Tofas Bursa, one of the three 7DAYS EuroCup newcomers this season, has opted to keep the core of players that already worked for head coach Orhun Ene last season. Tofas held onto most of a backcourt in which several players have been with the club for three or more years and has added a new point guard in Pierria Henry, who should give the team aggressiveness and court vision. At the same time, Tofas made major moves around the basket, bringing in three experienced players who could make the club competitive right away: German League MVP Raymar Morgan and centers Josh Owens and Kenny Kadji. Unlike some teams, Coach Ene has had all of his players available for weeks before the season, which could be an advantage in the short run for a team making its debut in the competition and needing to establish confidence from the start.
Pierria Henry is set to play a major role and Coach Ene, a former point guard of renown, will try to use his experience to turn him into one of the EuroCup's big surprises this season. Henry crashes the boards really well for a point guard and his high basketball IQ allows him to deliver the ball to the right places. His backup will be Baris Ermis, an experienced pass-first playmaker with good defensive skills. Sammy Mejia and Tony Crocker are set to see the most playing time on the wings. Mejia, a 2014-15 All-EuroCup First Team selection, is an all-around scorer, able to create his own shot. He is also an excellent rebounder and the kind of player who can find the open teammate when double-teamed. Crocker, a good shooter ready to pull the trigger from downtown, could make the difference at small forward. Yigit Arslan and Kadir Bayram will also fight for playing time during the season.
Big man Raymar Morgan arrives at Bursa in the prime of his career, ready to offer the leadership Tofas needs to have a good season. Strong and fundamentally solid, Morgan is mobile enough to play in transition and also an unstoppable force in the low post due to his great one-on-one skills. Kadji and Owens are set to split minutes at center. Owens is a good rebounder who can play above the rim due to his athleticism and size. Kadji is a team player with great timing to rebound and block shots who has worked hard over the years to extend his shooting range to the three-point line. All of them have previous EuroCup experience, which is always an added value for a newcomer like Tofas. Berkan Durmaz and Muhsin Yasar are set to offer intensity and energy off the bench while forward Caner Topaloglu provides experience and know-how.
PLAYER TO WATCH
One of the positives about Tofas coming into the season is that its roster features a lot of good scorers. Perhaps no scorer is more solid than swingman Sammy Mejia, who enters his third season at the club as its undeniable leader. Mejia is a silent killer, a great shooter who can come off a screen and pull the trigger or dribble to the basket using his one-on-one skills to beat his defender. Other than a season in CSKA Moscow, in which he offered instant offense off the bench, Mejia is used to being the go-to guy, a reliable player who will make the right decision. He averaged more than 3 assists in each of the last three seasons, which says enough about his court sense. Mejia can also power the boards, but above all, is never afraid to take decisive shots. If the game is on the line, everyone in Tofas knows that good things will probably happen if the ball is in Mejia's hands.
Tofas Bursa is not your average EuroCup newcomer. Most of its main players have experience in the competition and return with a club that is hungry to make things happen. Mejia and Morgan may be its main references when it comes to leadership and experience, but Tofas also has a solid point guard duo in Ermis and Henry, good rebounders like Kadji and Owens, as well as Crocker, a good shooter who can change any game with his three-point bombs. As every newcomer, Tofas must focus on reaching the next round and set new goals if it reaches the Top 16. With its great talent, top to bottom, Tofas is able to beat every team, everywhere in what promises to be a tough regular season group led by Herbalife Gran Canaria, Zenit St. Petersburg and ratiopharm Ulm, where Morgan and Henry played in the past.