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Welcome to our worlds!
Aug 24, 2010
by Omer Onan - Turkey
Hi everybody! The 2010 World Championships arrive to my country, Turkey, this week. I can't be happier to welcome everyone who will travel here and who will watch from far away! As I write this first World Championships blog for Euroleague.net, it's early in the morning in Ankara, our capital city, and we the Turkish national team have a morning training session to get ready for our last game in the Efes Pilson World Cup 9 friendly tournament, against Argentina. It will be the toughest preparation game for us and we take it very seriously.
One thing I can say about our training so far for the World Championships: it's good to play in front of your own fans. We felt much more motivated in the first two games of Efes Pilsen World Cup 9 here, and those fans are the main reason for the improvement in our game these days.
I have to tell you a few details about our preparations for World Championships 2010. Everything started on July 10, when we went to Bormio, Italy to begin what were some great conditioning workouts. Those were really hard sessions, so hard that we felt like we would die! But we knew that suffering then would help us during the long journey to WC 2010. After that, we kept working hard in Istanbul. Our conditioning coach, Ozan Sirikci, never let up. His job was to push us as hard as he could for our own good. In that regard, I can honestly say he is the best conditioning coach that I've ever worked with in my career.
Then, we had our first tournament in Istanbul, playing against Iran, New Zealand and Serbia. We won against Iran and New Zealand by big margins, but failed against Serbia in the final. Then we lost again to Serbia in a separate game. We moved to Germany for the Supercup Tournament and failed there in all three matches, against Lithuania, Croatia and Germany. Of course, criticism by the media of our technical stuff started to rise, but we knew that our performance was down just because of the heavy training sessions and that we wouldn't take much longer to reach good form. In fact, our coaches were telling us that we could expect to feel right around the 22nd or 23rd of August, just in time to be sharp as possible for the start of the tournament. Sure enough, as they lessened the intensity of the practices, we felt our muscles relax and started playing better here in Ankara.
During the training sessions and the preparation tournaments, the worst thing that happened to us was to lose one of our point guards, Engin Atsur, to injury. It was one of the worst moments of my basketball career when we heard the noise and realized that his Achilles tendon was torn in front of our eyes. Then another of our playmakers, Ender Arslan, had a hamstring injury, which made us worry about the point guard position, because our veteran Kerem Tunceri was now alone there and it was quite late to call another guy to the team. But the coaching staff made a critical decision to call up Baris Ermis to replace Atsur. Then Baris, by his performances during practices and friendly matches, ended any worries. Arslan also returned to action in good shape so we have no problems now. The point guard position is safe.
With the moment of truth coming later this week, we are feeling better and better by the day. I would like to remind everyone about one thing, too: We had bad results in the friendlies before EuroBasket 2009, but we made a thunderous start in that tournament and only lost the chance for a medal due to some bad luck and a few very, very small mistakes. Now, we are more experienced and we are all aware that we have a more important mission on our shoulders.
During a few days off before World Championships start, we will spend a lot of time watching videotapes of our opponents. We have really strong teams in our group, like Greece, Russia, Puerto Rico and China, and another that we can never underestimate, Ivory Coast. We will approach each and every one of our games as a final. I hope we start well and keep on playing better and better. Keep an eye on us. Until then,