Erick Green headshot

Erick Green

With two parents as successful coaches on the scholastic and AAU scenes, it's only natural that Erick Green would have an interest in entering the coaching profession himself in the future.

When that day comes, the 28-year-old former Millbrook High School and Virginia Tech standout will definitely use the experiences of his first season with Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul as a resourceful tool.

In 43 combined EuroLeague and Turkish Basketball Super League games in 2018-19, Green, a six-year professional, averaged 6.8 points per game, the fewest of any of his four pro seasons in Europe.

Green's year started late — waiting for the right situation, he joined Fenerbahce a few games into the season after an injury to former Syracuse guard Tyler Ennis  — and it ended early because of a strained Achilles tendon, the first major injury of his career. 

But it's a year that Green will never forget. He got to compete for one of the best teams in all of Europe (Fenerbahce had the best regular-season record in EuroLeague and advanced to its fifth straight EuroLeague Final Four) and he got to learn at the feet of head coach Zeljko Obradovic.

Obradovic's accomplishments in his 27 years as a head coach include nine EuroLeague titles — he led Fenerbahce to the 2017 championship — and directing Yugoslavia to the silver medal at the 1996 Olympics and the gold medal at the 1998 World Championship.  

"It was awesome. I learned so much [from Obradovic]," said Green, the son of Erick and Tamara, in a phone interview on Monday. "I want to coach. I see the game differently now than I've ever seen it in my past, hands down. The way that he can see the game and understand the game and how he can make adjustments, it's something I've never seen before from a coach.

"He's an unbelievable coach. It was just an honor to play for him, and hopefully I can take this experience when I'm done playing into coaching."

The 6-foot-3 Green said Obradovic's in-game adjustments were particularly notable during Fenerbache's wildly successful 2018-19 season.

Fenerbahce finished first in the 16-team EuroLeague with a 25-5 record, but suffered injuries to two players and wound up taking fourth after advancing to the Final Four.

Fenerbahce also placed second in the 15-team Turkish Basketball Super League regular season with a 24-4 record, behind only Anadolu Efes (25-3). Anadolu beat depleted Fenerbahce in the Final Four semifinals, then also went on to beat Fenerbahce 4-3 in the best-of-seven Turkish League championship series. Green was unable to play in the Turkish playoffs because of his injury.   

"I've been around coaches who won't change [during the middle of the game]," Green said. "If [Obradovic] saw something, he'd change, and it was so fast. He'd see something, and next time down the floor he'd make a quick adjustment."

While Obradovic is good at deviating from his game plan, Green said he doesn't want his players taking it upon themselves to go astray from his instructions.

"It's kind of military basketball," Green said. "You have rules, you're going to follow these rules and it's going to work."

And for Green, the rules that Green had to follow took some getting used to when he first joined the team in October.

"[Obradovic's] system is a lot different than anything I was ever used to," said Green, who played in 52 games with the Denver Nuggets and Utah Jazz from 2014-16. "I was used to having so much freedom to do whatever I wanted. Everything was slow-paced. Everything's about moving the ball, sharing the ball. There's no [isolation play]. None of that. You focus on stuff like ball screens. Everything is all about timing. No rushed shots. No bad shots.

"It's really good basketball. It's kind of a like a [San Antonio] Spurs system, but a lot more strict."

Because of the system and the team's depth, Green wasn't asked to be the type of scorer that he's been in the past.

For example, in 2017-18 with Spain's Valencia Basket, Green averaged 13.5 points in 60 combined EuroLeague and Liga ACB games. But that team went 12-18 in EuroLeague play and failed to qualify for EuroLeague in 2018-19.

Fenerbahce had six players average between 7.3 points and 12.3 points in EuroLeague play this year while winning more than twice as many games as Valencia did last year.

Green shot the ball well (60 of 114 for 52.6 percent on field goals, 20 of 49 for 40.8 percent on 3-pointers, 16 of 17 for 94.1 percent on free throws) in 28 games (19 starts). But he only averaged 5.6 points in 12.6 minutes per game. 

"I knew my numbers were going to drop," Green said. "These guys have been together and been to the Final Four four years in a row. I was just trying to fit in and help the team any way I could. That was the goal. I really wasn't concerned about my numbers."

Green thought he was going to be part of a championship team. But injuries to former Washington Wizard and Denver Nugget Jan Vesely (a 6-11 center averaging a team-best 12.3 points and 4.7 rebounds per game) and 6-8 forward Nikola Kalinic (9.6 points per game) shortly before the Final Four prevented both players from participating.

Anadolu beat Fenerbahce 92-73 in the semifinals (Green scored 13 points, four short of his EuroLeague high for the season). Real Madrid then handed a 94-75 loss to Fenerbahce in the third-place game in which Green suffered his Achilles injury on May 19. CSKA Moscow beat Anadolu for the title.

"We had to change the way we were playing because our bigs were hurt," said Green of the Final Four. "That messed everything up for us. Other teams figured us out, attacked us well, put the ball inside and gave us problems."

Green said he was cleared to resume basketball activities last week. He said on Monday he plans to make his trek back to 100 percent effectiveness a slow one.

"I don't want to rush," Green said. "I'm going to keep doing my [physical therapy] so I don't have any problems going into next year." 

Green doesn't know if a return to Fenerbahce is in the cards for the 2019-20 season. He just knows the seven months he spent with the European power in 2018-19 was worthwhile.

"Overall, it was a great experience," Green said. "I had fun. I learned a lot."

— Contact Robert Niedzwiecki at rniedzwiecki@winchesterstar.com

Follow on Twitter @WinStarSports1

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