All-star Efes starts off with high hopes

All-star Efes starts off with high hopes

All-star Efes starts off with high hopes

Anadolu Efes’ Tarence Kinsey (R) slams a dunk during the Istanbul team’s match against Olympiacos during the friendly Two Nations Cup organized in Istanbul earlier this month. Kinsey, who arrived from Fenerbahçe Ülker last summer, is one of the key additions of Efes. AA Photo.

Anadolu Efes takes on Partizan tonight when it starts its Turkish Airlines Euroleague campaign with high hopes.

The Turkish team, who had to change its name from Efes Pilsen due to a new alcohol regulation banning the brewer’s name on sports clubs, plays in a Turkish Airlines Euroleague group.

Real Madrid, Emporio Armani, Maccabi Electra and Belgacom Spirou are the remaining teams in Group C, in which Anadolu Efes is one of the main favorites.

After a few lackluster years, Turkey’s most successful basketball club is eyeing a return to its best, and made several important transfers to boost its squad.

Anadolu Efes undertook a serious makeover in the summer’s transfer window. Igor Rakocevic and Bostjan Nachbar, who failed to live up to expectations despite successful careers, were sent from the team, along with big men Erwin Dudley and Nikola Vujcic.

However, its new purchases are arguably much shinier than what Efes lost. Slovenian guard Sasha Vujacic, Macedonian playmaker Vlado Ilievski, Serbian forward Dusko Savanovic and Uruguayan center Esteban Batista are likely to boost the Efes squad, which looks like one of the strongest sides in European basketball this season. Signing Tarence Kinsey from archrival Fenerbahçe Ülker and luring the services of Turkish international forward Ersan İlyasova from National Basketball Association’s Milwaukee Bucks is also likely to power the team.

Ilievski, who led his Macedonian team to an unexpected semifinal run in the European Basketball Championships earlier this summer, said starting against Partizan will be a tricky task.

“This is a very important game for both teams,” he was quoted as saying on the official Euroleague website. “Games at the beginning are always difficult. A full arena with 8,000 fans will be there and we know how they support their team. I think we are going to be ready against this and we believe that we can win this game.”

Coach Ufuk Sarıca, who has the tough duty of distributing the roles in a team that boasts several big names, praised Partizan.

“To play an away game at Belgrade has always been difficult,” Sarıca said. “Partizan has an arena with one of the most impressive atmospheres inside.

“Partizan has both experienced players and young talented players and they are an energetic team. We must play smart to win in Belgrade and also we must take our defensive toughness as high as we can. We sometimes have some difficulties because of being a newly formed team. We want to win this game and we will do what we can.”

Belgacom Spirou will visit Real Madrid and Emporio Armani welcomes Maccabi in the other Group C games.

Elsewhere, it is Panathinaikos vs. Unicaja, Brose Baskets vs. KK Zagreb in the Group B and Group D favorite Barcelona Regal plays at Union Olimpija.