Turkey Prepare For EuroBasket Women Test

12 August 2005

Turkey's EuroBasket aspirations took a knock when they lost key player Gulsah Akkaya to injury recently but Cem Akdag's team is a resilient bunch and only the foolish would dismiss their chances in the next month's tournament.

Turkey have the advantage of playing at home in the Championships and their recent preparation games suggest they will battle hard in Group B against Russia, Serbia & Montenegro, Lithuania, Spain and Romania.

The loss of Akkaya is a huge disappointment, however.

The 1.81m forward was practicing with the team at the Air Force Academy Hall when she tore knee ligaments.

"Gulsah was very important for us," said coach Cem Akdag.

"This is a big loss for us and I am unbeliavably sorry.

Gülsah Akkaya (Turkey)
Gülsah Akkaya
"She had had a difficult time adjusting to the team at the beginning but worked very hard during the training sessions after the Mediterranean Games and was getting a lot better with her extraordinary effort on defence and offence.

"She continued that upward trend in the three games she played in Slovakia."

The Mediterranean Games at the beginning of July, which Turkey won, was the first sign that Akdag was going to have a determined team but it was victories in three of four contests in the Slovakian Grand-Prix tournament at the end of July which really bolstered their confidence.

Turkey beat Finland 78-55, lost to Lithuania 82-71, hammered Croatia 91-57 and overcome hosts Slovakia, 79-67.

The results suggest Turkey have some quality and can cause problems for opponents although the impact of Akkaya's injury remains to be seen.

"As the technical staff, we believed in her, that she would contribute a lot to the team at the Europeans," Akdag said on the federation's official website.

"This unlucky incident worried all the players and the tehnical staff after working for two and a half years without a break and getting so close to the tournament.

"Unfortunately, there is nothing we can do. Other players have to work more now to fill the void Gulsah's absence has created."

There were positives to be taken from the games in Slovakia.

Team manager Mihriban Oguz said: "It was a very helpful tournament.

"It was especially useful for us to see Lithuania, who will be in the same group with us at European Championship.

"We noticed that all the teams we have played there were already ready. In a way, we saw how powerful we are as well."

"We are making progress," said Akdag, who added: "I am very happy to be have been able to see Lithuania once more.

"They have new players, but are very strong and effective. The Finland and Croatia games were like good training games.

"It was a positive improvement to beat Slovakia at their home when they are powerful. We saw in this tournament that we are progressing with sure steps."

After Slovakia, the Turkish team returned home and have this week defeated Germany (86-78) and Romania (89-62), two other sides taking part in the EuroBasket Women.

Turkey were able to increase the tempo against Romania, and the points were spread around.

Forward Sebnem Kimyacioglu, who just finished her career with Stanford University, poured in 11 points.

Aylin Yildizoglu had 16 points and four assists, while Serap Yucesir also scored 16 and grabbed seven rebounds for Turkey.

Against the team that won silver at EuroBasket 2003, the Czech Republic, Turkey lost 74-63.

Akdag's team is being given a lot of time to familiarise itself with his tactics.

They are now in France to face Greece, China and Russia, respectively. After leaving France on the August 17, they stop in the Czech Republic for two more games against Bobrovsky's team.

Akdag's team returns to Turkey on August 21 - less than two weeks before the EuroBasket Women tip-off.

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