Recipe for success: GM Nedim Yucel reveals Frutti Extra Bursaspor mentality

Uygar Karaca
2022-07-28 11:15
Credit: Rodolfo Molina/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images
Credit Rodolfo Molina/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images

There has been something going on with the Turkish clubs in recent years.

Anadolu Efes winning back-to-back EuroLeague titles and Fenerbahce Beko playing 3 finals between 2015 to 2018 were already very impressive signs of success on a consistent basis. But they were not alone.

In the meantime, Galatasaray NEF and Darussafaka won EuroCup in 2016 and 2018, Pinar Karsiyaka reached the finals of BCL in the previous season, and Bahcesehir won FIBA Europe Cup this season as well. 

3-pointers this season

Points made: 10,0
Accuracy: 38,7%
Place in standings: 4
Record max: 14
Record min: 5
Most made 3FGs: Derek Needham

As if that was not enough, Frutti Extra Bursaspor, who just had 7 wins after 19 games until late December, narrowly missed the Eurocup title after eliminating Partizan in the Last 16 on their way. They also put a big fight against Fenerbahce Beko, who would win the domestic title.  

But perhaps, all these success stories on the court should be understood in a broader context.

Just look at Dacka's roster back in 2016-17: Will Clyburn, Adrien Moerman, Scottie Wilbekin, Ante Zizic, James Anderson, Dairis Bertans.

Likewise, Galatasaray became a stepping stone for the players like Zach Auguste, Aaron Harrison, and Alex Poythress on their way to EuroLeague.

Youngsters of Besiktas (and formerly Bandirma Kirmizi), Alperen Sengun already made his way to NBA, and Sehmus Hazer to Fenerbahce. Moustapha Fall from Turk Telekom (formerly Sakarya) became a winner of the Olympic silver medal with France and a Final Four participant for Olympiacos. 

Aside from sporting success, managerial success cannot be ignored as well. 

Perhaps, the latest and most epitomized form of this managerial success can be identified with Frutti Extra Bursaspor's remarkable job off the court. Despite being established in 2014 and playing in the top domestic league (BSL) for only the third time this season, they have already become the home of eight future EuroLeague players.

  • Chris Jones
  • Kevarrius Hayes
  • Egemen Guven
  • Andrew Andrews
  • John Holland
  • Lamar Peters
  • Marial Shayok
  • Allerik Freeman

We sat and talked with one of the main builders of this story, the GM of Frutti Extra Bursaspor: Nedim Yucel.

He was a prominent power forward during his playing days for the Turkish NT and many Turkish clubs like Pinar Karsiyaka, Turk Telekom, Darussafaka, and most famously, Besiktas between 1997-2006. Now, he is using all his experience and knowledge for the success of the Greens. 

Mr. Yucel, as it has been well documented, eight players who played for Frutti Extra Bursaspor became Euroleague players shortly after: Chris Jones, Kevarrius Hayes, Andrew Andrews, John Holland, Lamar Peters, Marial Shayok, and Allerik Freeman.

Is there a special recipe for finding the "right" players who can ignite a leap for their own careers and the club? How does the scouting team operate?
I always like working with young, dynamic, goal-oriented coaches and players who are hungry for success. Although I have long-acting experience, I am also a young, ambitious person with goals on the other side of the line.

As a matter of fact, we do not have a separate scouting team. Me, the management, the head coach, and assistant coaches examine the list of potential incoming players.

In the end, we try to add the players that I and the head coach, agree to. But of course, we do extensive research on the players we are interested in. In particular, we try to get all the information about their characters and personalities.

Frankly, regarding their talents and game character in the selection process, I see a great benefit from having been an active player for about 25 years. It is a great success for us, especially in the last 12 months, that 7 of our players signed contracts with the EuroLeague team, but Onuralp, Derek Needham, and Dave Dudzinski decided to stay here. They were also players who could easily find a place in the EuroLeague next season.

One must also note that not only on-court success comes from the big improvements of these players alone, but also remarkable financial income has been generated. It is around 700,000 euros. Who was the most profitable player?
To clarify, Allerik Freeman was first signed in 2019 and then in 2021. In both times, clubs paid us a fee to sign him as well, so he was our highest profit player. 

As a matter of fact, it is not very common for clubs to earn money from fees for foreign players in basketball in Turkey, and this type of income is really important for clubs.

However, there is a catch. Sometimes these players leaving the club can also damage the team in terms of sporting success, depending on the timing. 

Do you mean some hard decisions were taken regarding the players? The financial health of the club comes before the daily sporting success? 
For example, last season, we had to let Egemen Guven go (to Efes) not because of sporting reasons. On the contrary, we actually needed him at that time. But his contract would have expired after 4 months, and yes, our club's financial health, in the long run, has priority over daily sporting achievements.

After parting our ways with Anthony Brown due to economic precautions, CSKA made an offer for Allerik Freeman. Letting Allerik go as well, creating a perception in the public that we lowered the season targets.

But for our club, ensuring players' comfort at all times and helping them only concentrate on the field is one of the most important keys to success in the end. This goal cannot be victimized for daily sporting success.

