Omar Samhan: “Keep hating”

One of the most notable players for St. Mary’s in the past couple of years, Omar Samhan, has had a rough start of his pro career with plenty of challenges throughout the big man’s first year in Lithuania, where he represented the country’s champions Zalgiris.

The bubbly personality that Samhan is didn’t seem to have taken a hit mentally despite barely getting any playing time and continuously being ridiculed by some fans. The always-upbeat player just kept on smiling and living what he called a dream.

Apparently, living a dream included crashing three cars, wearing shorts in the cold Lithuanian winter and enjoying the night life of Kaunas quite often. Well, at least the last one is understandable.

Although the good-timer was truly having a good time in Kaunas, the club officials weren’t as happy. They had agreed that the player would arrive early for the new season and start working out with the team’s youngsters.

However, the promise was forgotten and the player postponed his trip to Lithuania from the beginning of July to early August and instead of trying to bounce back from a very poor season was having fun in the other side of the pond.

The decision to go solo on his decision might end up costing Samhan a roster spot in Zalgiris for next season, as the club’s management is considering sending the 22-year-old American to KK Kaunas, basically, a farm-team for Zalgiris.

The reaction from the club’s fans has been interesting, as fans of Zalgiris let Samhan know that they aren’t too pleased with how the big man behaved.

That’s a lesson for you – don’t add people you don’t know on facebook. Anyway, I love the way Samhan reacted by using his go-to move: a huge smile and just a genuine laugh. He just doesn‘t give a damn, does he?

Omar Samhan: “Keep hating”

The Wisemen Know, Volume 13

The title tells it all – basketball experts are going to tell you what they think of the Lithuanian team chances in the upcoming Euroleague games as well as a weekly question about European hoops in general. The panel will consist of well-respected coaches (Luka Bassin and Tane Spasev), scouts (Alejandro Gonzalez and Rafael Uehara)  and many different basketball writers (Arkadios Chasirides, Christophe Ney, John Hobbs, Nick GibsonOs DavisSebastian Komianos, Simon Jatsch) and even a pro basketball player Milan Prodanovic. Also, for Volume 13, we’ve got a guest – our Turkish basketball expert Çağrı Turhan. I can assure you that these clever minds will all surely have something interesting to share.

To make it even more interesting, there’s a catch involved as each of the experts had only one limitation in the process – the thoughts had to fit in a tweet (140 characters).

UNTIL NEXT SEASON, EUROLEAGUE!

Alejandro Gonzalez: A Lithuanian shock in Athens was enough and Lietuvos did it vs. PAO. Olympiacos should win this one.

Christophe Ney: Olympiacos.

John Hobbs: Olympiacos by double-digits. I seem to jinx the opposition though, so this might go down to the wire.

Luka Bassin: It will be almost “friendly game”, so it depends who’ll focus more and be more aggressive – I say Olympiacos.

Milan Prodanovic: Olympiacos.

Nick Gibson: Bourousis’ injury hurts Oly’s depth inside, but it might make them a little quicker. Zoran Erceg thinks so, too. Olympiacos.

Os Davis: At 2-8 in the last 10 EL games, how can BiE go with Zalgiris? Clinched spot or not, the Reds will cruise against Zouros’ soft defenses. Olympiacos wins.

Rafael Uehara: Zalgirs. Taking a flyer here. Olympiacos has already guaranteed its QFs ticket and has already drew an opponent. Little to play for.

Sebastian Komianos: Olympiakos wins, Zouros gets a standing ovation for contributing to the qualification with his terrible coaching in the first round game.

Simon Jatsch: Olympiacos. Not that I believe in that going 0-4 in the last couple of weeks, but still …

Tane Spasev: Olympiacos by 12. There will be some good basketball first quarter, other than that, Olympiacos will cruise.

Çağrı Turhan: Theo or Zalgiris, both possible I’ll go with Papaloukas.

IT COULDN’T BE CLOSER, COULD IT?

Alejandro Gonzalez: Very tough pick and it could be the wisemen “clutch pick”. Many injuries but I believe in “Caracter Baskonia”. Caja Laboral wins.

Christophe Ney: Rytas.

John Hobbs: I think this will be a closely fought contest – I’m going to go with Rytas though. They play with great composure in the final stretch.

