Another guy that really stepped up this year was Sertaç Şanlı. He’s the guy I would say improved the most over the last few seasons. He hadn’t played many minutes over the previous few years that I’ve been here, but he had somewhat of a breakout this year.
Last year, Bryant Dunston began the year as our starting center, but then he had an unfortunate injury that forced him to miss a lot of time. And they were talking about, “Should we sign a player? Should we sign another big man, and should we spend some money to bring in a guy to replace Bryant?” And we had Sertaç all along, and Sertaç kinda put all those thoughts to the back burner because he played amazing. He stepped up, he played well.
This season Tibor Pleiss and Bryant started the season as our main centers, and then Bryant went out with an eye injury again this season, and then Tibor went out with a foot injury, so Sertaç stepped up again. But I think halfway through this season he became a starting center for the rest of the year and he had an unbelievable season. When we were struggling, we switched things up a bit, and he gave us a look that really helped us get rolling. He spaces the floor as a big man, but he also protects the rim in a great way, which gives us a different option than what we typically had been using on the court over the last three years.
So in terms of individual performance, I think Sertaç really stepped up to the plate and showed that he’s one of the best centers in the entire EuroLeague.
Bryant Dunston is our best defensive player, and he’s always a fighter. He plays great in the pick and roll, blocks shots, is very active and has great hands. When we have him and Chris Singleton out there, we have a really strong frontcourt defense, maybe one of the strongest in the league.
Chris stepped up when we needed him on offense, too. Without Chris, there’s no way we win that Game 5 against Real Madrid. We really needed somebody on the inside to have a big game and counter that zone defense. Chris was the one who answered the bell.
One key guy that really changed the game for us in two of the most important games of the season was Tibor Pleiss. He’s definitely an unsung hero who doesn’t get the amount of praise and respect that he deserves.
Our big guys aren’t usually the focal point of our offense, it’s usually me, Vasa, Kruno, Roddy. Most of the time, that’s the focal point of our offense. We use pick and rolls in isolation, and stuff like that to get those baskets.
But in Game 5 against Madrid, we went to Chris early in the game in the middle of the zone, and he just punished anybody that was guarding him. He punished their big guys. He punished their guards. So all credit to him for stepping up in the biggest moment of the season, while the pressure was on, and having his best game as a member of our team.
I really respected the way that he stayed focused and committed. To pull us through with 26 and 8—in Game 5 in the EuroLeague playoffs—is a humongous achievement for him.
I’m glad that I was a part of it and got to see him really shine in that moment.
Roddy Beaubois played really well in the semi-final game. He is one of those guys who is always going to push the envelope. There are going to be moments where Roddy can carry us offensively for quarters, or a full game. He’s one of the firestarters for us.
One key guy that really changed the game for us in two of the most important games of the season was Tibor Pleiss. In Game 5 of the playoffs against Madrid at home, he hadn’t played all series long, but Coach decided to put Tibor in the game in the fourth quarter. He came in and hit a huge three, had a huge block, and really created that distance that we needed.
Then in the final, he did the same exact thing. We weren’t really playing that well. Coach put Tibor in early in the game. Tibor came and then hit a huge corner shot, then he hit a huge three and it really gave us some confidence, gave us a little boost, and those are the unspoken things. If you look at the stats sheet, he only probably played something like 6-7 minutes, but those minutes that he gave us were huge.
For him to stay ready and be able to come in and contribute the way he did without having much rhythm, without having much game time over the last few months of the season, was really huge. He’s definitely an unsung hero who doesn’t get the amount of praise and respect that he deserves.
The same goes for Krunoslav Simon. Kruno has had some key moments, made key shots. The shot in Game 5 against Real Madrid is one we will always remember, and one that he will never forget. That was just a huge, huge moment.