Turkish giant Galatasaray led by DAP ready to win it all!

By Johnny Askounis/ info@eurohoops.net

The team of 16 national championships in Turkey, Galatasaray Nef was held to 1-5 and an early exit in its first participation in the Basketball Champions League Regular Season. The second season is a totally different story. The Lions booked their ticket to the Round of 16 with one game left in the Regular Season.

Galata improved to 4-1 in Group E after overpowering PAOK mateco Wednesday. Besides avenging the only BCL loss of the 2021-22 season, the Turkish club was cleared to progress directly to the next round as the winner of the group. The result of the away game versus ERA Nymburk on December 22 will not matter – but will still be do-or-die for the Czech champions looking to make the Play-Ins.

“If you look at the previous season, we won just one game in the Basketball Champions League. This year, we advanced to the Round of 16 with one game to go in the Regular Season group,” noted head coach Ekrem Memnun comparing 2020-21 with 2021-22 following the win opposite PAOK.

Memnun, 52, took over last January. It proved too late to salvage the previous Champions League campaign but has been responsible for the major sophomore growth. Back in 2014, he guided the women’s department of Galatasaray to the EuroLeague championship, so he is familiar with the path to continental glory.

Among the very few players surviving from the 2020-21 squad was captain Goksenin Koksal. Offseason additions included former Maryland standout Melo Trimble, big man David Kravish, experienced floor general Dee Bost, and DeVaughn Akoon-Purcell. The remaining players are 24 or younger, including prospect Sadik Emir Kabaca. The Izmir-born power forward has registered 7.6 points and 5.2 rebounds per appearance resurfacing in the BCL after the 2019-20 stint as a member of Teksut Bandirma.

“This is a new team with many young players. We must keep working and improving every day. We will see what will happen,” commented Memnun.

Akoon-Purcell, 28, is anything but a stranger in the BCL. He previously played for the Bakken Bears and Tofas Bursa in FIBA’s premier European club continental competition, and once again emerges as a key factor of his side’s success. Averaging 21.8 points per game, he ranks second in the scoring table behind Nymburk’s Jerrick Harding. With 20 points and six rebounds versus PAOK, he became the only player combining 20 points with five rebounds twice this season.

“Everything was open before this important game for both teams,” mentioned Memnun regarding the Wednesday’s Regular Season Round 5 fixture, “We knew it was going to be a tough game and they started very well. But we made adjustments in defense and found our rhythm in the offense. I think we played good basketball in some moments, but we can still improve in many areas. We are very happy to directly advance to the Top 16. This gives additional time to improve and prepare for the next round.”

“It was a good team win. We knew how important that game was for us,” added Trimble echoing the Galata play-caller, “We knew this game would put us in the next round. We did not want to go play another game and try to win that game. We wanted to end the round right here.”

The Turkish club heading to the Round of 16 will enter a fresh six-game round-robin double-legged schedule in a four-team group. From there, the top two teams will clinch a berth to the Quarterfinals, the last step before the Final Four.

“It was an amazing atmosphere in a very beautiful stadium with a lot of people,” said visiting head coach Aris Lykogiannis on PAOK competing at Sinan Erdem Dome. The name and history of the Turkish team paired with the famous Istanbul arena can work wonders provided the players keep putting in that extra effort moving deeper in the second BCL campaign.

Photo Credit: Basketball Champions League