Luka Bassin: This time I’ll go with Lietuvos Rytas, even I’m almost everytime wrong when we talk about LR.

Milan Prodanovic: Caja Laboral.

Nick Gibson: No matter how badly she hurts me, I can’t get enough of that Caja lovin’. I feel a relapse coming on. Caja Laboral.

Os Davis: L.Rytas is rolling despite less apparent talent than remaining EL teams. And BiE’s won’t bet against El-Amin anymore … Lietuvos Rytas wins.

Rafael Uehara: Caja Laboral. I know the game is in Vilnus and Baskonia’s defense is a real issue but I can’t deal with Rytas advancing to the QFs.

Sebastian Komianos: Really don’t know, Rytas has the momentum but both teams are crazy,the Lithuanian team might end up smashing their opponents. Or the opposite!

Simon Jatsch: I say Caja Laboral. They have that little bit of quality that should see them through despite playing a poor season so far.

Tane Spasev: There we go…crunch time, and guess what: Going AGAINST Rytas 🙂 Caja by 4. Caja’s San Emeterio will be the key. El Amin will not win..

Çağrı Turhan: Expect a too close game. I hope Rytas gets well deserved PO spot as the most impressive team of Top 16, not to forget Zeljko’s luck. Amiiin!

QUESTION OF THE WEEK

Alejandro Gonzalez: Cajal Laboral hasn’t many options for that spot and Teletovic is always a potential “game breaker” while he’s in the floor.

Christophe Ney: 43.5% 2s and 35% 3s is not too bad for a SG, isn’t it? 😉

John Hobbs: Look at his numbers, he isn’t playing badly in honesty. Even when you think he is missing everytime, he’s still averaging about 35% from deep this year.

Luka Bassin: About Teletović-probably coach Ivanović trusts him a lot…you need to ask coach.

Milan Prodanovic: Teletovic is half Tele, meaning he is half VEAL (in Serbian), meaning he has superhuman powers!

Nick Gibson: Mirza, on the other hand, is the girl who won’t stop showing you pictures of her cat from her camera phone. Amazing she still gets dates.

Os Davis: O, an easy one. (Not!) How about: Without Mirza, Baskonia shoots 50.2% overall & so can afford to absorb a few bricks & manage a solid 47.9%.

Rafael Uehara: Barac & Batista are too similar and crowd the paint when together. Ivanovic likes to always have 2 bigs on the floor. Sow can’t get time.

Sebastian Komianos: Mirza Teletovic is on an unofficial competition against Milos Teodosic for the most shots attempted. Now it’s hard for Caja to reach the Top8 and Final 4 so he wants to have the lead. And Ivanovic knows he will never again win another title so he wants to contribute!

Simon Jatsch: Ivanovic looks very frustrated at times with Teletovic, definitely. I don’t see many alternatives though. Bjelica? Too inconsistent.

Tane Spasev: The secret is that he’s the only “experienced” big man there. He’s at Caja for how long now, 4 years? Coach trusts him, he knows the system.

Çağrı Turhan: First, I thought he owns sextapes of Ivanovic, then realized it should be much worse, deserves to be the fun object more than Begic.

The Wisemen Know, Volume 13

How seriously should we take Lietuvos Rytas?

Lietuvos Rytas seem to have pulled an impossible stunt bouncing back from a horrendous start of the season to a position where a win against Caja Laboral would guarantee the Vilnius side quarterfinal berth. Back-to-back victories against Unicaja and Panathinaikos have sparked a lot of optimism in the eyes many coloring the upcoming do-or-die battle in all-too-bright colors.

Throughout the whole season Lietuvos Rytas has proven time and time again, that they shouldn’t be taken too seriously, but is the rise in form substantial this time or is it yet another time when a hyped-up team will be brought to the ground? To be fair, there should be just as much of skepticism as there are upbeat tunes.

The number of midseason moves made by Lietuvos Rytas, both in and out of the club, would be hard to match for any Euroleague team. The huge in-and-out movement to compensate the mishaps of the start of the season — remember, coach Drazen Anzulović lasted a single official game — had its toll as well, as the new crew needed time to tune their game before a slow but sure recovery which saw the defending Lithuanian champions reach the Top 16.

