Pre-draw profile: Anadolu Efes

Dec 27, 2011 by Print
Sasha Vujacic - Anadolu Efes
Sasha Vujacic
Anadolu EfesFew Turkish Airlines Euroleague teams are more motivated this season than Anadolu Efes Istanbul, which targets its first Final Four appearance in over a decade with the games being played in its own front yard, Sinan Erdem Arena. Efes has just reached the Top 10 for the 10th time in 11 season, surviving difficult regular season Group C without much trouble. Three road wins allowed Efes to seal a Top 16 spot way in advance and for one of the true powers of Turkish and European basketball, there is plenty of room for optimism. Founded in 1976, Efes needed just three seasons before winning the Turkish League championship in 1979 and it lifted two more trophies in 1983 and 1984. Efes made its Euroleague debut in the 1979-80 season and reached the quarterfinals group stage. A streak of domestic dominance in the 1990s saw it take the Turkish crown in five of six seasons ending in 1997. Efes also managed to put Turkey on the continental basketball map for good. In 1993, Larry Richard, Petar Naumoski and current head Ufuk Sarica took Efes to the Saporta Cup final, but Aris escaped with a 50-48 win. In 1996, Naumoski and Sarica joined forces with the late Conrad McRae and a young Mirsad Turkcan to lead Efes to the Korac Cup crown by downing Milano in the finals. It was the first - and to date only – European title for a Turkish team. Efes became a Euroleague regular and in 2000 the club achieved another first among Turkish teams by making the Final Four, a milestone it repeated in the 2001 SuproLeague. Hedo Turkoglu, Mehmet Okur, Predrag Drobnjak, Ibrahim Kutluay and Damir Mulaomerovic all helped make it happen. Efes was one shot away from reaching the 2004 Final Four and reached the Euroleague quarterfinals in 2005 and 2006, but lost against Panathinaikos and CSKA, respectively. Efes has not returned to the playoffs since, but managed to lift Turkish Cup trophies in 2006 and 2007. The club did even better in 2008-09, winning the Turkish League and the Turkish Cup titles. Fenerbahce Ulker has stopped Efes from adding more hardware to its roll of honors in each of the last two years. Last season, Efes won its first six Euroleague home games at Sinan Erdem Arena, but a four-game losing streak erased all chances to reach the playoffs. Fully reloaded and with a former legend like Sarica as head coach, Efes is back to the Top 16 ready to break with its recent past. With the rare opportunity to compete for glory at home, the 2011-12 Turkish Airlines Euroleague season could prove to be a very special campaign for Anadolu Efes.