Turkish Airlines EuroLeague
ADIDAS NEXT GENERATION TOURNAMENT
Kaya Peker, Besiktas Cola Turka
Dec 10, 2007
by Gokhan Ture, Istanbul
At the halfway mark of the regular season, Besiktas Cola Turka of Istanbul, Turkey is one of just three ULEB Cup teams with 5-0 records. Besiktas is alone among all 54 teams, however, in another accomplishment: winning three games on the road already. One of the best European big men of his generation, center Kaya Peker, has a lot to do with the early success of Besiktas. While averaging at least 5 fewer minutes per game than any other Besiktas starter, Peker leads his team in rebounds with 7 per game and is second in scoring with a 14-point average. Peker, however, is the first to say, as he does in this ULEBcup.com interview, that ignoring numbers is at the heart of his team's strong start. "When one of us becomes the top scorer of a game, he plays the defensive role the next day, helping the others to score," Peker told ULEBcup.com. "We don't care who is going to score much. We only care for everybody helping."
Hi Kaya. How does it feel to be a big part of helping Besiktas become one of just three undefeated ULEB Cup teams halfway through the regular season?
"Of course, it's a big honor and pleasure at the same time. Our goal is big this season, and when you are targeting high, you play better and better. High expectations can also make you to do much better than the normal. We are having a good period right now, but we knew that we have to control things firmly in our group. This is just the beginning, because we have a lot of work to do. And on a personal level, wherever we bring the team, we carry our careers there, too."
Having been with your national team so late into September, are you surprised at how successful your team has been right away?
"Well, my teammates were already together before I joined the team. I joined them a month-and-a-half later and when I first met with them, they were already mixing well with each other. I saw real good friendship and the good chemistry of nice team. So it was really easy for me to adjust to the atmosphere. It's good to see that when you first join a team, and it helps you to adjust as quick as you can. On the other hand, I knew nearly all the players because I've played against them in the European cups before. It makes my adjustment period quite shorter. So I think this is the most important detail for us for our success until this moment."
You spent a year outside of Turkey and made the Final Four with Tau Ceramica in Spain. Was it a tough or easy decision to go home again to Istanbul?
"I think both. Of course, it was easy when it comes to playing in Istanbul again. Because this is the city that I love to live in. I love the lifestyle here and living here is really different than anywhere else to me. But at the same time, it was hard because it was not in my plans to remain outside of Turkey for just a single year and then to come back to my homeland. But unfortunately the circumstances required this change. The solution of the problems between me and Tau Ceramica ended late, as the transfer window came to an end. And in the end, I believe I made the best decision by going to Besiktas Cola Turka."
You had many offers from the other clubs in Turkey but you choose Besiktas? Why?
"Turk Telekom, Galatasaray Cafe Crown and Fenerbahce Ulker also tried to take me. But I decided to play for Besiktas Cola Turka. I made my decision for Besiktas because they have a great coach in Ergin Ataman, who is always aiming for the highest targets. At the same time, Besiktas is a great club with great ambition and fantastic fans. I came to a club because I believe in the power of its desire."
As the only team in the ULEB Cup with three road wins, too, Besiktas is arguably doing better than any team so far. What attitude has allowed you guys to win away from home so well?
"I think the devotion in the team is at the highest level that I have ever seen in a club or a national team before. This is the main factor of the success. And secondly, the experience level of the players is one of the best around Europe. We have plenty of top-quality players who are familiar with the Euroleague. Our performance, especially in the road games, is the result of those details. Of course, we have really good weapons offensively. But this is what the other teams have, too. What makes it different for our side is devotion and experience."
You personally are playing more minutes than ever in your European career, leading the team in rebounds, second in scoring. Is this the most opportunity you have had on court in your career?
"To be honest, this is one of the most comfortable environments of my career. The atmosphere at Besiktas is really warm. When I was playing for Efes Pilsen, I felt really comfortable, too. I didn't get so many minutes if I compare with Besiktas right now, but it was quite fine. So I am using this opportunity now as much as I can."
The fact is, however, that Besiktas has five or six guys scoring in double figures, sharing the rebounding duties. Is this shared responsibility a key to this success?
"We don't have a specific scorer on the team. We have five or six guys to play this role in different games. It depends on the day and the game when it comes to seeing one of those guys as a top scorer. And when one of us becomes the top scorer of a game, he plays the defensive role the next day, helping the others to score. We don't care who is going to score much. We only care for everybody helping each other in all the details of the game. This is certainly a must for any team aiming to go higher in a top-level competition. Erkan Veyseloglu, Cevher Ozer and Onur Aydin are helping the team as much as they can coming from the bench, too. Those things are really very important."
Not only Besiktas, but Turk Telekom and Galatasaray are among the top teams in their groups. Are you proud of the general performance of Turkey so far?
"When we look at the standings, it's easy to see the things are similar in several ULEB Cup groups. You can see Turk Telekom, Galatasaray Cafe Crown and Besiktas Cola Turka on top of the standings. In fact, Turkey had a very poor performance in the Eurobasket 2007 in Spain. But the reality is that the Turkish teams are performing very well in the European club competitions. Turkish teams are improving really fast and having one of the best seasons ever in both men's and women's competitions. Of course, this is great for me to see all these teams rising. It's the same for Telekom and Galatasaray. My dream is to play in the Final Eight along with them. They also have the capacity to do that."
What is the goal of Besiktas in the ULEB Cup this season?
"This is not a thing we are targeting now, but rather what we have been aiming for since the beginning of the season: to clinch the title at the end. We want to get what Besiktas only dreamed before. And I believe that with all my heart that we have the ability to make it real. We have a really good roster packed with experienced stars like Christian Dalmau, Rick Apodaca, Sandro Nicevic, Preston Shumpert and also young but experienced Turkish talents. I see no reason not to turn our dream to reality."