Before I get started, I want to send my thoughts to everyone who has been affected by the terrible floods in both Queensland and Melbourne. Watching here on TV and reading the newspaper reports, it’s been surreal and very sad. Through all the tragedy though, one thing that has stuck out has been the effort so many people have made to pitch in and help their neighbours, friends, and in many cases, total strangers. Those kind of things make me very proud to be Australian.
New surrounding... no Christmas!!!
As the majority of you would have been counting down to December 25, looking forward to giving/receiving gifts and spending time with family, I was surprised to find in Turkey they don’t seem to celebrate Christmas. A few people had told me the 25th wasn’t much of a festivity, but I didn’t quite know what to make of it in the lead-up because all of the recognizable decorations were out in force (trees, lights, Santa pictures etc).
So, after a relatively quiet Christmas Day, the only thing to do was hit the court. Cue a Boxing Day home game against Karsiyaka, one which turned out to be one of the stranger games I have featured in...
Men against boys
Something happened within the Karsiyaka organization in the lead-up to our Boxing Day tie, and as a result they asked the league whether the game could be postponed till later in the season... a submission that was rejected. As a form of protest, they subsequently sent their junior players to play us, most of them 15 and 16 year olds. Try and imagine a 15 year old matching up on Allen Iverson... it was hilarious! I swear I saw one of them shaking as he attempted to guard AI.
As you would have guessed, we won that one fairly convincingly, with a number of young players in our squad getting some court time.
Tipping off 2011
We welcomed the New Year with a road trip to Bursa to play against Tofas, a game I didn’t expect to be too difficult on the back of our recent form. Unfortunately we didn’t play well and in the end things got crazy again! We lost by a fair amount – 22 points – but the intriguing part was how intense and unruly the fans were, forcing the refs to delay the game by 15 minutes at one point. It was another new experience, one which was very distracting... each time we would start to go on a run they seemed to play up, and we ended up losing all focus and momentum.
The next two games were against our in-town rivals, Galatasaray and Efes Pilsen. We came close but eventually dropped both by two points. The Galatasaray contest was very up and down, with each team leading at different stages. In the end they made more plays than we did down the stretch. Interestingly, our coach was fired after that result, with a new guy, Ergin Ataman, coming in a few days later, making our preparation for the Efes game fairly difficult. This meant there wasn’t a lot of time to bounce back and get ready, especially with a new coach with fresh ideas.
Perhaps not too surprising, the Efes Pilsen game was pretty disappointing. We played at their gym which is about 30 minutes from ours, but traffic forced the commute up to one hour each way. Istanbul traffic is absolutely crazy...it doesn't matter what time of day or where you are going! Anyway, we lead for the majority of the game and were up by ten for a large stretch. In the last few minutes we took some rushed shots and let them back into the game, they equalised and forced the game into overtime, managing to get up by two in the end. All the boys were frustrated in the locker room – it was one we let slip away, against a good team, and not the best start for our new coach.
After the Efes Pilsen game we were on the road against Erdemir, where again we generated a healthy lead but got pulled back by a run of tough shots dropping in.
With three seconds to go the game was tied. Our coach drew up a plan, but in the confusion the referee handed our player the ball and no one was ready. Instinctively, I cut the ball and managed to make a play, getting a layup on the buzzer to win the game. What luck! It was a great feeling and everyone was very excited to pull off a big win on the road.
Taking that newfound confidence, we played Mersin and beat them by 10 points in a very strong performance last Monday. We were up double digits for most of the game after a big first quarter, perhaps a roll-on effect after the win against Erdemir.
They had a couple of American guards who were really good shooters, and managed to pull the score back a little over the length of the game, but we worked hard on defence and kept it in double digits which was awesome.
Visitors in town
As you can tell, there’s been no shortage of basketball (or drama) over the past two weeks, and fortunately I’ve had my Dad here to experience it all with me. We’ve been looking around different parts of Istanbul in my down time, checking out a lot of the city. With all the people who have stopped by to hang out I feel like I’m getting pretty good at the tour guide thing now! Turkey remains an exciting, vibrant place to live, and it’s nice to be able to showcase that to friends and family.
OK, that’s about it for now. I’ll be sure to touch base again very soon.
Thanks for reading!