With new coach Sasa Djordjevic accompanied by a batch of highly talented new signings, this season has the feel of another fresh beginning for a Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul team that will never settle for anything less than a serious push for the title.
Fenerbahce’s attack will continue to be powered by arguably the consistently greatest offensive weapon across the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague over the last decade, Nando De Colo. Although he is now 34 years, the two-time champion showed no sign of slowing down last season, averaging 15.8 points per game and enjoying his best-ever season in two-point shooting accuracy (58.5%). Swingman Marko Guduric is another top-quality performer whose size, toughness, versatility and scoring prowess will be valuable. Ball control and distribution will be controlled by new signing Pierria Henry, who ranked second in the league in assists last season with Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz with an average of 7.3 per night. Another promising newcomer in the backcourt is Marial Shayok, who showed outstanding form during his first half-season in European basketball by averaging 18.9 points, 6.9 rebounds and 4.2 assists over 12 Turkish League games with Frutti Extra Bursaspor and will now be eager to prove himself at a higher level. The same applies to another new arrival, Ismet Akpinar, after he made just a handful of appearances in the competition with ALBA Berlin in 2014-15. Three-point shooting and leadership will be provided by long-serving team captain Melih Mahmutoglu, while youngsters Ekrem Sancakli and Ergi Tirpanci complete the backcourt options for Coach Djordjevic.
In the same way that De Colo provides a reliable presence in the backcourt, the same applies in the paint to Jan Vesely. One of the most exciting and dominant big men in competition history delivered another strong campaign in 2020-21 with 13.1 points and 5.3 rebounds per game to show he can still be a major force. Two new faces will greatly assist Vesely, starting with Achille Polonara following his summer move from Baskonia. The all-action Italian is a big threat at both ends of the court; he scored in double digits on 21 occasions last season while also ranking third in the league for defensive rebounds and fifth in blocked shots. Fener can also expect a significant contribution from new signing Devin Booker, whose power and athleticism in the paint will rotate perfectly with Vesely and ensure opponents are never given a moment’s respite. Another key player is Dyshawn Pierre, who does a bit of everything and had the team’s third-best PIR last season after De Colo and Vesely. With Danilo Barthel, Tarik Biberovic, Ahmet Duverioglu and the returning Metecan Birsen also in the roster, there is no shortage of size or power in the Fenerbahce ranks and this will not be an easy team to compete against.
PLAYER TO WATCH
De Colo will score points and Vesely will dominate the paint – that much can be guaranteed. But in terms of controlling the tempo and rhythm of the action, a huge amount of responsibility will rest on the shoulders of new signing Pierria Henry. The American point guard has been getting better and better with every passing season since first appearing on the European stage with ratiopharm Ulm in the 2015-16 EuroCup. He is an extremely reliable presence, appearing in all 34 games for Baskonia last season and averaging nearly 27 minutes on the floor. Importantly, Henry also provides an energetic presence on defense; he led the league in steals in each of the last two seasons and his all-round ability to orchestrate the offense with creativity while stifling the opposition with energy will be crucial in allowing De Colo and Vesely the freedom to do what they do better than practically anyone else.
After missing out in the playoffs last season – ending a run of five straight Final Four appearances – Fenerbahce will be determined to launch a competitive challenge for the title and to please its ferociously loyal horde of fans. Indeed, having supporters back across Europe will benefit few teams more than Fenerbahce, which can count on receiving an extra boost of energy both at home and on the road. With the new recruits adding a fresh spark while the reliable returning quartet of De Colo, Vesely, Guduric and Pierre continue to provide the heartbeat, if injuries to key players can be avoided there is every potential for the Turkish team to fight for another title – although, with three of its four last games coming away from home, it will be vital for Fener to establish a strong position heading into the final weeks of the season.