Can Ahmet Caki´s New Enthusiasm Garner Continued Success For Alba Berlin?

For four years for some Alba Berlin fans, there was enough entertainment in the Mercedes Benz arena even during down times during a game when the 8 time champion was in a slump just watching head coach Sasa Obradovic doing his special work out on the sidelines with his hand and body gestures. The three time European champion with Yugoslavia had his own eccentric coaching style and his style definitely got on the nerves of many and didn´t always have an advantageous effect on his players, but in the end when all was said and done, the soft spoken Korac Cup winner of 1995 with Alba Berlin did good deeds in Berlin winning three cups, a Super cup and reached the final in 2014. The Alba Berlin season more or less ended after the 2016 cup win in Munich as the club had reached their peak for the season and after that played uninspired basketball and were swept by the Fraport Skyliners and it was no secret that the days of Obradovic were numbered. Obradovic had to go and his torch was passed on to Turk Ahmet Caki. For many not the big name coach that was expected to come in, but a guy that CEO Marco Baldi had in his notes since 2009. Caki eats, sleeps and breathes basketball since he was 18 and now 23 years later, he can look back at a growing basketball resume that was started in Turkey and now takes him to his first stop outside his home country. He got his first experience with Darussafaka Istanbul as a head coach in 2004 and then coached Erdemirspor Belediyesi and Tofas Bursa. He got his big break midway through the 2014-2015 season as Euroleague club Anadolu Efes Istanbul signed him as an assistant under legendary coach Dusan Ivkovic. As an assistant he won 2 cups and was promoted in April 2016 to head coach as Ivkovic was dismissed and led the team to the Turkish final. As a coach he is the total opposite of Obradovic as he tries to inspire his players instead of  intimidating them and giving them restless nights not knowing if a missed screen or switch will cost them minutes like an Obradovic did. Caki is more calm than Obradovic, but knows when to step it up in the motivation department. He is a guy that can develop players and has inherited a team that doesn´t have the standard type Euroleague players so from his perspective something to look forward to being able to develop talented guys further. Where Obradovic had his focus on the defense, Caki wants to find a healthy balance on offense and defense. It will be another interesting season for Alba Berlin as a new era begins as there will be no more hectic movements on the sidelines from a bald man but is somehow in his own way transporting his desires to his players, but more zeal being transported from a Turk who wants to establish himself with one of Europe´s most historic organizations.

Winning one title in a season would be able to fill decades in places like Tuebingen or Goettingen, but when you are one of Germany´s leading basketball brands Alba Berlin getting one per season is a goal one always wants to achieve. They did that last season, but the way the club finished out the season in the last three months finishing out the season at 7-5 and being rudely swept by the Fraport skyliners was surely nothing that CEO Marco Baldi would have thought could happen in his wildest dreams after the club cup celebrations in the Audi Dome in February. The club had reached it´s peak in Munich and after that just fizzled in the sunlight like an egg would on highway 101 in the dog days of summer. Head coach Obradovic had had that last little push needed to win the cup, but after that coach and players just didn´t function properly anymore. In two of the three playoffs games against Frankfurt, Alba Berlin looked like a lost child looking for their mother. The four year Obradovic error notched 4 titles, but overall there was always that feeling of not having won enough as is always the case with Alba Berlin.

In the last years, the Alba Berlin style under Obradovic had always had more of a defined role for the inside game, but under new head coach Caki, it looks like it will go toward more guard and wing play and let the ball flow. This season the club has only four true big men and with many talented guards, it will be interesting how this inside/out game will progress throughout the season. The club did a good job keeping a good majority of players from last season with five players while rounding out the foundation with eight new players. The club held on to possibly their best two players from last season Elmedin Kikanovic and Dragan Milosavljevic. Elmedin Kikanovic is a 28 year old 211cm center from Bosnia that played three seasons with KK Crvena Zvezda Beograd (Serbia-A League) and four years with Enisey Krasnoyarsk (Russia-VTB). He also brings much experience having played 81 international club games. Last season with Alba Berlin he played 37 games: 13.6ppg, 3.6rpg, 1.0apg, FGP: 56.5%, FT: 71.9%; Eurocup: 18 games: 14.9ppg, 4.2rpg, FGP: 55.3%, 3PT: 16.7%, FT: 74.0%He played at the 2011,2013 and 2015 European championships. He has the complete package and despite entering a new system, he will still be a main option on offense with his versatile play. Dragan Milosavlijevic is a 27 year old 198cm guard from Serbia playing his second season in Germany. He played  5 seasons with BC Partizan NiS Beograd playing 50 Euroleague games and two seasons ago played  14 games: 10.9ppg, 2.7rpg, 2.8apg, 1.4spg, FGP: 49.4%, 3PT: 30.3%, FT: 63.0%; Eurocup: 3 games: 8.3ppg, 2.7rpg, 4.3apg; Adriatic League: 20 games: 11.0ppg, 3.7rpg, 1.7apg, FGP: 46.4%, 3PT: 28.6%, FT: 86.4%. Last season for Alba he played 35 games: 12.3ppg, 5.1rpg, 2.5apg, FGP: 52.9%, 3PT: 35.0%, FT: 85.2%; Eurocup: 17 games: 14.5ppg, 4.9rpg, 2.7apg, 1.2spg, FGP: 44.7%, 3PT: 41.7%, FT: 91.9%. He is a scorer and good defender and as always from the Balkan states has a high basketball IQ.

