Frutti Extra Bursaspor will have a new look when it returns to the 7DAYS EuroCup for a second straight season. After taking over the squad in-season in 2020-21, Coach Dusan Alimpijevic had a say in forming the team to his liking and he now has a mix of veteran leaders. When it’s all said and done, opposing teams will not be looking forward to facing Bursaspor.
Coach Alimpijevic has a dynamic backcourt to work with led by the trio of Allerik Freeman, Derek Needham and Marlain Veal. Needham is the elder statesman of this group at 30 years of age and the point guard brings two years of EuroCup experience with him. Needham knows how to get the best out of his teammates, and he will share the point guard duties with Veal, who starts his first season at a first division club after dominating the second divisions in Turkey and Israel the past two years. What Veal lacks in size he makes up for in determination. Freeman returns to Bursaspor after splitting last season with LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague and Qingdao Eagles of China. The combo guard is a deadly outside shooter who averaged 18.5 points for Bursaspor in 14 games in 2019-20. Omer Al provides the team with another ball-handling option off the bench.
Bursaspor will also have a strong collection of forwards and centers. Starting with Dragan Milosavljevic, Onuralp Bitim and Birkan Batuk on the wings. Milosavljevic could be a massive signing if the 32-year-old recaptures the form that saw him amass 77 games in the EuroLeague for Partizan NIS Belgrade from 2010 to 2018 not to mention 53 EuroCup games for three teams over four seasons. But he missed the entire 2019-20 season with a severe injury and only played eight games for Mega SoccerBet Belgrade in this past season’s playoffs before also playing in the Olympics for Serbia. Bitim is known for his energy, though he has a fine jump shot, too. Batuk cannot be left alone; the 31-year-old twice buried 5 three-pointers in EuroCup games last season for the team. Perhaps even more deadly from the outside is David Dudzinski, the 2.05-meter power forward who drained 51.5 percent of his three-pointers in the EuroCup last season for Telenet Giants Antwerp. Dudzinski has also shown he can be a supreme rebounder and can score around the basket as well. Metin Turen is another of the few returnees as a stretch-four. The top center will be Kevarrius Hayes, a strong shot-blocker who played a limited role last season at ASVEL and will be ready to be more of a leader as he was in 2019-20 when he led the Italian League in blocked shots. Sharing center duties will be Egemen Guven, who is slowly living up to his potential and had a strong season last year with Ayfon. Bursaspor also is expected to give a chance to 20-year-old talent Tarik Sezgun, who signed a four-year deal with the club after growing up in the Anadolu Efes Istanbul system.
PLAYER TO WATCH
EuroCup guards best beware: Do not help on defense if you are defending Allerik Freeman because he will punish you. The combo guard is a welcome return for Bursaspor fans who saw him light up the Turkish League in 2019-20 as he drained 43.0% of his three-pointers in 14 games. Freeman has a chance to lead the EuroCup in three-pointers made and three-point shooting percentage, having regularly hit at least 40.0% from long range throughout his career, which started in 2018-19 in Hungary with Alba Fehervar where he killed plenty of defenses with his three-pointers coming off screens. Freeman has a superb mid-range game as well and is equally comfortable taking a jumper off a drive from the wing. The 26-year-old is not afraid to drive to the basket and capable of scoring in traffic or finding the open man. After showing his ability in the EuroLeague in 2020-21 with ASVEL - scoring in double figures seven times in 18 games - Freeman comes back to a club he knows which could lead him to settle down and be a major leader.
Fans will look at Bursaspor’s 3-7 record last season in the EuroCup and might not have big expectations, but don’t tell that to Coach Alimpijevic. He took over the team in November 2020 and guided it to wins in three of the last four games in its debut campaign in the league. Alimpijevic has put together a team of his own with an entirely rebuilt squad for the club’s second consecutive EuroCup season. And Bursaspor will not be an easy team to beat. There is the strong guard trio and the team will be able to punish defensive miscues from long range - also from the power forward position with Dudzinski. Hayes and Freeman could have a great connection having played last season at ASVEL, while Hayes gives Alimpijevic a major rim protector and Bitim will get his teammates and fans into the game with his energy and sensational dunks. The wild card very well could be Milosavljevic, who hasn’t played a full season since 2018-19 with Unicaja Malaga and only got back to the court following a severe injury in June 2021. Bursaspor could be a major threat if the 32-year-old’s body can hold up to the grind of the season.