By Doug Booth, PA International
Holland would seem to be on a hiding to nothing when they hit the road to tackle Group E favourites Turkey in a European Championship qualifying game on Wednesday.
But Dutch coach Glenn Pinas is optimistic it will not be a thrashing, even though star centre Francisco Elson, of the Denver Nuggets, flew back to the US on Monday to start training for the new NBA season.
Turkey top Group E with two wins from two matches, including an impressive thumping of Estonia by 28 points at the Abdi Ipekci Arena on Saturday.
That victory means Turkey can boast the best defence so far in all the elimination group games. They have conceded 122 points in two matches, 10 less than Slovenia.
On offence, Holland will have to watch NBA veteran Hidayet Turkoglu, Ermal Kurtoglu and 17-year-old guard Cenk Akyol if they are to prevent a landslide against Turkey.
But Pinas, who in the last week has watched his side go down to Estonia by three points, and then to Bosnia-Herzegovina by five, believes his side are strong enough to match Turkey.
"The progress in Dutch basketball has been huge," said Pinas.
||The progress in Dutch basketball has been huge
"A year ago both Estonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina would have beaten us by 20 points."
Pinas said the Estonia match, in particular, could have gone in Holland's favour with a little luck.
"We were leading by 10 at the end of the third quarter but then we ran into foul problems and there was also a couple of strange calls," he said.
Holland found it difficult to contain Bosnia-Herzegovina veteran guard Damir Mrsic, particularly in the final quarter, when he hit two crucial three-pointers to claim a game-high 23 points.
Elson had another strong performance for the Dutch, scoring 18 points and collecting 12 rebounds.
He was well supported by Kees Akerboom (16), Raoul Heinen (14) and Peter Van Paassen (13).
Pinas believes that the scoring support for Elson will reduce the impact of his departure from the squad.
"I don't think the gap (that Elson leaves) is impossible to fill," he said.
"We have made a strong team in a short period of time where players are willing to sacrifice their games for the benefit of the team."
Pinas has delayed announcing a replacement for Elson until Tuesday when the fitness of Tulip Den Bosch's Willie-Jan Ackermans is known.
|Pinas is expecting a big performance from his centre Mike Nahar|
"Willie has been having treatment for an upper leg muscle which he tore last week," he said.
"I will only take a squad of 11 to Turkey if he does not respond to treatment."
Pinas is also expecting a big performance from 211cm centre Mike Nahar, who plays for German club GHP Bamberg.
"He has the experience we need now that Elson has gone so it is time for him to step up," he said.
"We do not want to be humiliated but we can tighten up our defence we might surprise Turkey."