Move to Izmir paying off for Karsiyaka talent Ugurlu
IZMIR (Turkey) - Berk Ugurlu has really come into his own over the last couple of years with Pinar Karsiyaka, finding the opportunities he lacked in Istanbul several hundred kilometers southwest on the Aegean Sea in Izmir.
Despite extensive success in his youth career and as a member of Fenerbahce, it feels like the 22-year-old guard has taken his game to the next level in the green and red of the Kaf Sin Kaf.
In what has arguably been his best across-the-board season, Ugurlu has provided the Izmir club a steady diet of 8.3 points, 2.7 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.1 steals in the FIBA Europe Cup while doing even more damage in the Turkish Basketball League.
"Our first goal was to reach the Semi-Finals and then become the champion. However, you can't win a game without playing it."
FIBA.basketball caught up with the player to talk about the Karsiyaka season at home and abroad, how coming to Izmir has benefited his career and the aspirations of cementing his spot on the national team for the years to come.
The season has been a little bit up-and-down for you as a team, how would you evaluate your campaigns in the FIBA Europe Cup and the Turkish Basketball League?
Yes, we really did have ups and downs and created an inconsistent image as a team in the beginning of the season. However, we gathered ourselves. With the arrival of our new coach [Dirk Bauermann], we started playing better defense and just playing better in general as well. Everybody who watches us can see this. We had new players coming into the team. They adapted to the team, we have a new system with our new coach and it is working well for us. We are now in a very critical situation in both the FIBA Europe Cup and Turkish Basketball League. There is no place for making mistakes. That is why we are being more careful and working even harder.
After getting past Ventspils in the Round of 16, you are set to face an even tougher opponent in Dinamo Sassari in the Quarter-Finals. What are your thoughts about this tie and what will be the key to advancing?
Dinamo Sassari is a very strong and good team both in terms of their roster quality and their game on the court. We are going to play the first game in Izmir and that can be a little disadvantageous for us. We need to win the first game with a higher margin in order to go there with some advantage. This is the first thing we need to try to achieve. Of course, we cannot say anything before the game. We need to play strong from the beginning of the game and use our fan motivation in the first game.
What were your goals for the FIBA Europe Cup at the start of the season, how have they evolved and how do you feel you stack up to the remaining teams in the competition?
Last year, we started the season with the aim of qualifying for the Final Four in the Basketball Champions League. In the Regular Season, we beat UCAM Murcia two times but lost to them in the Quarter-Finals and got eliminated. This year, our first goal was to reach the Semi-Finals and then become the champion. However, you cannot win a game without playing. We will face a very strong team in the Quarter-Finals, we need to play and see. We went step by step and worked hard to reach our goals. We are close to it and we will fight till the end to complete it.
It is your second season with the club. After your loan from Fenerbahce expired, you decided to stay in Izmir for another year. What were the main reasons to you staying?
I am very happy to be in Karsiyaka. I have added a lot to my game and developed myself very much in the two years. Karsiyaka are a quality team, a former [Turkish] champion as well. It is a good place for a young player to improve his career. The city is very nice and they have an amazing fan group. I would like to continue [playing] here. We will see at the end of the season.
As you said, Karsiyaka have a reputation of a club that has helped many players elevate their careers. How helpful for a young player like you has it been to get significant minutes on a club that plays not only in the Turkish Basketball League but also internationally?
There are many examples of players whose careers Karsiyaka helped elevate. For example, Bobby Dixon. He improved and showed himself here. It's a high-quality team. This is the same for me. I've raised my performance each day I've been here. The fans in here also play an important role. They support us all the time and that support gives us more energy to play. They raise our self-confidence on the court. Karsiyaka have goals in both Europe and the Turkish league. Although we did have some difficulties this season, we never gave up. This has also helped me. We continue our way both in Europe and Turkey. By playing in both competitions, I continue to develop and gain experience. One can't improve without getting minutes on the court and Karsiyaka trust us and let us do that. And I'm doing by best to give back as much as I can for their trust.
Three-point shooting has been an often talked about topic with you and numbers show that you're having the best year shooting wise, both in terms of volume and accuracy. How much work have you put into improving your jump shot over the recent years and how good does it feel to see it pay off?
I improved my jump shots significantly in comparison with my season at Fenerbahce. It is about working hard. I worked very hard on my jump shots in the summer. Here, my coaches also help me a lot, we do additional individual practice sessions. I will continue working on it this summer as well. Practice is very important, but without individual training, you cannot improve your shot.
"They [fans] push us to go further and play better by creating a great atmosphere. They motivate us when we are down."
One cannot help but notice the amazing support you get from the Karsiyaka faithful. Can you say a few words about the fans in Izmir and how much such a strong backing from the fans help you on the court?
We feel their support and power very much in our home games. They are playing a vital role for us to win the games. For example, we defeated Galatasaray here. They were amazing in this game and helped us a lot. Furthermore, we enjoy playing the games while they are supporting us. They push us to go further and play better by creating a great atmosphere. They motivate us when we are down. I can say that their part on the court is very big and important.
You were called up for the senior national team a few times in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 European Qualifiers. What does it mean to you and what did you take away from the experience?
It is a very big honor to wear the national team jersey at the senior level. It is not a thing that a lot of people can achieve. We had 24 players listed in the Qualifiers and being one of those 24 is an incredible pride for me. I am very happy to achieve wearing the national team jersey and getting important minutes in the last two games was very important for me; I gained a lot of experience. Also, I saw that they trust me. It is very important for me to see that coach Ufuk Sarica and the staff trust me.
As someone who has won numerous medals at FIBA youth events, how important is it for you to try and secure a steady spot on the senior team in the next few years?
It is very important for me to continue that way. Being at the senior level is a very different feeling. I will continue improving myself and try my best to keep my spot in the national team.
Beyond this season, what are your main aspirations, ambitions for your basketball career?
I want to represent my country by playing in a high-level club in Europe. I want to be a good Turkish player in there. In addition, I want to continue playing in the national team and want to win medals at the senior level.