success in one of Europe's two most valuable leagues, the Beko Basketball League,” he said in his recent interview. “Hopefully with success [on the national team] we will try to be models for every Turkish coach,” he added.
 
Turkey can already be called a basketball nation, but if national teams and clubs alike keep growing at their current pace, it will become a serious global power in the near future.

National team roster  

Player                                        Club

Birkan Batuk                            Anadolu Efes
Kerem Gönlüm                         Anadolu Efes
Cedi Osman                             Anadolu Efes
Doğuş Balbay                           Anadolu Efes
Mehmet Yağmur                       Beşiktaş
Sinan Güler                              Galatasaray Liv Hospital
Ender Arslan                            Galatasaray Liv Hospital
Cenk Akyol                              Galatasaray Liv Hospital
Furkan Aldemir                         Galatasaray Liv Hospital
Melih Mahmutoğlu                    Fenerbahçe Ülker
Oğuz Savaş                             Fenerbahçe Ülker
Emir Preldzic                           Fenerbahçe Ülker
Barış Hersek                            Pınar Karşıyaka
Barış Ermiş                              Royal Halı Gaziantep Basket
Berkay Candan                        TED Ankara Kolejliler
Serhat Çetin                             Tofaş
Evren Büker                             Tofaş
Samet Geyik                            Tofaş
Kerem Tunçeri                          Türk Telekom
Ömer Faruk Aşık                      Houston Rockets (NBA)
Enes Kanter                             Utah Jazz (NBA)