The Turkish women’s national basketball team (nicknamed Potanin Perileri or Basket Fairies) are a team on the rise. Turkey became a member of basketball’s world governing body, FIBA, but it was only their men’s national team that played competitive basketball.
Apart from a second place finish in the 2001 Eurobasket which they hosted, not much has been achieved by the team—that’s of course not taking into consideration the 12 times they competed at the now defunct Mediterranean Games which they won twice.
The women’s team however started their real competition in the 2005 Eurobasket for women which they hosted (also not taking into consideration their Mediterranean Games participation from 1987 to 2009). The team has enjoyed a steady rise leading up to their fourth place finish in only their first appearance at the FIBA Women’s World Cup which they hosted in 2014. They are currently ranked seventh in the world.
The Basket Fairies qualified for this year’s World Cup after finishing fifth in the 2017 Eurobasket in the Czech Republic. Turkey went 3-0 in the group phase, beating Slovakia (69-58), Italy (54-53) and Belarus (88-74), before losing heavily to Greece in the quarterfinals.
The loss to Greece meant they played in the fifth to eighth place bracket which would ultimately determine the fifth and final qualifier for the World Cup. They beat Slovakia in a group phase rematch (72-56) and beat Latvia in the fifth place game 72-63 to qualify for the World Cup. Latvia, though, would eventually qualify for the World Cup after hosts Spain won the Eurobasket.
Turkey is coached by Ekrem Memnun. Memnun took over as Head Coach before the 2016 Rio Olympic Games and led the team to a sixth place finish, winning three and losing three of the six total games they played.
The 49-year-old coached Galatasaray’s women’s team from 1996-2002 and led them to three straight league titles in his first three years at the helm and also led them to the Turkish Women’s Basketball Cup medals podium in his first five years, winning back-to-back gold in his first two years and three straight silver medals in his next three years.
Turkey’s hopes of a podium finish will be headlined by American-born Quanitra Hollingsworth who currently plays for Yakin Dogu Universitesi in the Turkish Women’s Basketball League. The 29-year-old center led Turkey and ranked fourth overall in scoring (17.7 points per game) and rebounding (9.3 rebounds) per game at the 2017 Eurobasket in the Czech Repbulic.
Turkey will be hoping to a step further and get on the medals podium in Spain, having finished fourth at the last World Cup which they hosted. Their best performance at any major competition is their second place finish at the 2011 Eurobasket in Poland. They followed it up with a third place performance two years later in France.
Turkey’s group is a really tough group to emerge from. One positive light though will be the fact that only the team that finishes bottom of the group will be eliminated after the group phase, meaning they will look to work so hard to avoid finishing rock bottom of the group.
Turkey perhaps is the one team the other three teams (Australia, Argentina and Nigeria) are looking at as a must-win match up when the tournament tips off. Qualifying out of the group should go down as a great achievement for the Turks, but getting knocked out in the group phase should not call for a hammer on the team as well.
Written by Ayotunde Onabolu. Twitter: @AyotundeOnabolu