A similar situation was experienced in the transfer of Chris Jones to Maccabi Tel Aviv last year. Thankfully, we succeeded in filling the gaps of players who left the club with the ones who remained and improved their on-court effort. We also made pinpointed new signings to maintain the success. 

But of course, there were a few mistakes throughout the process too. With some players, we could not get the contribution as we thought before signing them. But as I said, we are still young on the other side of the line and gain great experience every year.

I would also like to thank our President Sezer Sezgin, our Board of Directors, the executive board, and our name sponsor Uludağ Beverage family, for the opportunity and environment they provided us during the transfer process. 

You also took some important steps regarding the coach selection as well. Trusting young coaches Tutku Acik and, later on, Dusan Alimpijevic was a bold move. And you did not let them go, despite some tough beginnings. 
When Tutku Acik was an assistant coach with us, he did remarkable things in the Turkish Super League. He was one of the players with the highest game intelligence in Turkey, but we had such bad luck when he started to work as a head coach.

The negative effects of the pandemic on our team, and the fact that we lacked our most important power, our supporters, caused us to have a bad time. But he proved to be one of the most important coaches in Turkey with his head coaching debut at Gaziantep last season.

Dusan Alimpijevic was a head coach in the EuroLeague at the age of 32. He had some unlucky seasons during and after Red Star, but he once again proved himself in our club and Europe. He managed to become one of the most pursued coaches.

Isn't it exhausting to bring all the good players to Bursa and then let them go for higher aspirations and start from scratch? 
Indeed, monitoring the players before signing them, let alone the process itself, is very exhausting. But roster management and engineering is also the most important part of our work.

We have finished our third season in the Basketball Super League and our second season in the EuroCup. Our biggest goal, which we have set from the beginning, is to solidify the club's presence in the basketball world by piling up further success each season. We are taking firm steps towards our goal gradually. 

During the process, The Uludağ Beverage Family stands behind us like a material and spiritual mountain in this regard. The harmony of our board of directors and executive board, as well as our President Sezer Sezgin, and the opportunities and working environment they provide are the most important factors in the success of our club so far.

Frankly, we climbed the stairs sprinting by firstly winning TBL (second Turkish division) championship in our second year and reaching EuroCup Final in our third season in the Super League and BSL Play-Offs.

Of course, we set the bar very high by playing in the final of the EuroCup last year. To be realistic, this may not be a success that can be achieved every year. Our primary goals for this year are the Play-Offs in the league and EuroCup this time.

Afterward, we will try to go as high as we can in front of our fans, who create one of the most impressive atmospheres in Turkey and Europe. 

This season, a clear step is taken toward building a stronger domestic core with additions like Ahmet Duverioglu, Yigitcan Saybir, and Berkay Taskiran. You already have Onuralp Bitim, Mithat Can Ozalp, Tarik Sezgun, and Omer Utku Al.

You also added some important coaching figures to the youth department, like Ahmet Gurgen, the former coach of Alperen Sengun, Furkan Haltali, and Sehmus Hazer. 
Frankly, the part we missed the most in the last 5 years was the infrastructure and youth development. Since we were new to the Super League and we started our EuroCup adventure in our 2nd year, we couldn't give the necessary importance to this part due to the intense tempo of the senior team.

I think we made the most valuable transfer of the season by bringing Ahmet Gürgen, one of Turkey's most valuable coaches, to the head of the youth organization this year.

His former colleague Engin Komec, who won the BGL championship with Banvit, also joined our youth coaching team. We have included important players in our infrastructure, and you will see that in 2-3 years, these players can sit on Turkey's agenda. Frankly, I am very excited for these players right now.

Lastly, let's talk a little bit about the current state of matters. How big is your budget this season, and are there any plans to add some more players? Zach Auguste and Anthony Clemmons are this summer's foreigner signings until now. 
Our player budget is approximately $1.5 million, but of course, these taxes and insurances, especially with travel and other expenses, have increased a lot this year, reaching $2.5 million.

We have not signed the fifth foreigner for the moment, and after seeing the team's situation during the preparation period, we can add to the part we see missing. I think we have one of the most valuable Turkish rosters in the league right now, and all our domestic players can contribute like foreign players.

We seem to be lacking in depth in the forward position, but we expect Onuralp Bitim to perform even better this year than he did last season. It is crucial. Besides, we also have great expectations from Enes Berkay in this position.

Therefore, we do not feel the need to act urgently on this issue for now. Having such a domestic core in the roster is a great advantage because now we have one spot for a foreign player.

Managing a basketball club is a brutal business because you cannot live long on former success. After a legendary season and unforgettable success, Frutti Extra Bursaspor are preparing to start a new campaign.

Dusan Alimpijevic reportedly drew a lot of interest from EuroLeague clubs, but he remained at the club to reach further success.

As he revealed to us, GM Nedim Yucel does not rush for an instant but temporary sporting success as he is well aware that overspending would be financial suicide. Taking one step at a time, Bursaspor have reached great heights so far, but there is still a long way to go.

The supporters are now ignited after last season's achievements and the club's young domestic core and will seriously alter club modeling in Turkey if it proves successful.  


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