ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Turkey has high hopes as the EuroBasket 2009, the biggest basketball event of the continent, starts on Monday. Hedo Türkoğlu and his teammates will try to prove the world that the failure in 2007 was one-off and that the team is ready to rise again
STAR PLAYER: Hedo Türkoğlu's performance will be crucial for Turkey's performance in EuroBasket 2009. AA photo
The Turkish national basketball team starts its EuroBasket 2009 campaign on Sunday, aiming to erase the bad memories of 2007.
Turkey looks to win a respectable position in the European Basketball Championships and show the rest of the contenders that it may be a powerhouse when it is hosting the 2010 World Championships. A solid display at the EuroBasket 2009 would only help its cause.
The red and white team is drawn against Lithuania, Bulgaria and host country Poland in Group D.
Turkey starts the campaign against Lithuania, a country that is always a potent threat in the continent’s basketball. Lithuania is coming to Poland with the Olympic fourth-spot, but even beating Spain 94-72 in an exhibition game last week will not be enough to hide its wounds.
2008 Euroleague MVP Ramunas Siskauskas, Sarunas Jasikevicius, Rimantas Kaukenas and Arvydas Macijauskas will all be missing from the Lithuanian side, making the team look very vulnerable in its guard positions. Badalona’s Simas Jasaitis and especially Linas Kleiza, who plays for the NBA’s Denver Nuggets, will try to make up for the loss of the star guards, but Lithuania’s main asset will probably be their solid team discipline and deadly long-range shooting.
Turkey plays its first game against Lithuania on Monday. Lithuania will be desperate to start the tournament on a high and prove that it can be equally dangerous without its stars.
On Tuesday, Turkey will take on a Bulgarian side that likes to battle from the first minute to the last.
Coached by Israeli master Pini Gershon, Bulgaria will try to snap its losing streak, in which it has failed to win a EuroBasket game since 1989. It is seen as a candidate for the fourth spot in the group, but it is likely that those presumptions will only motivate even more, although it has never been a force in European basketball. Bulgaria will badly miss top-scorer guard Ibrahim Jaaber, who refused to play in the tournament because it coincides with the holy month of Ramadan.
It would be better for Turkey to start the tournament with two wins because playing the last group game against the home team can be tricky. Poland team has a skilled frontcourt in Orlando Magic’s Marcin Gortat, Maciej Lampe of Maccabi and of course the talismanic power forward Adam Wojcik, who turns 40 next year.
As for Turkey, there is little doubt that all eyes will be on Hidayet “Hedo” Türkoğlu, who had a stellar year with the Orlando Magic, which advanced to the NBA Finals. His sharp-shooting, versatility and explosion will be crucial to Turkey, but Hedo should be helped by Barcelona forward Ersan İlyasova. Centers Kerem Gönlüm, who is waiting to be suspended after a positive test for banned substances, and Utah Jazz’s Mehmet Okur, whose relations with coach Bogdan Tanjevic were never peaceful, will be missed, if young guns Oğuz Savaş, Semih Erden and Ömer Aşık do not step up and shine.
Apparently, there are many unknowns in Turkey’s EuroBasket 2009 campaign. The possibilities are wide open, from recapturing the silver-medal glory of 2001 to the torturously failure of 2007.