Selected by Milwaukee with the 36th overall pick in the 2005 NBA Draft, Ersan Ilyasova (pronounced air-san ee-lee-a-SO-va) didn’t know what he was getting himself into when he entered the League. After spending the entire 2005-06 season with the Tulsa 66ers in the D-League, he appeared in 66 games (14 starts) with Milwaukee the following season, but played under 15 minutes a night. Opting to head back overseas, Ilyasova spent the next two seasons playing for FC Barcelona before giving the NBA another shot.
Last summer, the 6-10, 235-pound forward agreed to a multi-year contract with the Bucks, and quickly became one of their most important players. Averaging 10.4 points and 6.4 rebounds per game for the playoff-bound Bucks, Ilyasova knew that things were different this time around.
“When I came back to the Bucks this season after playing overseas, it was a new team, new organization,” says Ilyasova. “Everything had changed. The players, the coaches, everybody.”
Flanked by rookie point guard Brandon Jennings and All-Star-caliber big man Andrew Bogut, the kid they call “Turk Nowitzki” excelled. In Dime #58, Ersan (who’s currently leading the Turkish National Team in the World Championships) talked about his season and what’s next for a 10 Sense feature:
*** *** ***
1. Growing up, I really enjoyed watching Michael Jordan. He was definitely my favorite.
2. Every kid who plays basketball in Turkey dreams of the playing in the NBA. When I was younger, [Hedo] Turkoglu was in the NBA and I watched him a lot. Playing on the national team with him, I’d talk to him about it a lot.
3. The basketball scene in Turkey is really popular. They have the Turkish league and a lot of guys play in other European countries too. People love basketball. With the national team, we’ve done a really good job preparing for the World Championships in Turkey.
4. I’d say I play like [Dirk] Nowitzki. I’m the type of player that plays aggressive. I try to do it differently though, and there are some things that Nowitzki doesn’t do that I do like penetrate. I try to be myself though and just continue to develop. My goal is to make it to the All-Star Game.
5. I just try to bring energy defensively and do whatever it takes to win as many games as we can. If we play good defense, we can continue to be a playoff team.
6. We’re definitely a really young team. Last season, there were seven or eight guys in their first year with the Bucks. We became a really good team though and built good relationships. Everyone understands each other.
7. My first year with the Bucks I was not 100 percent healthy. I was coming off an injury, and it was important to get playing time, so I played with the Tulsa 66ers in the D-League. I didn’t really get the opportunity to play much with the Bucks, but it was great to be there and play basketball.
8. In European basketball, the rules are really different. The three-point shot is shorter than it is in the NBA, and the game is much more physical. In the NBA, the game is much more tactical.
9. Last season, I hung out with some of the international guys like Carlos [Delfino] and [Roko] Ukic, as well as Andrew [Bogut] and all those guys. We all hang out together and see each other off the court.
10. So far, the toughest player to guard has been Kevin Garnett. He’s really big and has lots of skill in and around the basket. The only thing you can do is eliminate his touches and don’t let him receive the ball where he wants it.
Follow Aron on Twitter at @the_real_aron.
Follow Dime on Twitter at @DIMEMag.
Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE.