Turkey's Secret: Discipline And Simple Basketball

26 July 2009

Don't blink or you might miss something.

That would be the advice for anyone watching Turkey play at the U18 European Championship Men 2009, in Metz, France.

When Firat Toz has the ball in his hands, Turkey race up and down the court more than any other team and so far have run circles around their opponents.

But that's how head coach Mustafa Derin likes it and so far it's proved to be very successful as the Turks have won the last two games of the Qualifying Round by an average of 30.5 points and finished with a perfect 3-0 mark to top Group C.

"We just like to play simple offensive basketball and when you think simple, you think getting out on the fastbreak, trying to get as many quick and easy baskets as possible," he said.

The head coach though does also have an affinity for hard-nosed defense.

"I just have two rules for my players: everyone must play defense as hard as they can and at the other end just keep things simple."

Those who fail to abide by those rules suffer the consequences - regardless of their place in the team's hierarchy.

"If you don't do what you're told, you will be sitting on the bench. Playing for him [Derin] does feel like being in the army at times," starting guard Maxim Can Mutaf said half-jokingly.

There is some truth to what Mutaf says as the coach talks of his team in military terms.

"Our team is made up of stars and soldiers. Some guys play more than others, that's just the way it is. But every player has a role to play and rules to obey. No one is above that and there are no exceptions for any one."

No one has dared to disobey or step out of line so far and Turkey are all the better for it. In fact Derin was happily impressed - although not surprised - when his star players took it in their stride when he explained he wanted to rest them as much as possible in the Preliminary Round.

"They wanted to play as much as possible because they are so competitive and have been waiting for this moment for the last year. We had a two-month training camp before coming here. But I thought the first three games [against Greece, Latvia and Bulgaria] would be a good opportunity to give our soldiers a chance to play."

That conservative approach with the more senior players was beneficial to the likes of 17-year-olds Burak Yacan Yuksel and Safak Edge, who showed flashes of brilliance at times and will likely be some of the star players of next year's U18 side.

There is of course another logical reason why Turkey were keen to keep the likes of Enes Kanter, Mutaf and Toz fresh.

"The way I see it, the tournament really starts now, in the Qualifying Round," Derin added. "And so I expect our star players will play a lot of minutes in these games and hopefully after that."

And despite being in a very strong position to reach the quarter-finals, Turkey won't look beyond the Qualifying Round - for now.

"We won't underestimate Russia, Italy and Lithuania. They are good sides and every team in this tournament has strengths and weaknesses. Whoever makes the fewest mistakes will win," offered the head coach.

Make no mistake about it, Turkey will do their best to run those teams ragged and get into the quarter-finals as fast as possible.

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