Group leaders Tofas Bursa use national team break to introduce new coach
BURSA (Turkey) - Two-time Turkish champions Tofas Bursa are back in the Basketball Champions League. Last season, they reached the sweet sixteen phase, before missing out on a Final 8 spot to Hapoel Holon, Pinar Karsiyaka and Happy Casa Brindisi.
Hakan Demir started the 2021-22 season as the head coach, but Tofas Bursa parted ways with him over the November season break. Despite leading their group with a 3-1 record here and owning a positive 6-4 record in Turkey, Tofas opted for a change in search of even better performances in the 2022 part of the season.
Ahmet Caki is coming back as the head coach. The 46-year-old already coached Tofas from 2012 to 2014, earning a trip to Anadolu Efes as an assistant and a part time head coach. Caki also coached Alba Berlin in Germany, and had a couple of stints with Darussafaka in his coaching career.
He was in his early 20s when he started as the assistant coach back in 1997, and serves as an assistant with the Turkish national team currently.
Here is what Caki has at his disposal:
Tomislav Zubcic, Jeremy Simmons, Muhsin Yasar, Berk Ugurlu, Berke Buyuktuncel, Bora Satir and Batin Tuna are returning to the club from the 2020-21 campaign. Important pieces such as DeVaughn Akoon-Purcell, Semaj Christon, DJ White, Tarik Phillip and Berkan Durmaz have left the club over the summer break.
Kasey Shepherd leads the new arrivals. The MVP of the 2020-21 Basketball Champions League Play-Offs comes to Tofas months after his 27th birthday, coming off of a season that saw him average 15.3 points in the VTB United League and 17.4 points per game in the BCL.
Shepherd played for Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns in the NCAA, and found luck by going to the eastern part of Europe. He was dominant for Batumi in Georgia, then switched to Ukraine with Kyiv, and moved to Nizhny Novgorod to lead the team to the Final 8 in 2020-21.
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The crazy part about Shepherd's crazy scoring stats is that he is not the best scorer in this Tofas team. That honor belongs to Pako Cruz, the Mexican guard who led the Turkish League in scoring last season, putting up 19.6 points per game for Afyon, while also dishing out 5.5 assists per game.
Cruz is not a new face in the BCL, he played this competition with Fuenlabrada in 2018-19, averaging 13.0 points per game, and giving the fans a memorable buzzer beater against Brose Bamberg. Cruz also played for VEF Riga in 2015-16, stayed in Fuenlabrada from 2016 to 2019, and moved to Rytas in 2019-20.
Pako Cruz for the win in @BasketballCL at the buzzer 🚨#BasketballCL#ChampionsLeagueTipopic.twitter.com/kyrDxV2qtG— Marco A. Munno (@MarcoAMunno) October 10, 2018
Elgin Cook is a player with Final Four experience in the Basketball Champions League. The 28-year-old forward was a part of the 2017-18 MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg surprise package in the BCL, putting up 11.3 points with 4.1 rebounds per game and 1.3 steals per game for the German side en route to the closing tournament in Athens.
Since then, Cook played for Cedevita in Zagreb, Croatia, Avtodor Saratov and UNICS Kazan in Russia, and Fethiye in Turkey, where he had 15.9 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. He is a prominent figure around the legendary organization known as The Basketball Tournament.
Elgin Cook (@Ecook23_) had an absolutely INSANE shooting performance this summer! In four games, the @GoldenEaglesTBT forward went 28/34 from the field, good for 82.4%.— TBT (@thetournament) August 25, 2021
That’s by far the highest mark in TBT history 🔥🔥🔥 pic.twitter.com/mxDUrzpx8O
Yigit Arslan is coming back home. The 25-year-old started his professional career with Tofas in 2014, and stayed with the club until 2019, when he switched to Galatasaray and also played the BCL with the club in 2020-21.
Arslan played for all youth selections of the Turkish national team, and he was a part of their FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 squad. He has shot over 40 percent from beyond the arc in three of his last four seasons, and averaged career best 23 minutes per game in 2020-21.
Another player returning is Emre Tanisan. At 22 years of age, he is still a young center, standing tall at 6'9''/2.07m, and he made his debut in professional basketball with Tofas in 2017-18. He went back and forth between the first and the second division in Turkey, and his 2020-21 campaign was strong enough to get Tofas back on the phone.
Tanisan put up 14.1 points and 6.4 rebounds in 30 games, playing for Budo Gemlik in the Second Division. Emre also played for the youth national teams in Turkey, getting minutes at both U18 and U20 level.