Turk Telekom send message: Ankara is back on the basketball map
ANKARA (Turkey) - Turk Telekom’s 82-79 win at UNET Holon on Tuesday turned heads around Europe, and not only because it was an impressive road victory in the premiere of the Basketball Champions League 2019-20 season.
The Group A result was also a loud and clear statement, heard around the continent, that the historic club of the Turkish capital is back in the basketball elite and it intends to stay here.
R.J. Hunter (2) and Kyle Wiltjer (33) are two important new additions to Turk Telekom' roster
In 2016, Turk Telekom finished in 15th place in the Turkish Basketball Super League and was relegated to the second division. Ankara fought their way back in 2018 and, in their first year after returning to the top flight, they qualified for the play-offs, which made them eligible to receive an invitation from the Basketball Champions League this summer.
"We are a club that has been serving basketball for 30 years, the Turkish Super League is where we belong and we are very happy to be back here. In the two years that followed our relegation, our main goal was to get back to the Super League," Turk Telekom General Manager Cenk Duraklar told championsleague.basketball.
We have achieved our first goal by ensuring that seven great European teams will come to play here, now we want to qualify from our group - Turk Telekom GM Cenk Duraklar
Competing in the Basketball Champions League provides Turk Telekom with exactly the right platform for the club to re-establish itself among the elite also on European level.
"We want to play in European competitions, for our club and for our city. Following the invitation by the BCL, our board decided to join the competition and the main factor behind that decision was that there are more European teams in the BCL," said Duraklar.
"We are in a group of eight teams and this means our fans get more chances to meet with the team and they have the chance to watch more European teams competing in Ankara.
"We are very happy with the BCL, representatives of the competition came and visited us in Ankara, they organized a head coaches meeting [in Switzerland] and our coach attended that. They value our club and show they care about us. We are very thankful to the BCL organization about that."
There are four Turkish teams in the BCL this year, which is very important for Turkish basketball and for us - Coach Goren
Turk Telekom’s ambitions will only grow as the BCL and the Turkish Super League seasons progress.
Coach Burak Goren has been tasked with developing a young team
"Last year, I told our coach we would move to a smaller gym, as I wasn’t expecting a big attendance, but we played in front of 5,000 to 6,000 fans," Duraklar said.
"[This season,] we want to make it into the Play-Offs in the Turkish League. In the BCL we have achieved our first goal, by ensuring that seven great European teams will come to play here, now we want to qualify from our group.
We are in a very difficult group, one of the hardest groups I can say. All teams in our group are very strong - Coach Goren
"We have a roster made up of young players, with four players born in 1996 and 1997. They are very talented players but didn’t have much time before in their clubs. They are candidates to play on the senior national team in the future and we aim to help them rise to that level. That would be a great success, alongside the sporting achievements."
Head coach Burak Goren is the man trusted with the double mission of ensuring that the young players develop while at the same time the team has a successful campaign on both the domestic and the European front.
"The BCL is a high-level competition which includes very important European clubs. We are in a very difficult group, one of the hardest groups I can say. All teams in our group are very strong. We take this step by step, our first goal is to play good basketball and satisfy our fans and to qualify to the Play-Offs," coach Goren said.
Turk Telekom are competing in Group A against UNET Holon, SIG Strasbourg, BAXI Manresa, Dinamo Sassari, Lietkabelis, Polski Cukier Torun and Filou Oostende. Meanwhile fellow Turkish clubs Teksüt Bandirma, Gaziantep and Besiktas Sompo Sigorta were drawn in groups B, C, and D, respectively.
"There are four Turkish teams in the BCL this year, which is very important for Turkish basketball and for us. We represent our clubs in this kind of competitions, but we also represent our country in Europe, so we are trying to get good results also for Turkey," said Goren.
"It would be exciting to face another Turkish team in the next stages. I’d be happy for myself and for my club, if we could contribute to Turkish basketball through those games."
The coach is in charge of an intriguing roster that, in addition to the up-and-coming Turkish players, also includes well-known foreign players in American guards RJ Hunter, Nick Johnson and T.J Campbell, French big man Moustapha Fall and Canadian international Kyle Wiltjer.
BİZİM TAKIM!! 😎🔥🥁🎊 pic.twitter.com/vQj5ga41VY— Türk Telekom SK (@TurkTelekom_SK) September 11, 2019
"Our roster has changed a lot since last year, we are a young team hungry to taste success, with our advantages and disadvantages. Our Turkish players need playing time in order to gain experience while our foreigner players are very valuable and more experienced," he said.
"We expect good things from both our Turkish players and our foreign players. I don’t distinguish between my players, they all have their own part and their role in the team. They just need to work more and grow. If they do that, I believe we have a clear path to succeed in both the Turkish Super League and in the BCL."