It has been those situations where Lietuvos Rytas couldn’t put a foot wrong where the team, led by amazing performances from Khalid El-Amin, flourished. And that is what amazes most. For a mediocre team — or at least thought to be such by many — to be a clutch performer is rare. However, it’s usually individual players and strong personalities that decide the game late on and Lietuvos Rytas has had many strong ones – namely Khalid El-Amin and Šarunas Jasikevičius.

Despite winning the last six of eight games in Euroleague, Lietuvos Rytas still haven’t convinced anyone in Europe that they are a competitive team, which can put up a challenge no matter what the opposition is. With that said, victories against Barcelona at home in Vilnius and Caja Laboral and Panathinaikos on the road been massive upsets, but yet, even despite such a spectacular run — which probably looks more impressive in paper than in reality —  the Lithuanian side has had a slip here and a slip up there. Losses to Unicaja and Žalgiris in the Lithuanian Cup spring to mind as examples of rather poor performances, which have perhaps shaded how remarkable the mid-season turnaround was and how much coach Aleksandr Trifunović has got to do with the breakthrough.

Turning a lost season around was a huge achievement in itself, but true class isn’t just playing well. Consistency is the magic word. And it’s the word that you couldn’t currently link with Lietuvos Rytas. The next step for Aleskandr Trifunović is to add it to his team’s lexicon. Not an easy task, but if the side from Vilnius wants to prove their point, the best place to start is on Thursday against Caja Laboral. In fact, it’s the only place to start…

How seriously should we take Lietuvos Rytas?

The Wisemen Know, Volume 12

The title tells it all – basketball experts are going to tell you what they think of the Lithuanian team chances in the upcoming Euroleague games as well as a weekly question about European hoops in general. The panel will consist of well-respected coaches (Luka Bassin and Tane Spasev), scouts (Alejandro Gonzalez and Rafael Uehara)  and many different basketball writers (Arkadios Chasirides, Christophe Ney, John Hobbs, Nick GibsonOs DavisSebastian Komianos, Simon Jatsch) and even a pro basketball player Milan Prodanovic. I can assure you that these clever minds will all surely have something interesting to share.

To make it even more interesting, there’s a catch involved as each of the experts had only one limitation in the process – the thoughts had to fit in a tweet (140 characters).

[EDITED: HA HA!]

Alejandro Gonzalez: This should be the easiest pick of the season involving Lietuvos Rytas. Anything but a solid Greek win will surprise me. PAO.

Arkadios Chasirides: Panathinaikos.

Christophe Ney: Pana.

John Hobbs: Panathinaikos, purely for home-court advantage. Rytas will struggle.

Luka Bassin: I believe that LR has no chances in Athens. Clear win for Panathinaikos

Milan Prodanovic: Panathinaikos.

Nick Gibson: Rytas plays better when Brad Newley is aggressive. Period. If he can play Romain Sato to a stalemate, I like Rytas’ chances. Pana…by 5.

Sebastian Komianos: Panathinaikos, no idea how they can lose a home game against Rytas.

Simon Jatsch: Panathinaikos, but closer than expected.

Tane Spasev: Pao by 20…we can talk and analyse but the deference in class is obvious.

ZALGIRIS FAVORED FOR THE HOME WIN

Alejandro Gonzalez: Tough pick. Anything could happen and could be key for wisemen standings! I’m going with Valencia and I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

Arkadios Chasirides: Zalgiris.

Christophe Ney: Zalgiris.

John Hobbs: Close game, but I’m going with Zalgiris.

Luka Bassin: Tough one. Close to overtimes, maybe. This time I’ll go with Lithuanians. Zalgiris, do not screw this one!

Milan Prodanovic: Valencia.

Nick Gibson: Nando de Colo continues to be the most singly disappointing player in this Top16 and Trent Plaisted has proven he belongs. Zalgiris by 7.

Sebastian Komianos: Zalgiris, they need to use the momentum.

Simon Jatsch: Damn difficult I thought. But then I realised that D.Collins is playing for the hosts. Hence it is an easy choice: Zalgiris by 23.

Tane Spasev: Now this is the game that I like. Zalgiris by 7. I like this match-up for Zalg. Have in mind though,Valencia picked up form. Pesic is great.

QUESTION OF THE WEEK

Alejandro Gonzalez: This season or just the best one coaching in Euroleague right now? Messina is my favorite but I love Pianigiani job in Siena.

Arkadios Chasirides: Zeljko.

