You might think that committing 21 turnovers – the club’s worst tally in more than 10 years – on the road in a derby against last season’s top-ranked team would be a certain recipe for defeat. And in normal circumstances, that careless use of the ball would indeed have condemned Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul to a loss at Anadolu Efes on Thursday night.
However, these were not normal circumstances because Fenerbahce’s poor turnover tally was more than outweighed by another major stat – and this time it was a very positive one. By taking 48 rebounds in the game at Sinan Erdem Dome, Fenerbahce set a club record for rebounds in a EuroLeague game.
It wasn’t just the number of rebounds but also what the team did with them as Fenerbahce outscored Efes 2-18 on second-chance points, laying the foundations for a victory which has allowed recently arrived Coach Igor Kokoskov to start the season with a confidence-boosting 2-0 record.
Jan Vesely led the way with 10 rebounds, closely followed by summer signing Dyshawn Pierre with 9 and Nando De Colo with 7. But it was a true team effort: all 10 players used by Coach Kokoskov grabbed a rebound and seven of them had at least 2. And that, more than anything, pleased the new man on the sidelines when he assessed the game.
“In modern basketball, rebounding has to be a five-man job,” he explained. “It can’t only come from centers. Most bigs can shoot the ball, like [Efes center Tibor] Pleiss can shoot three-pointers, so a lot of the time the bigs will be on the perimeter. That means guards have to come and rebound the ball.”
It’s easy to ask all your players to rebound well, but that happening depends on the great intangible qualities that form such an integral part of team sport. And Kokoskov doesn’t believe that Fenerbahce’s success on the boards was anything to do with technical attributes or practice sessions, instead saying: “I don’t think there’s a drill for rebounding. We can talk about body positioning and those things, but it’s about heart and desire and understanding that rebounding the ball is a crucial part of the game.”
By setting a new club record on Thursday, Kokoskov’s players showed they are more than ready to make that understanding.