Darussafaka Istanbul comes back to the 7DAYS EuroCup after two seasons in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague. In the last of those, the team managed to make it to the playoffs for the first time, but over the summer that successful roster suffered some major blows. However, Coach David Blatt is back and together with management pieced together a talented squad that could make a lot of noise. The perimeter attack will see five new men in uniform – guards Will Cummings, Muhammed Baygul and swingmen Stanton Kidd, James Bell and Howard Sant-Roos. And there are three signees – power forward JaJuan Johnson and centers Emircan Kosut and Micheal Eric – hoping to take control of the paint.
Point guard Scottie Wilbekin comes off a breakout season in the EuroLeague and now he brings all that experience with him. Another playmaker, Will Cummings put up big numbers for Aris in the Greek League last season and hopes to shine in his debut EuroCup campaign. Some local talent has also been added with Muhammed Baygul, who knows the competition from two previous appearances with other Turkish teams. He also knows the club, since he played for Darussafaka in 2010-11, and though he is expected to have a lesser role than the names above, his experience and knowledge of the EuroCup and Darussafaka will surely make him a valuable asset. On the wings, Darussafaka has another new face in James Bell, who will contribute points and experience; he already played in the EuroCup a few seasons ago. Stanton Kidd also arrived this summer with solid credentials from the German League and will be making his debut in the EuroCup. The final newcomer on the perimeter for Darussafaka is Howard Sant-Roos, who excelled in the Czech Republic where he won a pair of national titles in the last two seasons.
The frontcourt of Darussafaka has been almost completely renovated save for veteran Oguz Savas, will make his EuroCup debut after 13 straight seasons in the EuroLeague, a streak that few players can match in Europe. Another familiar face returning is Furkan Aldemir, who will return to the EuroCup after five years. He will be joined in the paint by new signing Micheal Eric, who brings strength and experience from Spain, where he had a good EuroCup campaign last season. JaJuan Johnson has always put up big numbers wherever he has played and he was one of the best players in Italy last season, too. The frontcourt of the team is completed by young local talent Emircan Kosut, who already has some EuroLeague experience from when he was with Anadolu Efes Istanbul and now will have a supporting role in his EuroCup debut.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Scottie Wilbekin has played well in the shadows of well-known, veteran point guards in his two seasons at Darussafaka; first it was Jamon Gordon in 2015-16 and then Brad Wanamaker last season. This year, Wilbekin should get his chance to shine. Just 24 years of age, Wilbekin is still growing as a basketball player and adding weapons to his dangerous perimeter shot and tremendous speed with the ball. Compared to his EuroLeague debut, Wilbekin raised his shooting percentages from every range last season and saw an increase in rebounds, assists and steals. After committing to Darussafaka for two more seasons in the spring, Wilbekin figures to be Coach Blatt’s right-hand man this year as they try to reach new heights in the EuroCup together.
It may feel a bit lackluster for Darussafaka to return to the EuroCup after two straight seasons in the EuroLeague. However, a quick look at the group with names like UNICS Kazan and Cedevita Zagreb makes it clear that this will not be a walk in the park. However, with four teams advancing from every group, the team coached by David Blatt has no other goal in mind than making the Top 16 with flying colors, especially with the fine season it had last year. Any other result would be a surprise, and not a very pleasant one at that.