Christophe Ney: Difficult to say as I have never worked with one of them, so i go results –> Zeljko Obradovic.

John Hobbs: Obradovic. I’m a fan of him, so being bias.

Luka Bassin: Lot of good coaches. Trophies are the sign…so Obradović, Ivković…For me – Ettore Messina.

Milan Prodanovic: Close race between Pesic and Blatt, I’ll be biased and go with Pesic. Bring Valencia back was impressive. Also, Blatt has more to work with.

Nick Gibson: Obradovic. Messina. Ivkovic. All great. But if I’m starting a team give me Jure Zdovc. His loyalty and leadership can’t be bested in the EL.

Sebastian Komianos: I hate “who’s the best” questions as I find them really subjective. Pesic really transformed Valencia though, you can’t ignore that. Also keeping an eye on Olimpija’s Zdovc.

Simon Jatsch: Damn difficult. Maybe still Messina, if you give him full authorisation over roster management.

Tane Spasev: I like a lot of coaches..every one unique in their own way.Hard to choose.Scariolo(not in EL now) Pesic, Obradovic…I choose not to answer! Who’s doing the best coaching job so far? Blatt. Knowing how Maccabi played last year and how they play now.

The Wisemen Know, Volume 12

The Wisemen Know, Volume 11

The title tells it all – basketball experts are going to tell you what they think of the Lithuanian team chances in the upcoming Euroleague games as well as a weekly question about European hoops in general. The panel will consist of well-respected coaches (Luka Bassin and Tane Spasev), scouts (Alejandro Gonzalez and Rafael Uehara)  and many different basketball writers (Arkadios Chasirides, Christophe Ney, John Hobbs, Nick GibsonOs DavisSebastian Komianos, Simon Jatsch) and even a pro basketball player Milan Prodanovic. I can assure you that these clever minds will all surely have something interesting to share.

To make it even more interesting, there’s a catch involved as each of the experts had only one limitation in the process – the thoughts had to fit in a tweet (140 characters).

THE ODDS ARE EVEN

Alejandro Gonzalez: I think Zalgiris will win this one. Probably its only win in the top16. Maybe more due to a Fener bad game than Zalgiris excellence.

Arkadios Chasirides:Hellen prince Zouros shall kill Ottoman dragon in honour of Lithuanian independence day.

Christophe Ney: Fenerbahce.

John Hobbs: Fenerbahce on paper should win this, despite losing Turkcan but Zalgiris’ recent domestic Cup win will have them buzzing. The visitors by six.

Luka Bassin: Close one, I guess. Fenerbahce will win because they have more good and experienced players

Milan Prodanovic:Feberbahce.

Nick Gibson: Zalgiris misses Mirza, but not as much as Fenerbahçe misses Vidmar AND Turkcan. Zalgiris goes home happy tonight.

Os Davis: A break for Zalgiris, as the Turks haven’t replaced Mirsad Turkcan. Zalgiris exploits the frontcourt, wins game, keeps coach another week.

Rafael Uehara: Fenerbahçe.

Sebastian Komianos: I am crossing my fingers for Zalgiris and Rytas.

Simon Jatsch: Despite a magnificent performance from D.Collins (his normal level), Fenerbahce will walk away with the W.

Tane Spasev: First win of the second stage for Zalgiris…again, better match up defensively for Fenerbahce but the home court is decider. Zalgiris in OT.

THE BATTLE  OF THE UNPREDICTABLES (v2)

Alejandro Gonzalez: Unicaja is a different team now and still has a chance to advance to the next round. But they gotta play D!! In McIntyre we trust.

Arkadios Chasirides: It all depends on Unicajian Performance Fluctuation Syndrome aka UPFS. But I hope Vilnius braves crash Spanish floppers.

Christophe Ney: Rytas.

John Hobbs: I got Rytas by three here. That’s all I’m sayin’
Luka Bassin: Lietuvos Rytas will win and stay alive. But as always I made mistake on LR result 🙂

Milan Prodanovic:Rytas.

Nick Gibson: If Rytas puts Gecevicius on Gerald Fitch, he’ll do terrible, unthinkable things to young Martynas. Unicaja puts it together on the road.

Os Davis: Unicaja’s more rested after a week-plus off and looked good against Lietuvos Rytas the first time when tired. Visiting Unicaja Malaga wins.

