Inspired trio boosted Turk Telekom in Trento

Dec 15, 2021 by Print
Inspired trio boosted Turk Telekom in Trento

There were several ways in which Turk Telekom Ankara's visit to Trento could have gone off the rails on Tuesday.

First of all, the visitors arrived to face Dolomiti Energia Trento without Octavious Ellis, their leading rebounder and shot-blocker, as well as Alex Perez, their leading assist-maker, and key reserve Tyler Ennis. Among them, that trio had accounted for a combined 22.8 points, 9.8 rebounds and 10.0 assists in the three games they played together, of which Turk Telekom won two.

As if that weren't enough, Turk Telekom announced hours before the game that it had hired a new head coach, former German national team boss Henrik Rodl. But with the team in Italy already, his debut was postponed until the team returns to Ankara. So against Trento, assistant coach Candost Volkan headed the bench for the second consecutive game, following the team's 23-point loss at MoraBanc Andorra the previous week.

"Henrik Rodl, the new coach, will be in charge from the next game, so I will just do my duty today to get the team the win we need in our EuroCup group," Volkan said before tipoff.

Said, and done.

Turk Telekom never trailed on its way to a 70-76 victory because Volkan found inspired helpers on his bench from the beginning.

Erdi Gulaslan, a 27-year-old forward who had played only in the Andorra game since having debuted in the EuroCup back in the 2015-16 season, was the catalyst early, with 6 points in a 2-10 run that gave the visitors their first big lead, 6-14.

Dorukhan Engindeniz, a 29-year-old guard new to the EuroCup this season, hit important triples after that to stave off two Trento comeback attempts.

And Can Ogut, another 29-year-old in his first EuroCup season, filled plenty of gaps for Turk Telekom with a season-high 10 points and 6 assists.

None of it was easy, but when Turk Telekom found itself clinging to a lead of 64-66 with under 2:30 to play, Engindeniz expertly drew a foul on a three-point attempt and made all 3 free throws to stave off Trento's last comeback try.

The trio of Engindeniz, Gulaslan and Ogut accounted for 9 of the team's last 12 points. The result was Turk Telekom's first road victory of the season, a winning record of 4-3, and a jump from seventh to fifth place in the Group A standings.

All of that happened not only without a trio of key contributors left back in Ankara, but with the team's top scorer, Aaron Harrison, held to a season-low 4 points. Aubrey Dawkins, with 15 points, and JaJuan Johnson, with 12, 9 rebounds and 3 blocks, were essential to the outcome. But without Engindeniz, Gulaslan and Ogut combining for 29 points, 5 rebounds and 8 assists, Turk Telekom might have been in real trouble.

"We were missing three main players of our rotation -- Tyler Ennis, Alex Perez and Octavious Ellis -- and we came off a very bad defeat in our local league," Volkan pointed out after the game. "Three days later, the team responded really well. They fought well on the court and we allowed just 70 points, in such a EuroCup game. So, I just want to thank all the players for their efforts and we'll keep playing hard for the next game."

And, he might have added, for the next coach, who will find more depth to work with from unsung players who aced their long-awaited opportunities in Trento.