16 - 24
July 2016
5 Berk Ugurlu (TUR)
to read

Turkey eyeing gold-medal treble in Helsinki

HELSINKI (FIBA U20 European Championship 2016) – Even before they step on the court, it is evident what a tight-knit group Turkey have at the FIBA U20 European Championship.

This should come as no surprise, however, given that the core of the squad have been together for five years and are aiming to complete a sensational hat-trick in Helsinki.

Seven players in this squad have been part of the Turkish teams to win gold at U16 level and U18 level ahead of this, their final youth competition together.

Their passion to finish this run at the top of the podium can be heard pre-game as they huddle and bounce in the tunnel, belting out a chant inspired by Ottoman traditions.

"It helps us to focus on the game and to win. It works," said point guard Berk Ugurulu, who along with Okben Ulubay, Ogulcan Baykan and Egemen Güven has two gold medals at U18 level.

Surrounded by sensational talent, inside and out, Ugurlu is the man charged with orchestrating coach Omer Ugurata’s well-drilled offence. 

It is a role he appears to relish, pushing the ball on the break, penetrating and passing, clearing a path for the likes of Omer Yurtseven to go to work in the paint too.

Ugurlu’s play has been one of the features of this terrific run of Turkish success which began with U16 gold in 2012 and taken them to the world stage, and he is desperate for it to end on a high note.

"We have good friendship in the team," said the 20-year-old, after the 82-75 Round of 16 triumph against France.

"We understand each other very well, we understand our coach and our set plays and we play like a family. 

"We have won the European Championship twice, after that we had a bronze medal at the World Championship. 

"We are trying to give our best because this is the last tournament for the '96-born players together. We want to be champions and get one more big medal.

"It’s tough. We love each other. We deserve to be champions because we worked really hard in the pre-season.

"It feels special because of the coaches, the families, we all play together and stay together from U15. It is very good for us to be part of this."

So keen to be a part of this once more was Ugurlu, that he is playing with a heavily strapped left hand, having only undergone surgery on a broken bone less than two months ago.

He admits this means he is still searching for his best form and, "rhythm to give my best".

But so well versed is he in the art of tournament play and peaking at the right moment, he appears content to gradually improve as he and his team-mates edge closer to a historic feat.

A gold medal treble at European youth level would place Turkey's 1996 generation in a select group alongside the likes of Milos Teodosic.

But with FIBA EuroBasket 2017 just over a year away, Ugurlu is more concerned with strengthening his case to compete against Teodosic with the senior national team, as Istanbul plays host to the knockout stages of the Final Round.

"It will be really special for us," Ugurlu said of his country hosting the event.

"If we win the medal we can show them that maybe we will be ready to play for the senior team and it is good motivation for all of our team."

Not that they need any added motivation with that battle cry ringing in their ears each time they step on court aiming to ensure their last game together will be for gold.