|03 April 2014|
|"there are several good coaches in Europe and I'm just working to be one of them" - Kayseri head coach Ayhan Avci|
Anyone drawing up candidates for the EuroLeague Women Coach for the Year accolade should surely have Ayhan Avci pretty high on their shortlist.
That is because the play-caller has guided Kayseri Kaski spor rather beautifully to a place at the Final Eight during their rookie year in the competition.
However, reacting to the mere notion of individual recognition isn't something which necessarily sits comfortably with Avci.
"I'm thankful for such words, but there are several good coaches in Europe and I'm just working to be one of them," he stressed.
Attempts at modesty are futile, because Kayseri have plenty to shout about after three impressive years competing at the European level.
"This is our third season in FIBA Europe competitions and we have already made two EuroCup Women finals and now, a first EuroLeague Women Final Eight," reflected Avci.
"The emotion and happiness was amazing when we reached back-to-back Finals in EuroCup Women.
"We still have more targets to reach and I think EuroLeague Women is one of the best competitions not only in Europe, but in the world.
"We also believe that we represent our city and our country well."
There's little doubt the team has helped to raise the profile of Kayseri as a city via their sporting accomplishments, not only in reaching the Final Eight, but famously beating reigning champions, UMMC Ekaterinburg en-route.
"One of our goals was that we wanted to defeat all of our opponents at least once," explained Avci.
"We are glad to have reached our target this season in the Turkish League and also in EuroLeague Women."
In fact, Kayseri has been the location for some of the most memorable and dramatic nights in women's European basketball during recent times and it's unsurprising that Avci took time to celebrate the contribution of the supporters and electric atmosphere so often found at his team's games.
He said, "We are appreciative of our fans who still have the European record with over 11,000 in attendance last season for the second-leg of the EuroCup Women final.
"They were very important in helping us get to back-to-back finals and also to the Final Eight this season.
"But, I think our team has now learned how to play away games in European competitions too."
Schedule: Fenerbahce (07/04), Sparta&K M.R. Vidnoje (08/04), Galatasaray odeabank (09/04)
|Lara Sanders (pictured) and Tanisha Wright of are the main protagonists for Kayseri Kaski spor|
Headline Writer: It's almost impossible to separate Lara Sanders and Tanisha Wright who have both proved capable of inking headlines and very often, by working in tandem. Sanders has been a colossus in the paint, collecting 14 points and 8.7 rebounds per game, whilst Wright is averaging 14.1 points and 4.3 assists per game from the backcourt. If Kayseri do deliver a win or wins in Ekaterinburg, then it would be a major surprise if one of these two players, or indeed both, are not the main factors in victory.
‘X-Factor': Like ZVVZ USK Prague in Group B, Kayseri are a team heavily reliant on their core players and that is something that makes life challenging in the gruelling and intense nature of tournament basketball. Kayseri do a good job of competing physically with teams and can hustle with the best. They are well disciplined and well organised, but as Coach Avci looks down the length of his bench, who can he rely on to truly support his starring cast? The role players are going to have to step up and do what they have been doing in front of the great and noisy Kayseri fans back home. Only this time, the big mental test will be doing it on the road, without the energy of the partisan home support cascading down from the bleachers. They also need to shoot the ball better from downtown - seriously better!
Unsung Hero: For her first campaign outside of her native Italy and first playing in the competition, Sabrina Cinili has been hugely important to Kayseri. Whilst she would have preferred to have shot the ball better, the fact that Coach Avci has never had her on the floor for less than 22 minutes in any game all season long, speaks absolute volumes for her court smarts, defence and team ethic.
Number Crunching: Statistically, Kayseri are the team with the most concerns since they are the worst in points production, points allowed, field-goal percentage, three-point shooting and assists. They are however the best free-throw shooting team and despite the numbers and numerous categories where they don't excel , still find ways to grind out wins.
In Just Eight Words: Dangerous underdogs often with more bite than bark.