Rafael Uehara: Rytas.

Sebastian Komianos: I am crossing my fingers for Zalgiris and Rytas.

Simon Jatsch: Difficult one … high score guaranteed. I’m going with Unicaja this time, they have improved behind McIntyre’s recovery.

Tane Spasev: They’ve been unpredictable all season long. I say they lose-they win…so now I think they’ll lose but I will vote for a win! LR by 3 pts!

QUESTION OF THE WEEK

Alejandro Gonzalez: I don’t like MVP races, gonna depend on what happens next in the season, when big moments come. But if you want names: Navarro & Diamantidis.

Arkadios Chasirides: Three dimensional Demetris Diamantidis, AKA 4D or Demetris Diamantidis Diamond Defense.

Christophe Ney: For me it is Dimitrios Diamantidis.

John Hobbs: Woah! For me that’s tough, I think so far, Huertas of Caja. Been very impressed with his gane in the Top-16. But there are so many to choose.

Luka Bassin: One and only: Juan Carlos Navarro. Other than that Huertas, Gregory, Thornton, Pargo…

Milan Prodanovic: Navarro!

Nick Gibson: When a defensive master gives you his best-ever offensive year at the age of 30, it’s MVP time. Dimitris Diamantidis.

Os Davis: As much as BiE’d love to argue Bojan Bogdanovic’s case, we’ll stay rational and go with Dimitris Diamantidis of Panathinaikos instead.

Rafael Uehara: IMHO it should be San Emeterio but it’s probably Diamantidis.

Sebastian Komianos: Diamantidis is clearly leading the MVP title race but the most important games are ahead..

Simon Jatsch: For me Diamantidis is the current MVP frontrunner, but in the long run, with the MVP surely coming from a F4 team, I’m going with Navarro.

Tane Spasev: Bo McCalebb was my favorite before he went down with an injury…now,it will probably be DIAMANTIDIS. Also,looking forward to see Anderson.

The Wisemen Know, Volume 11

The Wisemen Know, Volume 10

The title tells it all – basketball experts are going to tell you what they think of the Lithuanian team chances in the upcoming Euroleague games as well as a weekly question about European hoops in general. The panel will consist of well-respected coaches (Luka Bassin and Tane Spasev), scouts (Alejandro Gonzalez and Rafael Uehara)  and many different basketball writers (Arkadios Chasirides, Christophe Ney, John Hobbs, Nick GibsonOs DavisSebastian Komianos, Simon Jatsch) and even a pro basketball player Milan Prodanovic. I can assure you that these clever minds will all surely have something interesting to share.

To make it even more interesting, there’s a catch involved as each of the experts had only one limitation in the process – the thoughts had to fit in a tweet (140 characters).

THE TURKS SMARTER THAN MAD VLAD

Alejandro Gonzalez: Istanbul is not a good place to go when your team is a mess. I don’t rule Zalgiris win out, but I’m going with Fener in this one.

Arkadios Chasirides: Time for payback for Saras… Fener.

Christophe Ney: Fenerbahce without problems.

Luka Bassin: It could be interesting match, but think that Fenerbahce is too strong and will win in front of its crowded Arena again.

Milan Prodanovic: Zalgiris riding a wave of confidence after a tough loss last week.

Nick Gibson: Tomas and Pocius have both turned it on from the wing, but Roko Ukic > DeJaun Collins. Fenerbahçe Ülker for the win.

Rafael Uehara: Fenerbahçe. Ülker is a title contender. Zalgiris is just a mess.

Sebastian Komianos: Fener. Can’t see them giving Zalgiris ANY chances.

Simon Jatsch: Fenerbahce, although I expect it to be close.

Tane Spasev: Fener will play good D, good match up for them. Fener by 12.

THE BATTLE  OF THE UNPREDICTABLES

Alejandro Gonzalez: Hard one. I feel like trying to guess how’s Schrodinger’s cat doing…I think the Spanish cat is alive. Unicaja for the win.

Arkadios Chasirides: In Lietuvos Rytas we trust. Or do we? What the heck…

Christophe Ney: Unicaja.

Luka Bassin: Unicaja is probably the worst ACB team in Euroleague but still too strong for LR… Even you never know when it comes to LIT teams. Unicaja W.

Milan Prodanovic: Rytas comes off strong after last week’s win and gets the W.

