author: john loeppky | sports editor
Asker helping Cougar women keep up
With success often comes a need for new members of staff. Such is the case for the Cougars women’s basketball team, who recently welcomed a full-time assistant coach, Fatih Akser.
According to head coach Dave Taylor, it was Akser’s wealth of experience that made him an attractive choice once the team had the opportunity to hire an assistant for the program.
“Right now, he’s doing individual work in the gym with players, he’s doing a lot of development work out in the community, because we’re so much local based [sic] and so the players in the community fill out ten of our twelve [roster] spots.”
Unlike Taylor, a university employee, Akser’s inclusion on the staff is entirely funded through events the programs the team hosts, like clinics for local athletes and through community member donations. Part of the reason for hiring another person on staff, he said was to keep pace with their competitors.
“You’re starting to see in the CIS, some of the top programs we’re competing against: UBC, Saskatchewan, some other ones have it.”
Being in a position to hire, Akser required a number of factors to come together, according to Taylor.
“There’s two parts of it: we had to have the money in place because it’s all privately funded, it’s not any university money; and the second part is [we] have to find the right person.”
The original plan was to hire a graduate assistant, but then the chance to hire Akser came to be. His hiring was not a full-on happy accident, however. The two coaches’ relationship had been brewing for close to a decade. As Coach Taylor put it, it all came down to the relationships you make while coaching.
“I’d known him for seven years or so, back from when I got his name as a contact during some recruiting. Him and I just kept in contact, as I often do with different coaches around the country and the world.”
The process started when the team was budgeting for this season. According to Taylor, he had been telling community members and supporters of the program that hiring a full-time assistant was a significant priority moving forward. Once enough money had been set aside and the hire was deemed doable then more plans were put in place. The hiring of Akser, as opposed to the previous choice of a graduate assistant, meant that extra opportunities such as community camps and more individual training sessions would be required to make a go of it. Akser himself seems happy to join the staff of someone he has known for quite some time and was impressed by the approach Coach Taylor has taken with the program.
“We’ve known each other for a while and the project, the plans, and the future of the program that he presented to me I really liked.”
When asked what strengths he brought to the sideline, the newly minted Cougar assistant was hesitant to respond, but Taylor happily filled in the gaps.
“His strengths, and they were areas that we needed help on, two things: working individually with players, like player development; and, in terms of the film breakdown the advanced scouting. He’s had a lot of history and a lot of experience.”
Akser’s previous experience with the Canadian national team, where he did video analysis made him particularly attractive as an addition to the Cougar staff. On court, Taylor said it was his skills at the defensive end that made him fit well with the team.
“Every coach has a slant, an area they’re better at, and he’s very good defensively. I tend to be more of an offensive coach, so it was a good compliment. His strengths match up perfectly with what we needed.”
For Akser, the transition to the Cougar program has more to do with the little things, and he says that he had no major concerns before stepping foot in Regina.
“It’s always tricky that you don’t know this part of the country coming into an environment where everybody is a stranger, of course. But my life has been revolving around basketball so much.
Akser says that the community deserves some praise as well, not just the program.
“I’ve got to give credit to the people that I have been working with, including players and the people that I see around, [they’ve been] very warm, very welcoming.”
Unsurprisingly, the feeling is mutual. Coach Taylor says that he has been receiving positive feedback from the community when it comes to the work of his newest assistant.
“I get the comments and I get them two-fold, I get them from the people that he’s worked with. I’ll start with my players; my players have loved having him here. They think he’s great to work with they really respect his knowledge. In terms of the younger players that he’s worked with developmentally, I get a lot of comments from their parents that they’ve really enjoyed the programs that we’ve got in place. And then, equally as important, from a lot of our supporters that donated financially, some of them have kids involved and some of them see the outcomes and they go, ‘This was great money spent.’ I get that from all ends, so he’s been very, very well received.”
The Cougars women’s basketball team currently sits undefeated and will travel to British Columbia this weekend before opening their season at home against the University of Victoria during the first weekend of November.