The team also kept Niels Giffey who is a 25 year old swing man that can play the position 2-4. He started his basketball career in 2005 for Marzahn Basket Baeren (2.Regionalliga). He then played for Alba Berlin2 where his coach Henrik Roedl gave him the tip to go to the States and play college basketball. He played at Connecticut (NCAA) from 2010-2014 winning two NCAA titles and improving his scoring and rebounding each season there and as a senior played 40 games averaging 8.4ppg, 3.8rpg, FGP: 54.0%, 3PT: 48.3%, FT: 72.7%. Last season he had some injury woes and played only 21 games: 6.0ppg, 3.9rpg, FGP: 50.0%, 3PT: 35.0%, FT: 90.3%; Eurocup: 6 games: 4.8ppg, 3.5rpg, 1.0apg. His shooting ability and drive from the wing stand out as well as his defense that shouldn’t be underestimated ever. They also kept Akeem Vargas who is a 26 year old 192cm guard that is playing his fourth season for Alba Berlin. There isn’t a more physical player than him at 192cm in the Beko BBL. He started his basketball career at the SG Urspringschule junior team. He played a season for Iowa Lakes CC (JUCO). He played for the Walter Tigers Tuebingen from 2010-2012, but never got a real chance to prove himself there playing a total of 22 Beko BBL games. Three seasons ago he took a step back and played for BG Goettingen (Germany-ProA) playing 33 games: 13.8ppg, 4.7rpg, 2.2apg, FGP: 48.8%, 3PT: 38.9%, FT: 81.1%. His biggest strength is his defense and can penetrate well to the basket. Last season for Alba Berlin he played 36 games: 2.3ppg, 1.3rpg; Eurocup: 18 games: 1.2ppg, 1.9rpg. Ismet Akpinar who is a 21 year old 192cm point guard that is playing his fourth season for Alba Berlin and has all attributes of becoming a good point guard in the future and has Turkish roots. The U-20 German national team player started his basketball career for the BC Hamburg Tigers junior team. He played  two seasons for SC Rist Wedel and three seasons ago for SC Rist Wedel (ProB) played 22 games: 6.1ppg, 2.0rpg, 1.8apg, FGP: 37.8%, 3PT: 27.0%, FT: 87.5. Last season he had his mini BBL breakthrough playing 33 games: 3.9ppg, 1.1rpg, 1.2apg; Eurocup: 18 games: 3.6ppg. He finally got the needed confidence from Obradovic, but with a new system and coach will that trust remain?

The club added 7 new players including Peyton Silva. Silva is a 26 year old 184cm point guard from Seattle, Washington playing his fourth professional season. He has great fearlessness, determination, tough D and scoring arsenals. He reached the NCAA Final 4 in 2012 and was drafted by the Detroit Pistons in 2013 and played 22 NBA games. He also spent time in the D-league with Ft wayne and Eire and last season played his first season in Europe with Pasta Reggia JuveCaserta (Italy-Serie A) playing 21 games: 13.3ppg, 2.7rpg, Assists-1(6.5apg), Steals-1(2.0spg), FGP: 43.2%, 3PT: 30.3%, FT-1(91.9%). The American could become a top three point guard in the league this season.

Engin Atsur is a 31 year old 191 combo guard that has the Turkish/German citizenship and is a very fast and intelligent open court player, play maker of the team and the leader as well. He played at North State from 2003-2007 with ex Skyliner Illian Evitimon and this will b eonly his second season abroad after playing his rookie season in Italy. He has played for all the well known Turkish teams and played the last two seasons for Besiktas Istanbul (BSL) 30 games: 7.7ppg, 1.6rpg, 2.6apg, FGP: 43.9%, 3PT: 35.2%, FT: 86.3%; Eurocup: 9 games: 6.9ppg, 2.4rpg, 2.2apg, FGP: 40.9%, 3PT: 30.0%. He will hold the club together and will be a nasty guard tandem with Siva.

Dominique Johnson is a 29 year old 193cm guard from Detriot, Michigan that is playing his seventh professional season and one of the rare guys to come from the fourth college division and make a career as he played for Azusa Pacific (NAIA). In his first six seasons he has gathered experience in the D-league, Poland, Israel and Turkey. Last season he played for Banvit Basketbol Kulubu (Turkey-BSL, starting five): 32 games: 13.5ppg, 1.9rpg, 2.3apg, 1.3spg, FGP: 46.7%, 3PT: 35.8%, FT: 89.3%; Eurocup: 18 games: 14.6ppg, 3.1rpg, 2.0apg, 1.2spg, FGP: 54.7%, 3PT: 38.7%, FT: 80.6%. He is an athletic combo guard with a strong body and great ability to score and defend. He will be one of the main scoring options as he outside shooting will give headaches for teams this season as he led the Polish league from downtown in 2015 shooting 51%.