Nick Gibson: If Khalid El-Amin goes off, Rytas has a chance. Valanciunas needs 25 minutes of PT to harass Freeland. I don’t see it happening. Unicaja.

Rafael Uehara: Rytas. They beat Caja Laboral in Victoria. Although, Unicaja just pushed Caja Laboral in Victoria, so I don’t know what to make of that.

Sebastian Komianos: Malaga vs Rytas is a strange one, I am going for a tie. Seriously, should be interesting.

Simon Jatsch: Difficult one. Both teams don’t play a whole lot of defense. I’m going with Unicaja, but could go either way.

Tane Spasev: Unicaja not in good shape, as noted before on Twitter – it seems like they have problems in the organization… A sure win for them though, Uni by 8.

QUESTION OF THE WEEK

Alejandro Gonzalez: I would like to see the good players in Europe, not in the NBA, but if you want me to pick one: Valanciunas, of course. Maybe Jogela…

Arkadios Chasirides: Brown, Watson, Collins, Samhan, Strawberry, El-Amin, Newley … basically any non-European should go and not come back.

Christophe Ney: I would like to see Boban Marjanovic in the NBA to see what he could do on that level.

Luka Bassin: NBA? Mirza Begić…ooops, he is in Real. I would like to see Žalgiris GM in NBA as owner of the team 🙂

Milan Prodanovic: Without a doubt Marjanovic!

Nick Gibson: Valanciunas is the easy answer, but I think Pocius fits the role player billing: athletic, energetic and assertive. It could work.

Rafael Uehara: Valanciunas and Kuzminskas are the easy choices but I’d actually like to see Pocius and Kalnietis. Would’ve been reliable bench players.

Sebastian Komianos: As for the last question, how about El Amin? Pocius must be the obvious choice so I’ll go with Valanciunas, after 2-3 years in Olympiakos!

Simon Jatsch: DeJuan Collins.

Tane Spasev: Jonas Valanciunas.

The Wisemen Know, Volume 10

Wherever El-Amin’s Name, There’s Always Hope

I’d like to start with two things – a thank you note to the author of the post – Çağrı, as well as humming a little Happy Birthday tune to my Turkish friend, who celebrated his birthday yesterday! You can join in too!

by Çağrı Turhan / @cagriturhan

In 2000, Turkey probably had the best league of Europe with the competition level from bottom to top, also with players such as Rivers, Griffith, Kutluay, Turkoglu, Mulaomerovic, Handlogten, Stefanov, Pashoutine, Praskevicius, Erdenay and more. Then, the economic crisis hit the whole country. Division I clubs have been heavily effected as a consequence of mainly depending on the sponsors. Next year, only Efes Pilsen and Ulker which are also giant companies of the country had big budgeted rosters, following season, number of TBL teams went down to 12. Efes and Ulker were easily dominating the league like Olympiakos-Panathinakos and Zalgiris Kaunas-Lietuvos Rytas does at the moment. In the summer of 2003, Khalid El-Amin came to the bosphorus city, shuffled the cards of the game for the next two years and further. His name was exciting considering he played in the NBA thanks to his NCAA career at UConn where he won the national championship with Rip Hamilton.

It’s not easy to describe Besiktas in a few words but its position and fan base is similar to AEK, at least both are founded in Istanbul. In an extremely football dominant country, basketball section of the club did not get much attention naturally but the rebel identity of the club provided a good starting point to destroy the dynasty of the company based clubs. In its very small gym, opponents were under a lot of pressure and it was difficult to overcome BJK for any team there. (Maccabi Tel-Aviv visited Istanbul only to play a friendly game with Besiktas to make their players get used to play under difficult atmospheres. Well, the ironic thing, Maccabi met only 50 people instead of a hot packed gym.) Khalid El-Amin who gets the main support from another legendary player of the club Larry Ayuso, was carrying a team consisting of mostly low-mediocre level talent players in 2003-04 season. Besiktas that had a budget less than 1M USD which is nowhere near Efes and Ulker, was daring these two for the title. They lost to Ulker by 1 point at both regular season games with a lot of easy mistakes at the last minutes. But, they beat Efes twice, which was a great team that was so close to reaching Final-Four, deserved to meet the Maccabi at Euroleague final in Tel-Aviv much more than Fortitudo Bologna did that season. Besiktas finished the season losing to Ulker at playoff semi finals by losing two of three games. El-Amin was simply sensational, indefensible, both as a scorer and play maker. He’s clearly not the most disciplined player on and off the court but he was making impossible things real inside those 28 meters. He was phenomenon for the fans, he was called to the stands as Pascal El-Amin (inspired by footballer Pascal Nouma who is basically the god in the eyes of Besiktas supporters). After every free throw he made, fans were cheering “Amiiiiiiiinnn” (Amen). Even his name was debated seriously for the national team due to his popularity.

