|Baris Ermis joined Royal Hali Gaziantep in January and has become a key player for the EuroChallenge newcomers |
By Dimitris Kontos
Less than four months ago, Turkish point guard Baris Ermis took the bold decision to leave behind the bright lights of Istanbul and a Euroleague powerhouse to join the relatively unknown Royal Hali Gaziantep on loan.
"I was at Fenerbahce and I didn't play that much," Ermis told fibaeurope.com
"So I was hungry to play and really ready to give everything to this team and for these team-mates who are very good and just needed a bit of a confidence boost."
It was early January, around his birthday, but the 29-year-old Ermis could never have imagined that newly-installed Gaziantep head coach Jure Zdovc would ask to bring in a point guard of the 'floor general' mould and that this decision would turn out to be a birthday gift.
He certainly did not imagine that thanks to that moment, he would be stepping out for the semi-final of a European competition in April.
"When I came here [at Gaziantep] I didn't expect any of this, because this team was about to go to the second division," Ermis admitted.
"Before Jure came in they were in a terrible position but now, with this great system and these coaches, we discovered confidence as a team.
"Once we found that, we have been playing great because we share the ball, for us it doesn't matter who scores or who takes the rebound, we play as one."
Ermis is the main responsible for this team sharing the ball so efficiently.
He dished our 10 assists in his EuroChallenge debut with Gaziantep, a 72-61 win against Ventspils, and has pretty much not stopped passing the ball since then, averaging seven assists to go with his 11.6 points per game.
"That's what I want, I like to play with the ball even if I don't shoot so much for my position I try to make my team-mates get in the game," Ermis said.
"The coach gave me this role because he told me he needed a leader on the court and I think I am doing well.
"I hope it will continue like this and I think I am lucky to be here."
|Ermis on Andrea Cinciarini: "When I watch him, I see a lot of similarities with me."|
THE REGGIO EMILIA DOPPELGANGER
"From my experience, the homecourt advantage can sometimes turn into a disadvantage," Ermis said.
"We are playing at Reggio Emilia's home and we don't know this place at all, but we are a good team that plays tough defence, we hassle for every ball.
"We will see how it goes on the court, but we have only one basketball and we know their weapons and what they try to do with it.
"I hope we are going to win.
"We are a really good team and I believe we have a really big chance to get this cup."
Ermis' opposite number on Friday, in one of the most intriguing individual duels in this EuroChallenge Final Four, is Italian international Andrea Cinciarini, the point guard of Reggio Emilia and a player with a remarkably similar style of play to the Turkish playmaker.
"Yeah, you are right about that, we are similar," Ermis says smilingly.
"He is a team player in the sense that he always looks first to make his team-mates play, we are not great shooters but we both play for the team.
"I've known him from before of course and yes, when I watch him, I see a lot of similarities with me."
One of the people who will be watching the EuroChallenge Final Four with an eye on Gaziantep is a former winner of the competition, Galatasaray coach Ergin Ataman, who steered Besiktas to glory in 2012.
Ataman though is also the new coach in charge of the Turkish national team and one can only assume that, if Ermis continues to play like this until the end of the season, he will be receiving a call asking him to board in August the plane to Spain and the FIBA Basketball World Cup.
"I hope so!" Ermis says and his face lights up at the sound of this scenario.
"But they've been calling me every summer for like seven or eight years and I've only (made the final squad) played in the 2010 World Championship.
"For sure I have personal goals and one of my main goals is to play for the national team.
"If they call me, I will try to do my best because it's my nation, you are playing for the Turkish flag.
"If I don't get the call, there is nothing else I can do other than have an extra month of vacation," he adds laughingly.