The club also added Malcolm Miller who is a 23 year old 200cm forward from Gaithersburg, Maryland that is playing his second professional season. He is a long, athletic wing. Can step out and shoot the three. Has the ability to get into the passing lanes and create turnovers on the defensive end. Possesses great speed, length and athletic ability. He played at Holy Cross from 2011-2015 and as a senior played 28 games averaging  13.5ppg, 4.7rpg, 1.1apg, 1.3spg, 1.7bpg, FGP: 48.0%, 3PT: 32.4%, FT: 82.7%. As a rookie he played for the Maine Red Claws (D-League): 47 games: 12.4ppg, 4.2rpg, 1.2apg, 1.3bpg, FGP: 60.3%, 3PT: 39.8%, FT: 79.4%. The club also added two experienced inside players with Tony Gaffney and Paul carter. Gaffney is a 31 year old 204cm forward from Berkely, Mass that is a very versatile forward who brings a high level of energy and athleticism to any team he joins. He is a tenacious rebounder, shot-blocker, and great defender. This is his eighth professional season and third in Germany as he played two seasons with the Telekom Baskets Bonn as few can forget his beautiful alley-oop hook ups with Hared Jordan. He has the rare distinction of having been on the rosters of the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers, but never having played an NBA game for them. He has had past experience in Spain and also played part of three seasons in Israeli. He played the last two seasons for Hapoel Jerusalem (Israel-Winner League) and last season played 36 games: 9.6ppg, 5.5rpg, 1.4apg, 1.3spg, FGP: 64.6%, 3PT: 33.3%, FT: 72.0%; Eurocup: 15 games: 6.5ppg, 4.2rpg, 1.3apg, 1.2spg, Blocks-5(1.2bpg), FGP: 52.6%, 3PT: 34.5%, FT: 66.7%. Paul Carter is a 29 year old 205cm forward from Little Rock, Arkansas that will be playing his sixth professional season. He played college ball at Minnesota (NCAA) and as a senior at Ill.-Chicago (NCAA) playing 31 games averaging 14.7ppg, 8.0rpg, 1.9apg, FGP: 40.8%, 3PT: 29.9%, FT: 76.7%. As a professional he has had substantial experience in the D-league, Cyprus, Israel, Mexico, Finland and last season played for Sharks Antibes (France-ProA) playing 33 games: 10.2ppg, 4.9rpg, 1.7apg, 1.1spg, FGP: 39.2%, 3PT: 34.7%, FT: 70.5%. The club also added German big man Bogdan Radosavlievic who is looking to make the next step in his development at a higher level. He is a 23 year old 213cm center with the German/Serbian citizenship. After being in the FC Bayern Munich organization for three years and 17 games, he moved on to the Walter Tigers Tuebingen in 2013 where he got trust and minutes and played 101 BBL games and always had solid seasons. Last season he played 34 games: 9.4ppg, 4.4rpg, FGP: 56.4%, 3PT: 32.1%, FT: 79.8%. He is a versatile big man that will be the back up to Kikanovic.

Alba Berlin should be able to make the semi-finals this season, but will they have enough for their first league title since 2008? They have talent, but as always will need added super hero strength from the basketball gods in a final against Bamberg. Last season the Fraport Skyliners had a positive 4-2 record against Alba Berlin thanks to a perfect 3-0 playoff sweep, but the game they really needed and wanted, they lost, the semi-final cup clash in Munich where Jordan Taylor outgunned Jordan Theodore. Alba Berlin enter the game on Starurday at home with a 1-2 record having beat the Telekom Baskets Bonn and Science City Jena, but losing last weekend to the new Phoenix Hagen shoot out brothers ratiopharm Ulm 98-94. Alba Berlin was outrebounded badly and it´s hard to remember when they last gave up 19 offensive rebounds. It´s still very early in the season, but giving up 83 points per game so far would have probably already given ex head coach Sasa Obradovic a mini heart attack. Alba Berlin is still finding it´s self and getting some hind of chemistry established on the defensive end. The Fraport Skyliners broke their two game losing streak by defeating the Eisbaeren Bremerhaven at home 84-79, but it was an ugly win as the guests almost turned it around at the end. Frankfurt as well is also still figuring out loads of things on both ends of the floor. This is one of those situations where if Alba Berlin doesn´t watch out, Frankfurt could sneak up on them and give them difficulty with their ever so intriguing aggressive defense, but overall Alba Berlin have more weapons and the depth just to be able to wear down Frankfurt if they play smart.

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