Galatasaray Doga Sigorta Istanbul point guard Tai Webster is an interesting guy. He and his older brother are two of the best players from his native New Zealand. Webster is now in his second season in the 7DAYS EuroCup and enjoys the opportunity to test himself against players and teams from all over Europe. He shares his thoughts on his and Galatasaray's campaign in this EuroCupbasketball.com blog.
We started the Top 16 the right way: with a road win! There are only six games to play in the Top 16, so a road win this early in our group is a great thing. It was huge for us to win in Monaco. They are obviously a really tough team but we wanted to send a message, out of the gate, that we are a tough team as well. It was awesome to get that win on the road. They are a really aggressive team. They like to make you turn the ball over and control the pace, so just matching that was the key for us, whether it was banging with their bigs, getting rebounds, handling their full court pressure and stuff like that. Matching the intensity they like to play with was the key.
"We are one of the most athletic teams in the EuroCup"
We have been rebounding the ball really well and this is one of the reasons why we are in a good moment right now. We like to get out and run, and if the guards can get those rebounds, pick up some when the bigs are boxing out, it is huge for us. We can start the break early and can really get out and run on teams. We feel like we are one of the most athletic teams in the EuroCup, and we can get up and down the court. When we can play that kind of style, it is great for us.
This is my second season in Galatasaray and I feeling really comfortable here. With the injuries to our team, it has been unfortunate, but also kind of fortunate for me. Our coaches have put a lot of responsibilities in my hands, and I am taking it all on board and doing as much as I can, doing all the extra work, and it is paying off right now. I feel great, we are playing well, and it is showing with the wins we are getting. Coach is tough on me, but this is good. He is literally letting us play our type of game and demands a lot from us as a team.
Like I said, we have been playing well. For instance, Aaron Harrison is, offensively, one of the most dangerous players I have played with, and he makes my job much easier by hitting shots and forcing the defense to be focused on him. It is great to play alongside a guy like that who attracts so much attention. There are obviously a lot of good shooting guards in Europe and everybody wants one of them in your team, I understand it, but Aaron is definitely underrated. The guy brings a lot to us aside from scoring: he attracts attention away from the ball, opens lanes, and you have to respect him at all time. You need to know where he is on the court.
We will play against Rytas Vilnius at home this week. It is great to win on the road, but only if you win your next game at home, too. We really think we are one of the tougher teams to play on the road, so those home wins are especially crucial for us. Everybody knows how much Galatasaray fans push for their team, and they love to see us win. They hate to see us lose just as much! The more winning we can do, the more they will come out to the games. They are a huge part of our team and have a reputation for supporting their team. It is known all over Europe what type of fans we have.
So we are into a new year, 2020! We didn't make a big celebration, just for family and friends, the foreigners of the team celebrating and bringing in the new year. We had a nice get-together and just enjoyed it. We didn't go too crazy because we had to practice the next day. It was good. We stayed at the house, played cards and did the whole countdown: the same old stuff! Honestly, it was not too different from celebrating it in New Zealand. OK, it is summertime in New Zealand, obviously, so people may party a little more over there, but it is the same stuff.
"It is known all over Europe what type of fans we have"
We will also play against UNICS Kazan soon, in Rounds 3 and 4. First things first, we have to play against Rytas and try to get our second win. We just have to take it one game at a time, which has worked for us since the start of the season. We cannot do anything about games coming up or the ones who are in the past. Still, I am looking forward to playing against Errick McCollum, who won the EuroCup with Galatasaray. Anytime we can matchup with a guy with a name like that, with as much success as he had... my eyes just light up! He is someone I look up to, who I can test my abilities against and see where I am at, personally. It will be a lot of fun.
Finally, it is important to keep winning now that we have good momentum. We just need to keep it going. We have a couple of injuries, nothing serious, but we just come in and get better every single day we get on the practice floor. Like I said some weeks ago, anyone can beat anybody in this competition and it is still wide open, especially in this Top 16 with so many tough teams. We are never too low on losses, but also try to maintain our humility after big wins.