Turkish Airlines Euroleague
April 21, 2014
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2009-10 Team Focus: Fenerbahce Ulker
October 13, 2009
Can Maxim Mutaf
With a balance of experienced youth and energetic veterans that promises fans the best of both worlds, Fenerbahce Ulker enters the 2009-10 Euroleague aiming high as ever. If last year, injuries led to disappointment for Fenerbahce in the Euroleague, two seasons ago head coach Bogdan Tanjevic surprised many observers by guiding a young team all the way to the Quarterfinal Playoffs. Tanjevic now has nine players from that team at his disposal, including two who left after that summer, floor general Willie Solomon and floor runner Tarence Kinsey, but are back now. Also ready to make an impact is shot-blocking virtuoso Omer Asik, who missed all of last year’s Euroleague through injury after finishing in the top five in voting for both the Euroleague Best Defender Award and Rising Star Award in 2007-08. Likewise, scoring ace Gordan Giricek looks to make up for missed time after sitting out 11 games last season due to injury. In the meantime, a trio of Fenerbahce’s talented youth - big men Semih Erden and Oguz Savas and swingman Emir Preldzic - have all picked up big minutes to make even bigger strides in their games. And the one player who can never be overlooked is rebounding king Mirsad Turkcan. The only completely new face on the roster is guard Lynn Greer, whose scoring power helped Olympiacos reach the Final Four last year. All told, Fenerbahce Ulker starts this season with one of the deepest teams in the competition, chock-full of dynamic perimeter players and rising frontcourt stars all hungry to go far in the Euroleague.
The guard duo of Solomon and Greer promises to be one of the most exciting in Europe this season. Solomon, a veteran of four Euroleague seasons with a pair of continental trophies to his name, is a true winner who can shine with his scoring, passing and defense. Tanjevic will put Solomon at the controls both the spearhead the defense, score himself or distribute to others. Greer is a former Euroleague scoring champ who can provide instant offense, a role he excelled in off the bench last season. His ability to get his shot or get to the line should make Fenerbahce more effective in tough situations. Giricek is a deadly shooter who may get even more open looks now, playing alongside Greer and Solomon. Kinsey compliments the aforementioned players with his athleticism, selfless play and nose for the ball. Team captain Damir Kaan Mrsic, at age 39, remains one of the Euroleague's clutch long-range shooters, Omer Onan enters his fifth season with the club as a clever team player and intense defender. Serhat Cetin, who made his Euroleague debut last season, provides perimeter depth, while teenage prospect Can Maxim Mutaf will gain more seasoning from the stars around him.
Preldzic truly came into his own last season, making an impact as a point forward who was too quick for power forwards and too big for small forwards to guard. His ability to score, rebound and pass promise a bright future for Preldzic and those around him. Turkcan returns at power forward for his fourth straight season at Fenerbahce and his eighth overall in the Euroleague, during which time he has gathered more rebounds than any other player. Simply put, when there’s a missed shot, Turkcan is there, and his ability to gain possessions for Fenerbahce will be key again this season. The trio of Erden, Savas and Asik give Tanjevic incredible size and depth with which to plan games. Savas’s game took a leap forward last season when he showed he can bang inside, score, draw fouls and make free throws. Erden has long arms and quick feet that help him cut to the basket for impressive slams and to get offensive rebounds. And Asik showed at EuroBasket that he is back to his old self, which means a big, strong body, great timing and super leaping ability that results in plenty of blocked shots, rebounds and dunks. Altogether, Fenerbahce heads into the season with 11 players who all boast experience and talent, but whose variety of skills complement each other, instead of duplicating themselves. With a veteran winner like Coach Tanjevic pulling the strings, Fenerbahce fans hope their team has the recipe to make a run to glory this season.
OMER ASIK, CENTER
Fenerbahce Ulker big man Omer Asik is back after missing most of last season due to a knee injury, but as he showed over the summer at EuroBasket 2009, he’s ready to pick up where he left off as an instant contributor to his team's success. Asik was an revelation to many after joining Fenerbahce midway through the 2007-08 season. He quickly proceeded to shatter the Top 16 blocked shots record, then finished the season ranked fourth in the Euroleague Rising Star Award voting and fifth in the Best Defender Award voting.
Asik suffered ligament damage while training with the Turkish national team in the summer of 2008 and was forced to undergo surgery. He did not return to action until March 2009 – after Fenerbahce had finished its Euroleague season. Nonetheless, Asik helped Fenerbahce reach the Turkish League finals. After getting the rust off, Asik was back to himself this summer, becoming a main reference for Fenerbahce and Turkish national team head coach Bogdan Tanjevic in the paint. Asik finished EuroBasket with the highest field goal percentage of all players and the third-best average in offensive rebounds.
Asik has all the physical tools one can ask for to be a dominant center. He has good size and even better wingspan, great athleticism, and most importantly for blocking shots, a quick leap and fantastic timing. Asik is an above-average shooter from mid-range and loves to finish anything near the basket with a rim-rocking slam. If he can improve his free throw accuracy, he will become even more valuable to Fenerbahce.
Asik is set to enter his first full Euroleague season and based on what he’s shown so far, it could be one to remember. With a healthy, more experienced and more mature Asik manning the paint, all Euroleague shot-blocking records are in jeopardy - as are all of Fenerbahce Ulker's opponents.
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