EUROBASKET WOMEN 2013
By Paul Nilsen
|Tugba Palazoglu is not afraid to take on the roll of tournament favourites|
Whisper it quietly, but unbeaten Turkey are seriously beginning to convince in a big way that they could go one better than EuroBasket Women 2011, when they had to settle for silver.
Some electrifying and eye-catching performances have helped them take five wins from five games so far, a record which makes an absolute mockery of any concerns arising from their underwhelming preparation results.
Take one look at the small but satisfying smile on the face of Ceyhun Yildizoglu at each post-game media conference and you get the sense that he could barely be happier with the progress of his team - even taking into account the caveat that one dud performance in the quarter-final would be fatal, no matter how well Turkey are playing.
If they did go all the way, trying to choose an MVP or even All Tournament Team contenders would be a nightmare, since Turkey are about depth, rotation, defence and a strong team ethic, all of which is expertly overseen by Yildizoglu.
The other factor which they excel in is tempo. They are quick. Seriously quick. Not necessarily always individually, but collectively. Then again, the first metre is in the mind they say.
Despite their age, their track record of having played together for a long time seems to now mean having an almost telepathic understanding, something which only heightens the speed of players like veteran guard Tugba Palazoglu.
She sends out a very clear and consistent message- Turkey are the ‘Speed Queens' and must continue to push the pace every time they step onto the floor.
"This generation has been playing so long together and it really is beginning to show" smiled Palazoglu.
"For us, it is all about playing fast. If we continue playing fast, then for me, it doesn't matter how big or talented the other teams are, we can beat them.
"We have to use our speed. We never play basketball standing - it's impossible.
"It doesn't matter to me about France, Spain or any of the other teams. Seriously, we can beat anybody if we play our style."
The watershed for Turkey arguably came four years ago at EuroBasket Women 2009, when they finished on a real low point and missed out on a quarter-final spot.
"We have really been playing (strong) since 2009," agrees Palazoglu.
"I remember we were going well (in Latvia), but we lost against Belarus.
"Since then, we found the confidence to beat anybody and at EuroBasket Women 2011, we showed we were right and that we trusted each other."
Mind you, don't misjudge the confidence of Palazoglu for cockiness.
She knows what is at stake and also appreciates the importance of what lies in wait - notably a mouth-watering match-up against Spain as both teams sign-off their time in Lille.
"We want to finish number one in our group after Round 2" reiterated Palazoglu.
"We would like to play against France in the Final and not in the semi-final, although of course it also depends on France.
"Our focus is to only beat whoever we play against.
"The Spanish team is very experienced and very strong" continued the 32-year-old.
"If we play the way that we want to play, the way the Turkish team always likes to play, then I think we can beat them."
|Yasemin Dalgalar is thriving alongside her more experienced teammates|
When it comes to the depth which has served Turkey so very well recently, look no further than the growing impact of her fellow guard Yasemin Dalgalar.
Brought onto the roster on home soil at the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Anakara last summer, she was then only given a handful of minutes in London.
Now she is having a potential breakthrough tournament, producing 6.5 points per game in 16 minutes of action and off the back of an excellent 62.5% shooting average.
Palazoglu isn't surprised and claimed the depth continues way past the end of the current Turkish bench.
She said, "We actually have a couple of new players and I was talking to them in the scrimmage games and they said that being at the Olympics and with this team during the past year has given them a lot of confidence.
"They really feel part of the team and they know what to do when they get into the game."
She added, "We are very happy to have them and actually, there are a lot of other players back home in Turkey who would be able to play here and are still waiting in line."