Lara Sanders off to Dominant Start at EuroBasket Women 2015

Jun 20, 2015
Coming off a 66-56 win over France, we spoke with Turkey’s leading scorer about the tournament thus far.

Lara Sanders broke through with the Senior Women’s National Team at the 2014 FIBA World Championship for Women. She led the team with 12.3 points and 8.7 rebounds per game at that tournament. At EuroBasket Women 2015 she has picked up right where she left off. Her 14.7 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks per game are all team highs. She has shot 70 percent from the field in three of Turkey’s six games, including a 23-point performance last night in a 66-56 win over France. We sat down with the versatile center one day before Turkey’s match-up with the Czech Republic tomorrow at 16:30.

You’re the leading scorer on the team, averaging 14.7 points per game. Especially in the last two games you’ve been shooting the ball really well, 70 percent from the field. Are you kind of just feeling it or are you just getting good looks at the basket?
I think it’s a mixture. Ekrem [Memnun] is drawing up plays to get me in my comfort zone. My teammates have been helping me to get open and have been encouraging me to just take the shots. They trust me, and so it’s easier to trust myself and just play.

One of the big differences last night [against France] was at the free-throw line. You were 9-9 from the free-throw line and 21-23 as a team. Was that just a matter of being aggressive in the paint?
It was being aggressive in the paint. France is a big team. Our main objective was to use our quickness, cause we’re not as tall as them, we’re not as big as them. Just using our quickness to get past them and getting into the bonus early helped us to get some easy points last night.

On defense last night Sandrine Gruda had 9 points in the first quarter, you held her to 7 points the rest of the game. Isa Yacoubou finished with 8 points. Did you make adjustments on defense? What was the key to forcing them to the outside for their points?
I think in the first quarter when [Gruda] got most of her points I think we were getting caught up in the France-Turkey rivalry. We know they were a good team, and we really wanted to beat them because we know they’re a good team. I think in the beginning we made just simple mistakes. After the first quarter we just calmed down. We did our game plan that we talked about the day of and the day before and it worked.

Defense has really been something that’s been a strongpoint of the team throughout the tournament. You’re giving up 52 points per game, which is the best number in the tournament. What’s been the key to being such a strong team defensively so far?
I think we all just trust each other. That’s the biggest thing. We trust each other to help each other. To know that if I can get beat I know my teammate is going to be there. It also has a lot to do with scouting and knowing player tendencies. We’re not the most high-scoring team, and we’re fine with that. Because at the end of the day our defense can win games for us.

There are a lot of familiar faces this year, but also a lot of new faces this year. From your perspective, how’s it going with the younger players? How are the younger players doing and how do you see them fitting into the team?
They’ve come in and played well. They give a spark of energy off the bench whenever, maybe when we’re in foul trouble, maybe when we’re a little tired, or something like that. They come in confident knowing that if they’re on the court they can produce, and not just be scared to play their game on the Senior National Team. I think all the young players and new faces this year gave us a little spark, and they’ve been doing well.

As a player how’s it been working with Head Coach Ekrem Memnun?
Ekrem [Memnun] is a great coach. When I came in I had to just learn his philosophy, a whole new philosophy. We didn’t have a lot time to learn it be fore we started the tournament. He’s been throwing a lot of information and things at us. But as long as you focus, listen, and pay attention. . . . It’s been going good. His system works for us, and I’m just embracing it. Hopefully it can carry us through the tournament.