|Tarsus Belediyesi Club president Hikmet Avsar, Emir Turam and the Mayor of Tarsus Burhanettin Kocamaz with Richard Stokes|
Few people could have envisaged in the early nineties, when Turkey was competing at the European Promotion Cup for Women, the enormous strides that women's basketball would make in the country.
Yet just two decades later Turkey has conquered a EuroBasket Women silver medal and clubs like Fenerbahce or Galatasaray have established themselves as powerhouses in the EuroLeague Women, the continent's elite club competition.
The national team followed up their unprecedented success at EuroBasket Women 2011 with a quarter-finals appearance in the London Olympics while in 2014 Turkey will host the FIBA World Championship for Women.
Much of the progress in recent years has had Istanbul as its focal point but FIBA Europe Head of Competitions Richard Stokes recently had the opportunity to witness first-hand the work that Turkish women's clubs are doing in the west of the country.
During a three-day visit to the region he was able to meet with officials from EuroLeague Women debutants Tarsus Belediyesi as well as EuroCup Women clubs Adana Botas Sport, Homend Antakya and Mersin Belediyesi.
These clubs are situated in a 200 km stretch of land from Adana to Antakya in the Cukurova region and form an important part of the driving force for the development of women's basketball in the country.
"Whilst men's basketball is certainly played in the region, these clubs have big programmes in the cities, within the local community and within schools," Stokes commented.
"Not only are they developing levels of excellence for players to progress in to the club competitions on a national and international level, they are also offering access to the sport for players below that level and using basketball for social inclusion and integration.
|Emir Turam and Hikmet Avsar of Tarsus with Head of FIBA Europe Competitions Department Richard Stokes|
"These clubs are supported by sponsors and the municipalities and have developed a very interesting model for the growth of this segment of our sport."
One of the aims of the trip was to assist the clubs in their preparations for the forthcoming season, making sure that they fully understand their obligations in the European Cups under FIBA Europe.
Stokes, who was accompanied on his trip by Emir Turam from the Turkish Basketball Federation, met Homend Antakya General Manager Mesut Yilmaz and Assistant General Manager Erdal Oktay, while he also held talks with the General Manager of Mersin, Suat Ozdal, and the PR/Media representative of the club, Serkan Bir.
"There is a lot of knowledge here about what is needed to participate in our competitions," Stokes remarked after the meetings.
"It is good to see that a club such as Botas, which has a history of playing in international competition, is also advising other clubs with less experience and also developing people to work in all areas of the sport.
"It is our job to support and a help the clubs prepare, but also to develop facilities that can be used in our competitions.
"The fact that the Mediterranean games will be played in one of the venues that we visited has provided an opportunity for the club to upgrade the playing hall for the coming season."