For a Turkish side to compete in a Final Four, you have to go back to the 2000/01 season when Efes Pilsen Istanbul finished in third.
Back then, it was called the FIBA Suproleague so a Turkish involvement in European club basketball’s holy grail when eventually re-named the Euroleague is, in theory, non-existent.
The passionate Turkish following have been patient in virtually every sport over the years – it has been a country that has the facilities and funding for top quality sporting events – but it unfortunately falls short of the intended target. If a Turkish side had reached last year’s Final Four at the Sinan Erdem Dome in Istanbul, the atmosphere would have been only something that basketball fans could dream of.
The Euroleague even has the country’s main airline as its main sponsor and at every Final Four, the hoards of fans, hundreds of press and VIP’s have to endure the annoying Turkish Airlines theme music as every year, they remix and remake the song with every kind of mixture you can think of. The 2012 theme was an upbeat, pop routine with cheerleaders.
Themes aside though, definitely one of the best airlines to fly with; which is the main thing.
We are still in the early stages of the new regular season of the Euroleague but already I’m asking the question, as I did in the latest podcast which I discussed with David Hein about: could we see a Turkish team in this year’s Final Four?
This is the best chance for a team from the TBL to make this year’s Final Four at the O2 Arena in London, I feel. You have an improved side in Fenerbahce, who have a tough group that includes Euroleague veterans in Real Madrid and Panathinaikos but should still have little trouble qualifying (I hope that doesn’t come back to haunt me). Over the summer, they brought in Italy’s national team coach Simone Piangiani from Montepaschi Siena and he brought with him Siena’s star player in Bo McCalebb, an explosive point guard who has become one of Europe’s premier players, and in short time too. He burst onto the scene at the Final Four in Paris in 2010 playing for Partizan and then the world saw him at Eurobasket last year in Lithuania when playing for FYR of Macedonia.
Fenerbahce have two ex-Panathinaikos veterans in Mike Batiste and Romain Sato, both winners, both know how to get the Istanbul side to the promised land, provided they have legitimate passports, of course.
Jokes aside, Sato brings corner ball three-point shooting and lock-down defence to the Fenerbahce side as he has done for years for the Greens and his old club Montepaschi Siena. Sato is an underrated rebounder also, and in the one game he has played this season, he got 12 points and four boards in 23 minutes against a strong BC Khimki side.
Batiste, a Panathinaikos favourite for nine seasons is an old-school forward who gets the job done at both ends of the floor, even though he is probably not the player he used to be at 34, the American can still do a job for 20 minutes a game and it looks to be what Piangiani wants.
Fenerbahce’s depth is highly noticeable with ex-EA7 Milano guard J.R. Bremer, Emir Preldzic, Omer Onan, Baris Ermis, Australian international David Andersen, Croatian Bojan Bogdanovic plus Turkish big man Oguz Savas in their ranks. The quality and team work ethic has been in full force in the first stages of this Euroleague season and the Istanbul outfit, in my view present the best chance of a Turkish representative in the Final Four.
Besiktas and Anadolu Efes are still outside hopes but where David Hein put Besiktas ahead of Anadolu Efes in the pecking order on the podcast, I feel Anadolu’s extra experience in this Euroleague and star quality in Sasha Vujacic and Jordan Farmar will see them through to the Top 16. I feel Besiktas, who have started well, will fade away as the competition wears on. A Top 16 place isn’t out of the question, but I feel for both sides, it might be as far as they go. Efes might have an outside shot at the last-eight, but it’s a long punt.
In my eyes, Fenerbahce have the best shot of being the first Turkish team since 2000/01 to reach a Final Four. Agreed? Thoughts?