Anadolu Efes sets eyes on second straight EuroLeague title

Anadolu Efes sets eyes on second straight EuroLeague title

Anadolu Efes sets eyes on second straight EuroLeague title

Anadolu Efes players will step on the court of Stark Arena on the night of May 19 with the aim to defend their Turkish Airlines EuroLeague title when they play Olympiacos in the Final Four semifinal.

The European club basketball’s showpiece event in Belgrade will see an all-Spanish clash in the other semifinal, when Barcelona takes on Real Madrid in the late game.

The winners of the semifinals will play for the trophy in May 21’s final.

Anadolu Efes is out to win the third European trophy in its history, following last season’s EuroLeague success and the Radivoj Korać Cup it won back in 1996.

The core of the team that Efes coach Ergin Ataman led to Belgrade has been together for four years now making club history every step of the way. The next challenge is to repeat as EuroLeague champions, but that is not the way Ataman is framing it in his mind.

“We will try to win. We’ll try to win the title one more time,” the experienced coach said in an interview on EuroLeague’s official website.

“Only two games to reach the EuroLeague title against a team that beat Olympiacos once during the season, we beat Real Madrid once, we only lost two games against Barcelona. But now it’s the Final Four we’ll see the players’ performance, health and shape. I don’t think too much about back-to-back. I think only about winning the title.”

To go all the way, the next hurdle will be Olympiacos, which Efes split two games against during the regular season. After winning big at home, Efes fell to the Reds in Piraeus on a game-winning three by Kostas Sloukas in overtime.

However, Ataman does not think that those results will have a major impact on the semifinal.

“Every game is different. Every game you have a different performance from your players,” he said. “Olympiacos is a great team, great coach, they have had an excellent season this season. It will be a tough game for sure. We know their system; they know our system. I don’t know which performance the players will show on the court. In our practices, we will try to prepare our players to show their best.”

To get it all to work together, the players must trust each other and work well together. Ataman said he tries to put together a puzzle of players with certain roles and personalities that he thinks will come together on their own.

“It’s important that everybody must understand his role, and everybody must respect each other,” he said.

“In our team, inside the team, there’s the same respect for Shane Larkin and for James Anderson. Same respect for Vasilije Micic or Chris Singleton. Because everybody knows that everybody needs to help his friends.”

Thanks to the players he has assembled, their chemistry, Ataman’s playing principles, the coaching staff’s scouting reports and much more, Efes heads to the Final Four confident in its chances.

“My team will be mentally ready,” Ataman said.

“We have a great team, great players, and we will be motivated 100 percent to win one more time.”