Challenges await Ilyasova

World Championships, Bucks roster additions will put young forward to the test

By Truman Reed
07/20/10

Ersan Ilyasova
Ilyasova believes he benefitted from his first brush with the NBA Playoffs as well.
Gary Dineen/NBAE/Getty Images

The Milwaukee Bucks' management team and coaching staff are now in the process of evaluating the team's rookies during the National Basketball Association Las Vegas Summer League.

Their eyes - and those of Bucks fans - will be on free-agent additions Drew Gooden and Chris Douglas-Roberts when the team opens training camp and the exhibition season in the fall.

There may not be single Buck under more scrutiny this summer - and waging a more intense battle to retain his minutes when camp begins - than Ersan Ilyasova.

Ilyasova, just 23 years old as he prepares for his third NBA season, will be facing great expectations in his homeland of Turkey next month when the country hosts the 2010 FIBA World Championship.

Ilyasova made his professional basketball debut at the age of 15 and began representing Turkey in international basketball competition as a member of the Turkish Cadets National Team and the Turkish Junior National Team.

His first significant worldwide emergence came in 2003, when he averaged 20.5 points, 10 rebounds and 3.3 steals in 26 minutes per outing during the European Championship for Cadets (U-16). He staged a 31-point, seven-rebound, five-steal performance against Latvia in just 23 minutes and totaled 26 points, 11 rebounds, four steals and two blocks against France.

In 2004, he averaged 17.4 points and 9 rebounds in 25.8 minutes per game during the 2004 European Championship for Junior Men (U-18). He had outings of 27 points and 15 rebounds against Slovenia, 22 points against Lithuania and 21 points against Poland.

He has since become a top-tier member of the Turkish National Team. He helped his team win four of five games in the 2009 European Championships before losing to Greece in overtime in the tournament's quarterfinal round.

Ilyasova, along with Hedo Turkoglu, who was recently traded from the Toronto Raptors to the Phoenix Suns, and Omer Asik, who starred in last year's EuroBasket in Poland and in his Turkish professional league before signing a free-agent deal this summer with the Chicago Bulls, will be under intense pressure to lead their country's team when the World Championships are contested in its backyard.

Ilyasova, spoke about his expectations for the summer shortly after the Bucks completed their 2009-10 campaign.

"I'll have a couple of months to just rest, get my body back and my strength and we'll start training camp for the World Championships at the end of July," Ilyasova said. "The World Championships will be in Istanbul, Turkey, and people expect us to medal. It's definitely going to be really tough for us.

We host those games and we have to be prepared for those games and hopefully we have one month to prepare and then it will be in August. It's going to be real tough for us. Hedo (Turkoglu), I spoke with him yesterday and he's ready to start practicing and preparing himself and like I said, it's going to be tough for us."

Ilyasova made it clear that he wouldn't strictly be resting. He has set some significant goals for himself.

"I'm not going to be resting for the whole two months; maybe two weeks," he said. "Then my goal this summer is to put on more weight and get stronger for next season as well. Sometimes when I play the `4,', I feel light going up against some of the guys at the `4' position, so that's why my goal this summer is to gain more weight and get stronger playing the `4' position comfortably next year.

"Two summers ago, I was 245 (pounds). Now I'm 227 and it's my goal to be back to 245. And then I'll get a lot of time to play in the summer league this summer with the National team and I think it will really improve my skills basketball-wise for next year."

The FIBA World Championship will run from Aug. 28 to Sept. 12, 2010 under the direction of the International Basketball Federation (FIBA), Turkish Basketball Federation and the 2010 Organizing Committee. It is considered as prestigious a competition as the Olympic Basketball Tournament.

For the third time since 1986, the World Championship will have 24 competing nations, an increase from 16. As a result, the groups are each playing in different cities, with the knockout round being hosted by Istanbul.

Teams were drawn into four preliminary round groups of six teams each. Teams will then play a round-robin schedule, with the top 16 advancing to the knockout stage.

The Turkish team was placed in Group C, quite possibly the most competitive one in the tournament. It also includes Greece, Puerto Rico, Russia, China and C