Darussafaka Dogus Istanbul made its intentions and ambitions clear with the hiring of head coach David Blatt at the start of the summer. Those ambitions got an even bigger boost with each new arrival, including the one of playmaker Bradley Wanamaker, as well as a pair of prolific scorers – swingmen Will Clyburn and James Anderson. The core of players who made the Top 16 last season also welcomed sharpshooter Dairis Bertans and hometown winger Birkan Batuk into the backcourt, while one of Europe’s best rebounders, Adrien Moerman, fortified an already deep front line.
Wanamaker displayed last year with Brose Bamberg what kind of a playmaker he is, and now he will be running Darussafaka’s offense and be on the first line of defense. He is surrounded with a bunch of capable scorers in newcomer Anderson and Scottie Wilbekin who was the team’s top scorer and go-to option in the latter part of last season. Ender Arslan and Mehmet Yagmur are very experienced point guard back-ups, while Bertans and Batuk are long-range shooting options at the wings. It will be interesting to see how much room there will be for young guard Dogus Ozdemiroglu to display his talents.
Clyburn and Luke Harangody can play both forward positions. And while Harangody’s hard-nose basketball brings a lot of goods on defense and aggressiveness to the offensive glass, Clyburn arrived to the team as last season’s Israeli League top scorer and is a candidate to be Darussafaka’s go-to guy this season. Moerman is a stretch four and accurate from long distance, but was also last season’s EuroCup top rebounder. Such depth at the forward position should make the job easier for Darussafaka’s biggest men – Semih Erden, Furkan Aldemir, Marcus Slaughter, and Oguz Savas – who have enough skill, size and experience to battle any frontcourt in the competition.
PLAYER TO WATCH
As a EuroLeague rookie last season, Bradley Wanamaker was the only player in the competition to average at least 4 assists and 4 rebounds while scoring in double figures. The playmaker facilitated a lot of offense for Bamberg and it is intriguing to see what the sequel in a new environment has in store. He will be surrounded with players who have the abilities to score in bunches, like Anderson and Clyburn, but as much as Wanamaker will be able to make plays for them, their presence will open up even more opportunities for the Darussafaka point guard, who many expect will have a great season.
Darussafaka kept most of the players from its roster from last season when it reached the Top 16, but with a really strong group of newcomers and a coach who knows how to win and what it takes to win, the team looks like a dark horse that is capable of making an extended run in the new-look EuroLeague. Darussafaka’s most challenging part of the season will start in mid-November with a nine-game stretch during which coach Blatt’s squad has six road games, while its three home fixtures are against might opponents – Olympiacos Piraeus, Real Madrid and Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv. If it successfully survives that span, Darussafaka could turn this season, its second in the competition, into a memorable one.