Next season, Ayuso left but addition of Ratko Varda who provides a better inside-outside game and moving to new, a bit bigger gym helped the team. This time regular season, brought two Ulker wins(one of them with 26 points 4th Q performance by El-Amin) but two close Efes losses. El-Amin was showing how a great point guard he is by making everyone play better but also scoring whenever necessary once again. This time at the semi final, Besiktas started the series with a 1-0 lead. In the final seconds of the first game El-Amin made a stupid foul to Ilyasova to allow two easy points while it’s all 71. Then he made up for his mistake in an amazing way.

I am still very angry to the management of my university for placing a shitty final exam on the time of that game but I was screaming among 50 people at the computer lab just after getting a text message about what happened at the game. Then I told it to people who ask me what happened, few people joined me for singing there right after. Why I was so happy? Because, it was simply a breakthrough moment for the club, even for Turkish basketball a little bit. This time we won the series 3-1 while El-Amin was the nightmare of the Ulker. For a club who has failed several times at making the last touch, going the last inch when it comes to sportive achievements mainly in football especially, that was like breaking the wall finally. Moreover, considering the budget of the team, it was more brave heart or David vs. Goliath story than last year’s Partizan reaching Final-Four. In the final, he kept playing the same way against Efes but losing the close games and the club management’s decision of putting Varda out of the squad because of a disciplinary action on the court prevented the chmapionship. He left Besiktas at the end of the season since he was offered more then double of BJK could give him after back to back TBL MVP achievements. But, he had already brought hope and belief to the district of Besiktas. There’s a phrase about Besiktas about those failures about the last step: “There’s always a doubt wherever Besiktas’ name exists.” Well, he had beaten that beast at least for a while.

After his Ukraine days, he returned to Turkey with Turk Telekom jersey. I was sad to see him playing for another colours but I was also lucky to be in the same city. I had even missed seeing his half dozen naughty kids running on the court during the half times. He was playing good again but his team was extremely bad coached for such a talented roster. His coach didn’t benefit his play making abilities often, mostly used him as a scorer. The most logical theory I read on the internet about why his coach succeeded not to be fired for such a long time was the possibility of him having sex tapes of the board members. Apart from daggering Besiktas at 2008 playoff semis at his second season and helping capital city team reaching the finals plus winning the Turkish Cup, I witnessed one of the greatest performances ever thanks to him. On 8th January of 2008, in the middle of final exams period of the hardest semester of my B.S education which is basically consuming my life energy then, I went to see Turk Telekom-Joventut ULEB Cup game despite Ankara’s Russian type freaking cold weather. Main reason was Ricky Rubio of course, but the main actor role had been stolen by our plump butterfly from Minnesota. Rubio played fantastic but, Khalid handed Joventut-also winner of Copa del Rey- their only loss through out the tournament. He scored all his 33 points in the second half while destroying the Catalans. I will never forget how Barton and Lavina looked each other in desperation right in front of me after one his baskets, of course not to forget Rubio getting angry while El-Amin was kicking his team’s ass as he was sitting on the bench due to his foul trouble at the last quarter.



He had brought hope to Besiktas fans just like Saras does for Lithuania national team. His latest masterpiece against a Euroleague contender at one of the toughest arenas of the continent, reminded me his buzzer beater against Ulker. It was almost same point where he released the ball while I felt it was coming as he was dribbling at those seconds. What can I say, it was a very nice present for me as I was starting my birthday. Khalid El-Amin still means a lot of things on the coast of the Bosphorus at the beautiful Besiktas district of Istanbul.

Be sure to follow @CagriTurhan on twitter and if you’re fluent in Turkish, take a look at Çağrı’s blog – http://bumacevdeizlenir.blogspot.com!

Wherever El-Amin’s Name, There’s Always Hope