New Look Turkey Roll On

13 September 2009
By Jeff Taylor

If Turkey travelled to Poland for the EuroBasket hoping to build momentum for the FIBA World Championship they are hosting next year, then right now Bogdan Tanjevic's side is a runaway train.

Having struggled in their Efes Pilsen World Cup, the Turks have discovered the meaning of the word toughness, running roughshod over Group D opponents Lithuania, Bulgaria and hosts Poland in Wroclaw.

On Saturday, they claimed their biggest win in many a year with a 63-60 triumph over Spain in Lodz.

What everyone must be wondering from Ankara to Istanbul, and all the way to Madrid no doubt, is what kind of deal the Turks have made with the devil.

Tanjevic's team is unrecognisable from the side that stumbled and bumbled its way to an unimpressive Qualifying Round exit two years ago in Spain.

The answer is simple.

Turkey are passing, and harassing.

They are blocking, and shocking.

So far, there is no way past them.

They never looked like losing to Spain, last year's silver-medal winners at the Beijing Games who are suddenly a team in crisis.

That was true even when Sergio Llull bravely entered the lane and attempted to dunk Spain to victory in the final seconds.

Ersan Ilyasova and Omer Asik were there to meet and greet, and send the ball in the opposite direction.

"I am very satisfied because we have beaten the world champions and the EuroBasket 2007 runners-up," Tanjevic said.

"The key to the win was our transition defense. We used a lot of energy for this. It's another game which will help us reach our goal of making top four of this tournament.

"We have qualification (for the Quarter-Finals) in our hands and now we have to fight for positions."

Turkey under coach Tanjevic are a team of ups and downs.

A man who knows a little something about winning after guiding Italy to the gold medal at the EuroBasket in France 10 years ago, Tanjevic's men were awful at EuroBasket 2005, excellent at the 2006 FIBA World Championship in Japan and awful again at EuroBasket 2007 in Spain.

Last year, after being forced to go through qualifying for this year's EuroBasket, Turkey were brilliant and twice defeated France.

The form of the team didn't look good in Ankara at the Efes Pilsen World Cup, but they have played hard when the games have mattered and that means they have been delivering knockout punches in Poland.

"After the tournament in Turkey, we realized there were certain things we had to do to dominate in the game and that was to hustle all over the court and play defense for 40 minutes," guard Sinan Guler said.

"We did it in Wroclaw and here today (Saturday)."

Year after year, tournament after tournament, Tanjevic has never shied away from yelling in anger at his troops in a bid to improve their play.

He has usually cut a frustrated figure in press conferences.

So far in Poland, it's been all smiles.


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